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Experts at RTI, Florida State University to study use of restrictive housing in federal prisons

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Experts at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and Florida State University have received a new award from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct a comprehensive and rigorous study of the use and impact of restrictive housing, often referred to as solitary confinement, in federal correctional facilities.

The study will focus on the reasons, duration and outcomes of restrictive housing placements in federal institutions. It will also determine how federal policies and practices align with evidence-based standards and best practices for reducing the use of the practice.

“Understanding the impacts of restrictive housing is crucial, not only for the welfare of incarcerated individuals but also for the overall safety and effectiveness of the federal correctional system,” said Ryan Labrecque, Ph.D., a senior program manager at RTI who will lead the study. “We look forward to lending RTI’s expertise in justice and policy research to this important initiative.” 

The study is made possible by a partnership between the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation agency in the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP), also part of the DOJ. 

FBOP and NIJ announced their partnership as part of their commitment to advancing the science and practice of corrections and ensuring that data and research inform correctional policies. The collaboration also responds to the recommendations of DOJ’s Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing, which called for more research on the prevalence and effects of restrictive housing and the development of alternatives to its use.

“Research is essential in identifying opportunities to establish correctional environments that are conducive to rehabilitation and promote safety for all who reside and work in them,” said NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne. “This study will shed light on practices that lead to the overuse of restrictive housing and highlight opportunities to create more humane experiences for people in FBOP custody.”

RTI and FSU’s research will provide recommendations to enhance the safety, security and well-being of employees and incarcerated individuals, in addition to promoting the successful reentry of incarcerated people into society. DOJ plans to make the findings public and intends to make improvements based on the findings.

Read related press release from DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs

Learn more about RTI’s justice research and policy research