6


The Experience of Imprisonment

This chapter summarizes what is known about the nature of prison life and its consequences for prisoners. The dramatic rise in incarceration rates in the United States beginning in the mid-1970s has meant that many more people have been sent to prison and, on average, have remained there for longer periods of time. Therefore, the number of persons experiencing the consequences of incarceration—whether helpful or harmful—has correspondingly increased. Although this chapter considers the direct and immediate consequences of incarceration for prisoners while they are incarcerated, many of the most negative of these consequences can undermine postprison adjustment and linger long after formerly incarcerated persons have been released back into society.

In examining this topic, we reviewed research and scholarship from criminology, law, penology, program evaluation, psychiatry, psychology, and sociology. These different disciplines often employ different methodologies and address different questions (and at times come to different conclusions). In our synthesis of these diverse lines of research, we sought to find areas of consensus regarding the consequences of imprisonment for individuals confined under conditions that prevailed during this period of increasing rates of incarceration and reentry.

Prisons in the United States are for the most part remote, closed environments that are difficult to access and challenging to study empirically. They vary widely in how they are structured and how they operate, making broad generalizations about the consequences of imprisonment difficult to formulate. It is possible, however, to describe some of the most significant trends that occurred during the period of increasing rates of incarceration



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6 The Experience of Imprisonment T his chapter summarizes what is known about the nature of prison life and its consequences for prisoners. The dramatic rise in incar- ceration rates in the United States beginning in the mid-1970s has meant that many more people have been sent to prison and, on average, have remained there for longer periods of time. Therefore, the number of persons experiencing the consequences of incarceration—whether helpful or harmful—has correspondingly increased. Although this chapter considers the direct and immediate consequences of incarceration for prisoners while they are incarcerated, many of the most negative of these consequences can undermine postprison adjustment and linger long after formerly incarcer- ated persons have been released back into society. In examining this topic, we reviewed research and scholarship from criminology, law, penology, program evaluation, psychiatry, psychology, and sociology. These different disciplines often employ different meth- odologies and address different questions (and at times come to different conclusions). In our synthesis of these diverse lines of research, we sought to find areas of consensus regarding the consequences of imprisonment for individuals confined under conditions that prevailed during this period of increasing rates of incarceration and reentry. Prisons in the United States are for the most part remote, closed envi- ronments that are difficult to access and challenging to study empirically. They vary widely in how they are structured and how they operate, making broad generalizations about the consequences of imprisonment difficult to formulate. It is possible, however, to describe some of the most significant trends that occurred during the period of increasing rates of incarceration 157

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158 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION that affected the nature of prison life. After reviewing these trends and ac- knowledging the lack of national and standardized data and quality-of-life indicators, we discuss aspects of imprisonment that have been scientifically studied. From the available research, we summarize what is known about the experience of prison generally, how it varies for female prisoners and confined youth, its general psychological consequences, and the particular consequences of extreme conditions of overcrowding and isolation, as well as the extent of participation in prison programming. We also consider, on the one hand, what is known about the potentially criminogenic effects of incarceration and, on the other hand, what is known about prison rehabili- tation and reentry in reducing postprison recidivism. VARIATIONS IN PRISON ENVIRONMENTS Classic sociological and psychological studies have underscored the degree to which prisons are complex and powerful environments that can have a strong influence on the persons confined within them (Sykes, 1958; Clemmer, 1958; Toch, 1975, 1977). However, it is important to note at the outset of this discussion of the consequences of imprisonment that not all “prisons” are created equal. Not only are correctional institutions catego- rized and run very differently on the basis of their security or custody levels, but even among prisons at the same level of custody, conditions of confine- ment can vary widely along critical dimensions—physical layout, staffing levels, resources, correctional philosophy, and administrative leadership— that render one facility fundamentally different from another. One of the important lessons of the past several decades of research in social psychol- ogy is the extent to which specific aspects of a context or situation can significantly determine its effect on the actors within it (e.g., Haney, 2005; Ross and Nisbett, 1991). This same insight applies to prisons. Referring to very different kinds of correctional facilities as though the conditions within them are the same when they are not may blur critically important distinctions and result in invalid generalizations about the consequences of imprisonment (or the lack thereof). It also may lead scholars to conclude that different research results or outcomes are somehow inconsistent when in fact they can be explained by differences in the specific conditions to which they pertain. This chapter focuses primarily on the consequences of incarceration for individuals confined in maximum and medium security prisons, those which place a heavier emphasis on security and control compared with the lower- custody-level facilities where far fewer prisoners are confined (Stephan and Karberg, 2003). Prisoners in the higher security-level prisons typically are housed in cells (rather than dormitories), and the facilities themselves gener- ally are surrounded by high walls or fences, with armed guards, detection

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 159 devices, or lethal fences being used to carefully monitor and control the “security perimeters.” Closer attention is paid to the surveillance of inmate activity and the regulation of movement inside housing units and elsewhere in the prison. Obviously, these, too, are gross categorizations, with count- less variations characterizing actual conditions of confinement among ap- parently similar prisons. The assertions made in the pages that follow about broad changes in prison practices and policies, normative prison conditions, and consequences of imprisonment all are offered with the continuing ca- veat that as prisons vary significantly, so, too, do their normative conditions and their consequences for those who live and work within them. TRENDS AFFECTING THE NATURE OF PRISON LIFE Although individual prisons can vary widely in their nature and effects, a combination of six separate but related trends that occurred over the past several decades in the United States has had a significant impact on condi- tions of confinement in many of the nation’s correctional institutions: (1) increased levels of prison overcrowding, (2) substantial proportions of the incarcerated with mental illness, (3) a more racially and ethnically diverse prisoner population, (4) reductions in overall levels of lethal violence within prisons, (5) early litigation-driven improvements in prison conditions fol- lowed by an increasingly “hands-off” judicial approach to prison reform, and (6) the rise of a “penal harm” movement. The first and in many ways most important of these trends was due to the significant and steady increase in the sheer numbers of persons incarcer- ated throughout the country. As noted in Chapter 2, significant increases in the size of the prisoner population began in the mid-to-late 1970s in a number of states and continued more or less unabated until quite recently. The resulting increases in the numbers of prisoners were so substantial and occurred so rapidly that even the most aggressive programs of prison con- struction could not keep pace. Widespread overcrowding resulted and has remained a persistent problem. Congress became concerned about prison overcrowding as early as the late 1970s (Subcommittee on Penitentiaries and Corrections, 1978). Overcrowding was described as having reached “crisis-level” proportions by the start of the 1980s and often thereafter (e.g., Finn, 1984; Gottfredson, 1984; Zalman, 1987), and it was addressed in a landmark Supreme Court case as recently as 2011.1 At the end of 2010, 27 state systems and the Federal Bureau of Prisons were operating at 100 percent design capacity or greater (Guerino et al., 2011). In addition to the rapid expansion of the prisoner population and the severe overcrowding that resulted, recent surveys of inmates have shown 1  Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011).

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160 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION high prevalence of serious mental illness among both prisoners and jail inmates (James and Glaze, 2006). Although the reasons for this high preva- lence are not entirely clear, some scholars have pointed to the effect of the deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960s (e.g., Hope and Young, 1984; Hudson, 1984; Scull, 1977), which effectively reduced the amount of public resources devoted to the hospitalization and treatment of the mentally ill. Some have suggested that untreated mental illness may worsen in the com- munity, ultimately come to the attention of the criminal justice system, and eventually result in incarceration (Belcher, 1988; Whitmer, 1980). How- ever, Raphael and Stoll (2013) have estimated that deinstitutionalization accounted for no more than approximately “7 percent of prison growth between 1980 and 2000” (p. 156). Even this low estimate of the contribu- tion of deinstitutionalization to the overall rise in incarceration indicates that in the year 2000, “between 40,000 and 72,000 incarcerated individu- als would more likely have been mental hospital inpatients in years past” (p. 156). Other scholars and mental health practitioners have suggested that the combination of adverse prison conditions and the lack of adequate and effective treatment resources may result in some prisoners with preexisting mental health conditions suffering an exacerbation of symptoms and even some otherwise healthy prisoners developing mental illness during their incarceration (e.g., Haney, 2006; Kupers, 1999). In any event, the high prevalence of seriously mentally ill prisoners has become a fact of life in U.S. prisons. Further discussion of mental illness among the incarcerated is presented in Chapter 7. Another trend resulted from the high incarceration rates of African Americans and Hispanics, which changed the makeup of the prisoner population and altered the nature of prison life. As discussed in Chapters 2 and 3, during the past 40 years of increasing imprisonment, incarceration rates for African Americans and Hispanics have remained much higher than those for whites, sustaining and at times increasing already significant racial and ethnic disparities. Racially and ethnically diverse prisoner populations live in closer and more intimate proximity with one another than perhaps anywhere else in society. In some prison systems, they also live together under conditions of severe deprivation and stress that help foment conflict among them. Despite this close proximity, racial and ethnic distinctions and forms of segregation occur on a widespread basis in prison—sometimes by official policy and practice and sometimes on the basis of informal social groupings formed by the prisoners themselves. Race- and ethnicity- based prison gangs emerged in part as a result of these dynamics (Hunt et al., 1993; McDonald, 2003; Skarbek, 2012; van der Kolk, 1987; Valdez, 2005). Estimates of gang membership vary greatly from approximately 9 percent to as much as 24 percent of the prison population during the past two decades (Hill, 2004, 2009; Knox, 2005; Wells et al., 2002). However,

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 161 these different estimates mask the wide variation in the proportion of gang members within different prison systems and locations and the level of organization of the gangs themselves (Skarbek, 2011). A number of scholars predicted that many of the above changes would result in prisons becoming more disorderly and unsafe (e.g., Blomberg and Lucken, 2000; Hagan, 1995). However, some key indicators of order and safety in prisons—including riots, homicides, and suicides—showed signifi- cant improvement instead. For example, in a study of reported riots, Useem and Piehl (2006, p. 95) find that “both the absolute number of riots and the ratio of inmates to riots declined.” The number of riots declined from a peak in 1973 (about 90 riots per 1,000,000 inmates) to become a rare event by 2003, even though the prison population significantly increased over this period. The rate of inmate homicides likewise decreased, declin- ing 92 percent from more than 60 per 100,000 inmates in 1973 (Sylvester et al., 1977) to fewer than 5 per 100,000 in 2000 (Stephan and Karberg, 2003). Useem and Piehl (2006) also report a similar drop in the rate of staff murdered by inmates—a rare but significant event that fell to zero in 2000 and 2001. In addition, as discussed further in Chapter 7, suicide rates in prison declined from 34 per 100,000 in 1980 to 16 per 100,000 in 1990, and largely stabilized after that (Mumola, 2005). Although these measures of lethal violence do not encompass the full measure of the quality of prison life (or even the overall amount of violence that occurs in prison settings), these significant declines during a period of rising incarceration rates are noteworthy, and the mechanisms by which they were accomplished merit future study. In the early years of increased rates of incarceration in the United States, many of the most important improvements in the quality of prison life were brought about through prison litigation and court-ordered change. Thus, as part of the larger civil rights movement, a period of active prisoners’ rights litigation began in the late 1960s and continued through the 1970s. It culminated in a number of federal district court decisions addressing constitutional violations, including some that graphically described what one court called “the pernicious conditions and the pain and degradation which ordinary inmates suffer[ed]” within the walls of certain institutions,2 and that also brought widespread reforms to a number of individual prisons and prison systems. As prison law experts acknowledged, this early prison litigation did much to correct the worst extremes, such as uncivilized condi- tions, physical brutality, and grossly inadequate medical and mental health services within prison systems (e.g., Cohen, 2004). By the beginning of the 1980s, as state prison populations continued to grow and correctional systems confronted serious overcrowding problems, 2  Ruiz v. Estelle, 503 F. Supp. 1265 (S.D. Tex. 1980), p. 1390.

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162 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION the Supreme Court signaled its intent to grant greater deference to prison officials. In a landmark case, Rhodes v. Chapman (1981),3 for example, the Court refused to prohibit the then controversial practice of “double- celling” (housing two prisoners in cells that had been built to house only one). Even so, at least 49 reported court cases decided between 1979 and 1990 addressed jail and prison overcrowding, a majority of which resulted in court-ordered population “caps” or ceilings to remedy unconstitutional conditions (Cole and Call, 1992). By the mid-1990s, there were only three states in the country—Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Dakota—in which an individual prison or the entire prison system had not been placed under a court order to remedy unacceptable levels of overcrowding or other unconstitutional conditions (American Civil Liberties Union, 1995). In 1995, Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), which greatly limited prisoners’ access to the courts to challenge their con- ditions of confinement. Among other things, the law prohibited prisoners from recovering damages for “mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury” [at 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(3)], and it also required prisoners to “exhaust” all “administrative remedies” (no matter how complicated, prolonged, or futile) before being permitted to file claims in court. Legal commentators concluded that the PLRA had helped achieve the intended effect of significantly reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits; however, it also instituted significant barri- ers to more creditable claims that could have drawn needed attention to harmful prison conditions and violations of prisoners’ rights (Cohen, 2004; Schlanger and Shay, 2008). By the late 1990s, the average inmate could find much less recourse in the courts than the early years of prison litigation had appeared to promise (Cohen, 2004). Schlanger and Shay (2008, p. 140) note that the “obstacles to meritorious lawsuits” were “undermining the rule of law in our prisons and jails, granting the government near-impunity to violate the rights of prisoners without fear of consequences.” The final trend that affected the nature of prison life in the United States over the past several decades was both an independent factor in its own right and the consequence of several of those previously mentioned. It is somewhat more difficult to document quantitatively but has been viv- idly described in a number of historical accounts of this era of American corrections (e.g., Cullen, 1995; Garland, 2001; Gottschalk, 2006). The mid-1970s marked the demise of the pursuit of what had come to be called the “rehabilitative ideal” (Lin, 2002; Vitiello, 1991). Rehabilitation—the goal of placing people in prison not only as punishment but also with the intent that they eventually would leave better prepared to live a law-abiding life—had served as an overarching rationale for incarceration for nearly a 3  Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981).

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 163 century (e.g., Allen, 1959). In this period, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, the dominant rationale shifted from rehabilitation to punishment. As the manifest purpose of imprisonment shifted, aspects of prison life changed in some ways that adversely affected individual prisoners. Once legislatures and prison systems deemphasized the rehabilitative rationale, and as they struggled to deal with unprecedented overcrowding, they were under much less pressure to provide prison rehabilitative services, treat- ment, and programming (e.g., California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Expert Panel on Adult Offender Reentry and Recidivism Reduction Programs, 2007; Office of Inspector General, 2004; Govern- ment Accountability Office, 2012). We examine the available data on the decline in opportunities to participate in such services later in this chapter and also in Chapter 7. As discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, during the period of incarceration growth, politicians and policy makers from across the political spectrum embraced an increasingly “get tough” approach to criminal justice. Eventu- ally, advocates of these more punitive policies began to focus explicitly on daily life inside the nation’s prisons, urging the implementation of a “no frills” approach to everyday correctional policies and practices. Daily life inside many prison systems became harsher, in part because of an explicit commitment to punishing prisoners more severely. What some scholars characterized as a “penal harm” movement that arose in many parts of the country included attempts to find “creative strategies to make offenders suffer” (Cullen, 1995, p. 340). As Johnson and colleagues (1997) point out, political rhetoric advo- cated “restoring fear to prisons,” among other things through a new “ethos of vindictiveness and retribution” that was clearly “counter to that of previ- ous decades, which had emphasized humane treatment of prisoners and the rehabilitative ideal” (pp. 24-25). In some jurisdictions, “get tough” policies addressed relatively minor (but not necessarily insignificant) aspects of pris- oners’ daily life, such as, in one southern state, “removing air conditioning and televisions in cells, discontinuing intramural sports, requiring inmates to wear uniforms, abolishing furloughs for inmates convicted of violent crimes, and banning long hair and beards” (Johnson et al., 1997, p. 28). In 1995 and several times thereafter, Congress considered an explicit No Frills Prison Act that was designed to target federal prison construction funds to states that “eliminate[d] numerous prison amenities—including good time, musical instruments, personally owned computers, in-cell coffee pots, and so on” (Johnson et al., 1997, p. 28).4 Although the No Frills Prison Act 4  See H.R. 663 (104th), whose stated purpose was “to end luxurious conditions in prisons.” Congress also considered No Frills Prisons Acts in 1999 [H.R. 370 (106th)] and again in 2003 [H.R. 2296 (108th)]. A bill by the same name, limiting food expenditures and restrict-

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164 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION never became law, it did reflect prevailing attitudes among many citizens and lawmakers at the time. As described in more detail below, a number of restrictions on “prison amenities” were imposed through changes in cor- rectional policy rather than legislation. PRISON DATA Before discussing the consequences of imprisonment for individuals, it is useful to describe contemporary conditions of confinement—the physi- cal, social, and psychological realities that prisoners are likely to experience in the course of their incarceration. However, attempts to characterize the overall conditions of confinement are constrained by the lack of compre- hensive, systematic, and reliable data on U.S. prison conditions. The best evidence available often is limited to specific places or persons. As noted at the outset of this chapter, any generalizations about typical prison condi- tions must be qualified by the fact that prisons differ significantly in how they are structured, operated, and experienced. Official national statistics that address certain aspects of imprisonment are useful for many scholarly purposes, but they have two important limitations: a lack of standardiza- tion and sometimes questionable reliability, on the one hand, and the fact that they typically focus on few meaningful indicators of the actual quality of prison life. We discuss each of these limitations in turn. Lack of National and Standardized Data Concerns about the accuracy or reliability of official compilations of general criminal justice data—including data collected in and about the nation’s correctional institutions—are long-standing. More than 45 years ago, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administra- tion of Justice (1967) concluded that regional and national criminal justice data often were inaccurate, incomplete, or unavailable and recommended a number of reforms. Similar concerns were voiced by the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals and the General Ac- counting Office in reports published in the early 1970s (Comptroller Gen- eral of the United States, 1973; National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, 1973). Although a number of reforms and new standards were implemented, a report sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that was published almost two decades after the 1967 Com- mission report acknowledged that “significant data quality problems still remain” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1985, p. 28). ing living conditions, recreational activities, and property, was enacted in at least one state. See Alaska S.B. 1 (1997).

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 165 Notwithstanding the many improvements made in the intervening years and reasonably reliable data on a number of important criminal justice indicators collected by BJS and other government agencies, on which re- searchers justifiably rely, the collection and reporting of data from official sources measuring actual living conditions and overall quality of life inside the nation’s correctional institutions remain problematic. No mandatory reporting requirement exists for most key indicators or measures, and many prison systems do not systematically assess or report them. In addition, there is little or no standardization of this process (so that different systems often use different definitions of the indicators); little or no quality control over the data; and no outside, independent oversight. As recently as 2005, for example, Allen Beck, chief statistician at BJS, testified that, because of this imprecision and unreliability, “the level of assaults [in prison] is simply not known” (Gibbons and Katzenbach, 2006, p. 418). A National Research Council panel critically examined the nature and quality of data collection performed by BJS—the agency responsible for providing perhaps the nation’s most reliable and relied upon criminal justice data. The panel concluded that “the lack of routine evaluation and quality assessments of BJS data is problematic because of the wide variety of sources from which BJS data series are drawn” (National Research Council, 2009, p. 253). Using BJS’s prison-related data as an example, the panel noted that “much of the correctional data are collected from agencies and institutions that rely on varied local systems of record-keeping” that, among other things, include “varying definitions” of even basic facts such as race and level of schooling. The panel recommended that BJS “work with correctional agencies” to “promote consistent data collection and expand coverage beyond the 41 states covered in the most recent [National Cor- rections Reporting Program]” (p. 253). Few Quality-of-Life Indicators Few official or comprehensive data collection efforts have attempted to capture the quality-of-life aspects of prison confinement. The above National Research Council panel acknowledged the additional challenge of providing reliable descriptive data addressing contextual factors.5 It rec- 5  The National Research Council panel commented on the special challenges that are faced in trying to capture statistically the dimensions of “social context”—whether the context in which crime occurs or the context in which punishment is meted out. For example, the panel noted that one of the major limitations in the statistical data collected by BJS and other agen- cies on the various factors that influence criminality derives from the fact that “contextual factors associated with crime are inherently difficult to describe—and even characterize con- sistently” (National Research Council, 2009, p. 55). The panel elaborated further on the fact that the “geography of crime . . . including social and physical conditions and community

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166 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION ommended that BJS “develop a panel survey of people under correctional supervision” that would allow researchers and policy makers to better “understand the social contexts of correctional supervision” both in prison and following release (National Research Council, 2009, Recommendation 3.6, p. 140), but that recommendation has not been implemented. Ambitious attempts to estimate and compare the overall “punitiveness” of individual state criminal justice systems (e.g., Gordon, 1989; Kutateladze, 2009) have been constrained by not only the quality but also the scope of the data on which they were based. For example, Gordon’s (1989) initial effort to construct a punitiveness or “toughness” index includes no data that pertained directly to conditions of confinement. Kutateladze’s (2009) more recent and more elaborate analysis includes six categories of measur- able indicators of conditions of confinement—overcrowding, operating costs per prisoner, food service costs per prisoner, prisoner suicide and homicide rates, sexual violence between inmates and between staff and inmates, and rate of lawsuits filed by prisoners against correctional agen- cies or staff members. But these indicators, too, were derived from data of questionable reliability; in addition, the analysis omits many important aspects of prison life. No comprehensive national data are routinely collected on even the most basic dimensions of the nature and quality of the prison experience, such as housing configurations and cell sizes; the numbers of prisoners who are housed in segregated confinement and their lengths of stay and degree of isolation; the amount of out-of-cell time and the nature and amount of property that prisoners are permitted; the availability of and prisoners’ levels of participation in educational, vocational, and other forms of pro- gramming, counseling, and treatment; the nature and extent of prison labor and rates of pay that prisoners are afforded; and the nature and amount of social and legal visitation prisoners are permitted. Moreover, the subtler aspects of the nature of prison life tend to be overlooked entirely in official, comprehensive assessments,6 including those that Liebling (2011) finds are most important to prisoners: treatment by staff and elements of safety, trust, and power throughout the institution. resources in an area” is difficult to specify and therefore tends not to be included in BJS and other government data collection efforts (p. 67). 6  Lacking is what might be called a “national prison quality-of-life assessment” roughly comparable to the national performance measurement system that the Association of State Correctional Administrators has begun to implement to ensure greater levels of correctional accountability. See Wright (2005).

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 167 CONDITIONS OF CONFINEMENT As noted above, no truly comprehensive, systematic, and meaningful assessment of prison conditions in the United States exists.7 The lack of high-quality national data on prison life is due in part to the closed nature of prison environments and the challenges faced in studying the nature and consequences of life within them. Nonetheless, a substantial body of scholarly literature provides important insights into prevailing conditions of confinement and the experience of incarceration. Our review of that literature proceeds in the context of internationally recognized principles of prisoner treatment (see Box 6-1) and the long-established standards and guidelines adopted by the American Correctional Association and the American Bar Association.8 We agree with the observation that “some of the most valuable knowl- edge we have about corrections is the product of in-depth and sometimes qualitative research conducted by academics and policymakers inside our correctional institutions” (Gibbons and Katzenbach, 2006, p. 528). For example, Lynch’s (2010) historical and qualitative study of the Arizona prison system chronicles a series of changes in correctional policies and practices that took place in that state over the previous several decades, many of which had direct consequences for the nature and quality of life inside Arizona prisons. These changes included significant increases in the length of prison sentences meted out by the courts, the introduction of man- datory minimum sentences, and the implementation of truth-in-sentencing provisions to ensure that prisoners would serve longer portions of their sentences before being released (see the discussion in Chapter 3). The prison population was reclassified so that a greater percentage of prisoners were housed under maximum security conditions. The nation’s first true “super- max” prison was opened, where prisoners were kept in specially designed, windowless solitary confinement cells, isolated from any semblance of normal social contact nearly around the clock and on a long-term basis (a practice discussed later in this chapter). Investments in security measures expanded in Arizona during this era, including the use of trained attack dogs to extract recalcitrant prisoners from their cells, while rehabilitative program opportunities declined (Lynch, 2010). Lynch also shows the ways in which Arizona prison officials modified many aspects of day-to-day prison operations in ways that collectively worsened more mundane but nonetheless important features of prison life. 7  Some scholars have questioned the feasibility of such a national system. For example, see Kutateladze (2009). 8  For further articulation of these principles, see http://www.aca.org/pastpresentfuture/ principles.asp and http://www.americanbar.org/publications/criminal_justice_section_archive/ crimjust_standards_treatmentprisoners.html#23-1.1 [July 2013].

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 191 inmates targeting different literacy and academic levels. The most common types of programs are adult basic education, general education development (GED) certificate programs, special education, and (less often) college. The existence of prison educational programs does not directly trans- late into participation by prisoners. Analyses of data from the Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Prisons reveal a decline in inmate participa- tion in academic programs from 45 percent in 1986 to about 27 percent in 2004 (see also Phelps, 2011; Useem and Piehl, 2008), with the majority of inmates participating in those focused on secondary education. These reductions may reflect reduced funding in the 1990s as more of correctional budgets went to prison operations, as well as reduced support for rehabili- tation programming among policy makers and the public (Messemer, 2011; Crayton and Neusteter, 2008). In addition, not all prisoners are eligible to participate in educational or other kinds of programming. Prisoners who have committed disciplinary infractions, been placed in isolation, or been convicted of certain kinds of crimes may be restricted or prohibited from enrolling. Priority may be given to prisoners with upcoming release dates or those with relatively greater educational needs. The availability of of- ferings within prisons is seldom sufficient to meet demand, meaning that individual prisoners often are wait-listed until a course opening occurs (Klein et al., 2004). In addition to more academically oriented education, many prisons offer instruction in vocational or work-related skills. As prison systems moved from contract labor to in-house production of goods, vocational education was seen as a way to keep prisoners busy and keep idleness at a minimum (Schlossman and Spillane, 1994). However, funding for prison vocational programs decreased during the period of increasing rates of incarceration. In 1998, federal Perkins Act funding was reduced from a required minimum of 1 percent to a maximum of 1 percent of funds spent on correctional education. Nonetheless, most prisons now do manage to offer some kind of vocational training to improve the occupational skills of at least some prisoners. Training is provided in specific trade areas such as carpentry, electronics, welding, office skills, food service, horticulture, and landscaping. The best prison vocational training classes teach inmates skills that are currently in demand and are technologically sophisticated enough to transfer to viable job opportunities outside prison. More recently, certifi- cation in specific trades has become important as a way to ensure that skills learned in prison help prisoners transition into the outside labor market. The percentage of state prisons offering vocational training programs has increased slightly over the past 20 years, from about 51 percent to just over 57 percent. The percentage of federal prisons offering vocational training also has been increasing, from 62 percent in 1990 to 98 percent in 2005. As with educational programming, however, the percentage of

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192 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION prisoners actually participating is low, generally ranging from 27 percent to 31 percent in state prisons from 1974 to 2004 and decreasing between 1997 and 2004. The percentage participating in federal prisons has been relatively flat—approximately 30 percent in 1990 and 32 percent in 2004. In addition to educational and vocational training, prisons offer op- portunities for work experience. Work can serve as a rehabilitative tool as inmates develop and improve work habits and skills. Participation in work assignments among state prison inmates dropped from 74 percent in 1974 to 66 percent in 2005. Participation in federal prisons has remained much higher than in most state prisons—around 90 percent over the past 20 years. Most assignments are “facility support” jobs. Other options include prison industry and work release programs. Consistently large percentages of prisoners work only in facility sup- port jobs. These low-paid work assignments are especially useful to the prison—they include general janitorial services, food preparation, laundry, and grounds or road maintenance—but not likely to enhance the future employment options of the prisoners. In fact, the most common work assignments for both state and federal inmates are in food preparation, followed by general janitorial work. Not all prisoners are paid for their work, and wages paid for prison labor generally are very low—only cents per hour. Over the past 40 years as incarceration rates have increased, the median number of hours of work per week for state inmates has dropped from 40 to 20. Prison industry programs produce goods and services for the prison as well as outside vendors. Such work can include a wide range of activity, such as manufacture of license plates, textiles, or furniture or refurbishing of computers for use outside of schools. In 1979, Congress created the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification program as “a cost-effective way of reducing prison idleness, increasing inmate job skills, and improv- ing the success of offenders’ transition into the community” (Lawrence et al., 2002, p. 17). Slightly more than one-third of state prisons offer prison industry programs; in contrast, more than three-quarters of federal prisons have offered prison industry programs over the past 20 years. Some prisoners participate in work release programs that allow them to leave the facility during the day for jobs in the community and return to the facility at night, but these opportunities have declined sharply over the period of the incarceration rise. States’ work release offerings have fallen dramatically, from almost 62 percent of state prisons in 1974 to 22 percent in 2005. As of 2005, only 2 percent of federal prisons offered work release programs. In summary, the 2004-2005 figures cited above indicate that only about one-quarter of state prisoners were involved in educational program- ming, fewer than a third were involved in vocational training, and about

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 193 two-thirds had work assignments of any kind (most of these in facility support jobs). Given the increasing rate of incarceration and declining rates of par- ticipation in these programs, larger numbers of prisoners are going without programming or work assignments. In addition, the quality of the pro- grams and work is likely to be undermined by the disjunction between the number of prisoners who need them and the resources devoted to meeting those needs. For example, Irwin (2005, p. 75) studied vocational training programs in a medium security California prison—in which fewer than 20 percent of the prisoners participated—and characterizes the quality of these programs in this way: Several conditions greatly weaken the efficacy of these vocational training programs, most important, the lack of funds and resources. Instructors report that they have great difficulty obtaining needed equipment and materials. . . Instructors are fired, or they quit and are not replaced. . . Further, the training programs are regularly interrupted by lockdowns [and inclement weather] during which prisoners cannot be released to the hill for vocational training. Further discussion of educational and work programs within prisons is provided below and in Chapter 8. POTENTIAL POSTPRISON CRIMINOGENIC EFFECTS Petersilia (2003, p. 53) describes the challenges faced by prisoners being released during the period of high rates of incarceration: The average inmate coming home will have served a longer prison sentence than in the past, be more disconnected from family and friends, have a higher prevalence of substance abuse and mental illness, and be less edu- cated and less employable than those in prior prison release cohorts. Each of these factors is known to predict recidivism, yet few of these needs are addressed while the inmate is in prison or on parole. A number of recent empirical studies, literature reviews, and meta- analyses report the potentially “criminogenic” effects of imprisonment on individuals—that is, the experience of having been incarcerated appears to increase the probability of engaging in future crime (e.g., Bernburg et al., 2006; Jonson, 2010; Nagin et al., 2009; Nieuwbeerta et al., 2009; Petrosino et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2004; Spohn and Holleran, 2002). For example, Vieraitis and colleagues (2007, p. 614) analyzed panel data from 46 states for the period 1974 to 1991 and found that “increases in the number of prisoners released from prison seem to be significantly associated with increases in crime,” a finding they attribute to the “criminogenic effects

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194 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION of prison” and the fact that “imprisonment causes harm to prisoners.” A related meta-analysis found that imprisonment had a modest criminogenic effect, and that the effect increased with longer amounts of time served (Smith et al., 2004). The psychological mechanisms involved are not difficult to understand. The changes brought about by prisonization—including dependence on in- stitutional decision makers and contingencies, hypervigilance, and incorpo- ration of the most exploitive norms of prison culture—may be adaptive in the unique environment of prison but become maladaptive or dysfunctional if they persist in the very different world outside prison. Cullen and col- leagues (2011, p. 53S) summarize some aspects of the “social experience” of imprisonment that help explain its criminogenic effect: For a lengthy period of time, [prisoners] associate with other offenders, endure the pains of imprisonment, risk physical victimization, are cut off from family and prosocial contact on the outside, and face stigmatization as “cons,” a label that not only serves as a social obstacle or impediment with others but also can “foster anger and a sense of defiance” among prisoners themselves. Thus, the negative individual-level changes that often result from im- prisonment can adversely affect the interpersonal interactions in which prisoners engage once they are released, closing off opportunities to obtain badly needed social, economic, and other kinds of support. Sampson and Laub (1993, p. 256) conclude that the indirect criminogenic effects of long periods of incarceration on the men they studied stemmed from how the experience ensured that they were “simply cut off from the most promising avenues of desistance from crime.” Moreover, some studies indicate that prisoners confined in higher se- curity prisons appear to be more likely to recidivate once they are released. To some extent, this can be attributed to the characteristics of persons sentenced to these kinds of facilities. However, researchers have concluded that negative labeling effects and environmental influences play a separate, independent role. As Bench and Allen (2003, p. 371) note, in general, a prisoner “classified as maximum security instantly obtains an image of one who is hard to handle, disrespectful of authority, prone to fight with other inmates, and at high risk for escape.” To control for this negative initial “labeling effect,” the authors conducted a double-blind experiment in which neither prison staff nor inmates knew the inmates’ original clas- sification scores. They found that when a group of prisoners originally classified as maximum security were randomly assigned to be housed in a medium security facility, the risk of disciplinary problems did not increase. This was true even though, at the outset, the maximum security prisoners “[stood] out on a number of dimensions such as length of sentence, severity

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 195 of offense, prior incarcerations, and propensity to for violence” (p. 378). The authors conclude that, in addition to positive labeling effects (so that prisoners labeled and treated as “medium security” were more likely to behave as such), “it seems naïve to assume that the classification at any level is not affected by factors such as environmental influences, behavioral expectations, and contextual situations” (p. 378). Prisoners who are placed in environments structured to house better-behaved prisoners may also help elicit such behavior. Lerman (2009a, 2009b) discusses other ways in which exposure to certain aspects of prison life can have criminogenic effects on prisoners. Her study revealed that, “among those [prisoners] with a relatively limited criminal past—with little experience in the criminal justice system and few past offenses—placement in a higher-security prison appears to have a criminogenic effect on both cognitions and personality” (Lerman, 2009b, p. 164). She also found that the severity of the prison environment ap- peared to influence prisoners’ self-reported “social network,” so that higher security prisons place prisoners in environments where they are surrounded by “significantly more friends who have been arrested, friends who have been jailed, and friends involved in gangs” (p. 19). In addition, she found that the likelihood that prisoners who were unaffiliated with a gang before entering prison would eventually join a gang increased with the security level of the prison to which they were assigned. Even those whom prison officials identified as gang members at the time they were admitted to the prison system were influenced by the security level of the prison to which they were assigned and were more likely to self-identify as gang members in higher security than in lower security prisons. Other researchers have found similar results and concluded that time spent in higher security prisons and living under harsher prison conditions is associated with a greater likelihood of reoffending after release (e.g., Chen and Shapiro, 2007; Gaes and Camp, 2009). As a group of Italian researchers conclude, “overall, prison harshness, measured by overcrowd- ing and numbers of deaths in prison, exacerbates recidivism” (Drago et al., 2011, p. 127). WHAT WORKS IN PRISON REHABILITATON AND REENTRY In any given year, approximately three-quarters of a million prison- ers leave prison and return to free society (Petersilia, 2003). Research on reentry includes evaluations of prisoner reentry programs, as well as more basic research on how individuals navigate the reentry process. The most significant barriers to successful reentry include the difficulties faced in ob- taining satisfactory employment and housing, arranging successful family reunification, and obtaining health care and transportation (e.g., Travis,

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196 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION 2005). (Further discussion of consequences after release from prison with respect to health care, employment, and families is provided in Chapters 7, 8, and 9, respectively.) Many corrections agencies have created special offices with staff as- signed to deal specifically with prisoner reentry. National organizations, including the Council of State Governments and the National Governors Association, have established working groups to address reentry, such as the Reentry Policy Council. The federal Serious and Violent Offender Re- entry Initiative in 2003 awarded more than $100 million to 69 jurisdictions for the establishment of reentry programs. In the 2004 State of the Union address, President Bush included a promise of federal support for reentry efforts. More than $13 million was granted to 20 states in 2006 through the Prisoner Reentry Initiative Award program. And more than $270 mil- lion in federal funding has been dedicated to reentry over the past 4 years through the Second Chance Act of 2007. Some research suggests that certain kinds of proactive programs of prison rehabilitation can be effective in neutralizing or even reversing the otherwise criminogenic effects of incarceration. The advent of so-called “evidence-based corrections” has encouraged correctional administrators, policy makers, and officials to place increased reliance on program evalu- ation and quantitative outcome measures to determine “what works” in prison rehabilitation and postprison reentry programs—both being evalu- ated primarily on the basis of how well they reduce recidivism (Cullen and Gendreau, 2000; MacKenzie, 2000; Sherman, 1998; Sherman et al., 1997). One especially promising model of prison rehabilitation, known as risk-need-responsivity or RNR (Andrews and Bonta, 2006), has been suc- cessful in reducing recidivism when (1) prisoners at medium to high risk of recidivating are targeted, (2) they are assessed to determine their “crimino- genic needs” (individual issues known to be associated with future criminal behavior), and (3) they are placed in rehabilitative programs designed to address those needs in a manner consistent with their learning styles to ensure their responsivity. In addition, cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on the way “an individual perceives, reflects upon, and, in general, thinks about their [sic] life circumstances” (Dobson and Khatri, 2000, p. 908)—has been shown to improve postrelease outcomes in some studies. The therapy is premised on the notion that “criminal thinking” is an important factor in deviant behavior (e.g., Beck, 1999). Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been used with a range of juvenile and adult prisoners inside institutions or in the community, and has been administered alone or as part of a mul- tifaceted program (Lipsey et al., 2007). Meta-analyses of numerous and diverse studies of program effectiveness indicate that under the appropriate

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 197 circumstances, when conducted by appropriately trained professionals, this kind of therapy can significantly reduce recidivism (e.g., Lipsey et al., 2007; Losel and Schmucker, 2005). Perhaps not surprisingly, better results were obtained for programs that were rated as better quality, had participants spend longer amounts of time in treatment, and were combined with other services. Medical treatment, particularly for drug addictions, combined with a “continuum of care” that includes follow-up or aftercare services in the community for prisoners once they have been released, has been found to be effective in controlling substance abuse and reducing recidivism. Further discussion of this issue is included in Chapter 7. Education and work pro- gramming have long been viewed as essential components of rehabilitation. They also serve other purposes, such as eliminating idleness and thereby re- ducing management problems. Moreover, when work assignments directly support the needs of the institution, they decrease the costs of incarceration. Support for such programs comes in part from research demonstrating a strong relationship between criminal activity and low levels of schooling and unemployment. However, the quantity and quality of research examin- ing the effectiveness of such programs in reducing recidivism and increasing employment are extremely limited. Despite the widely recognized importance of prisoner education, com- prehensive, reliable data are not available on the nature and quality of programs offered, the levels of actual participation, and the overall effec- tiveness of various approaches (MacKenzie, 2008). Studies often examine numbers of prisoners participating in such programs but overlook the ac- tual amount of time spent in the classroom, specific program components, and the level of academic achievement attained. Other than documenting the impressive success of certain postsecondary prison education programs, research has as yet not resolved the critical issues of what works for whom, when, why, and under what circumstances, as well as the way in which special challenges faced by inmate-students in prison, such as lockdowns, transfers between facilities, and restricted movement, affect their learning and undermine their educational progress. The available research indicates that, when carried out properly, certain forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy, drug treatment, academic programs, and vocational training appear to reduce recidivism. As yet, fewer studies have demonstrated positive outcomes for prison work programs (such as correctional industries) and “life skills” programs. (See, generally, Cecil et al., 2000; Fabelo, 2002; Gerber and Fritsch, 1995; MacKenzie, 2006, 2012; Steurer et al., 2001; Western, 2008; Wilson et al., 2000.)

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198 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION KNOWLEDGE GAPS As discussed earlier, attempts to characterize the overall conditions of confinement and analyze their impact on prisoners in general have been somewhat constrained by the relative lack of overarching, systematic, and reliable data. The best evidence available often is limited to specific places or persons, and any generalizations about typical prison conditions must be qualified by the significant differences in how prisons are structured, oper- ated, and experienced. Because individual prisons are different and distinct institutions, useful knowledge about any one of them must often be case- specific and tied to actual conditions. Some of the limitations in knowledge and generalizability stem from the fact that, despite the substantial national investment in the use of incarceration, there has been no parallel investment in systematically studying its nature and consequences. Official national statistics addressing certain aspects of imprisonment have been useful for the present review, but they are limited by their lack of standardization and of focus on meaningful indicators of the actual quality of prison life. We offer the following observations regarding the gaps in knowledge about the issues examined here. Data Improvement and Standardization During the period of rising use of incarceration, the treatment of pris- oners and the opportunities available to them have varied notably across prisons. The ability to rigorously measure the extent of that variation is currently lacking. Available national-level data rely on records intermit- tently submitted with varying degrees of reliability by a variety of local sources. The collection of records does not cover all correctional agencies, and each source uses slightly different definitions, so even basic “facts” are not comparable. A concerted effort to promote standard and reliable data collection with expanded coverage is needed. A national database is needed for the routine, reliable, and standard- ized collection of information on basic dimensions of the nature and quality of the prison experience. This database should include but not necessarily be limited to data on housing configurations and cell sizes; the numbers of prisoners confined in segregated housing, their lengths of stay, and their degree of isolation; the amount of out-of-cell time and the nature and amount of property that prisoners are permitted; the avail- ability of and prisoners’ levels of participation in educational, vocational, and other forms of programming, counseling, and treatment; the nature and extent of prison labor and rates of pay that prisoners are afforded; the nature and amount of social and legal visitation prisoners are permit- ted; the nature and frequency of disciplinary infractions, violence, and

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 199 assaults, as well as mental health and medical contacts, more frequent and nuanced than existing data on homicides, suicides, and prison riots; and a range of more subjective (but nonetheless reliably and precisely assessed) aspects of prison life, such as the nature and quality of prisoner and staff interactions, prisoners’ overall level of participation in prison decision making, and the nature and quality of grievance resolution mechanisms to which they have access. Mechanisms for Observed Consequences Numerous studies have documented the adverse impact of imprison- ment on prisoners. Yet some individuals are known to have benefited from imprisonment, and some problematic and potentially damaging prison conditions have been ameliorated or eliminated in some jurisdictions. The extent to which prisoner characteristics, modern forms of architectural and institutional control, decisive judicial intervention, certain kinds of rehabilitative and other programming, and the use of more sophisticated prison management practices have successfully offset the negative impacts of imprisonment, such as those due to overcrowding, deserves further study. Research should also address whether, to what degree, and in what ways improved institutional control and reductions in certain indicators of insti- tutional dysfunction have entailed significant trade-offs in other aspects of the quality of prison life. Similarly, the ways in which changes in specific conditions of confinement affect postprison adjustment also warrant further study. As noted, for example, some empirical evidence indicates that time spent in isolated, supermax-type housing contributes to elevated rates of recidivism. The degree to which higher levels of institutional control and security contribute to increased recidivism in the long term also merits ad- ditional research. Diversion Programs One way of limiting the adverse consequences of imprisonment for individuals is to ensure that fewer people are incarcerated. It appears especially important to consider the option of relying on alternative sanc- tions or programs in cases of nonviolent crime and for lawbreakers who suffer from substance abuse problems or serious mental illness. Thus, there is a continuing need for research on evidence-based diversion pro- grams that address both societal needs for safety and protection and the social, psychological, and medical needs of those convicted, but do so in ways that are less psychologically damaging and more cost-effective than incarceration.

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200 THE GROWTH OF INCARCERATION CONCLUSION Increased rates of incarceration may have altered the prison experience in ways that are, on balance, appreciably harmful to some prisoners and undermine their chances of living a normal life when released. Prisons are powerful social settings that can incur a variety of psychological, physi- cal, and behavioral consequences for the persons confined within them. In general, those consequences include the ways in which prisoners can be adversely affected by the severe stressors that characterize prison life (e.g., danger, deprivation, and degradation), albeit to different degrees, and the many accommodations prisoners make to adjust to and survive the psycho- logical pressures they confront and the behavioral mandates with which they must comply while incarcerated. On the other hand, prisons also can have positive impacts on some prisoners, especially when they provide ef- fective programming that prepares them for life after release. Conditions of confinement vary widely from prison to prison along a number of dimensions discussed in this chapter. Those variations affect the nature and degree of the changes prisoners undergo in the course of their incarceration. Some poorly run and especially harsh prisons can cause great harm and put prisoners at significant risk. Individual prisoners also vary in the degree to which they are affected by their conditions of confinement. Persons who enter prison with special vulnerabilities—for example, having suffered extensive preprison trauma or preexisting mental illness—are likely to be especially susceptible to prison stressors and potential harm. The commitment of at least some prison systems to the goal of rehabili- tation fluctuated over the period during which rates of incarceration rose in the United States—ranging from outright rejection in many jurisdictions at the outset of that period to greater acceptance and commitment in at least some places in more recent years. As a result, the potential of prisons to provide prisoners with meaningful opportunities for educational, voca- tional, and other forms of programming has been only partially realized (and in some places, and for some prisoners, not at all). The individual consequences summarized in this chapter underscore the importance of moving beyond the admittedly significant interrelated issues of who is incarcerated, for how long, and under what conditions; what is done with them while they are there; and whether and how their postprison reintegration is supported. It is also important to consider the possibility that less restrictive and potentially less psychologically damag- ing alternatives are more appropriate for a number of those who are cur- rently incarcerated. These alternatives also may be more cost-effective and contribute as much or even more than imprisonment to the overall goal of ensuring public safety.

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THE EXPERIENCE OF IMPRISONMENT 201 In many ways, the use of long-term segregation needs to be reviewed. It can create or exacerbate serious psychological change in some inmates and make it difficult for them to return to the general population of a prison or to the community outside prison. Although certain highly disruptive in- mates may at times need to be segregated from others, use of this practice is best minimized, and accompanied by specific criteria for placement and regular meaningful reviews for those that are thus confined. Long-term segregation is not an appropriate setting for seriously mentally ill inmates. In all cases, it is important to ensure that those prisoners who are confined in segregation are monitored closely and effectively for any sign of psycho- logical deterioration. Regardless of how many people are sent to prison and for how long, the nation’s prisons should be safe and humane. The physical and psycho- logical needs of prisoners should be properly addressed in a manner that is mindful of the reality that virtually all of them eventually return to free society. The way prisoners are treated while they are imprisoned and the opportunities they are provided both in prison and upon release will have a direct impact on their eventual success or failure and important conse- quences for the larger society.