Scholarship suggests that individuals’ experiences in pretrial detention are especially straining. Relative to state prisons, local jails have high rates of inmate and officer turnover, more limited resources, and provide fewer services. Pretrial detention also constitutes an individual’s initial period of incarceration, during which social isolation and fear are experienced acutely but with fewer services in jail. This study assesses whether time spent in pretrial detention adversely affects prison social order. Findings suggest that longer terms of pretrial detention in jails are associated with a modest increase in the likelihood of misconduct later on during a stay in prison. Interaction effects indicate that more time spent in jail prior to imprisonment may be harmful for potentially at-risk inmates—specifically, younger inmates, female inmates, and inmates with mental illness. These results have implications for theory and research on prison experiences and social order and for understanding the adverse implications of pretrial detention and strains incurred in jail.

Elisa L. Toman, Joshua C. Cochran, John K. Cochran
Criminal Justice and Behavior, January 10, 2018