Recidivism among released inmates is associated with a substantial societal burden given the financial and medical consequences of victimization. Among incarcerated North Americans, approximately 7% are housed in solitary confinement (SC). Studies show SC can lead to psychological deterioration and dispute it can effectively reduce institutional misconduct or recidivism. This meta-analysis aims to clarify the impact of SC on postrelease recidivism, which we hypothesized would increase following SC. A meta-analysis was conducted using PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Google Scholar databases from inception until December 2019. Studies on adult inmates in correctional settings were included if they met an operational definition of SC, measured recidivism, and included a comparison group in general inmate population. Random-effect models were used to assess the impact of SC on multiple types of recidivism. Of the 2,713 identified records, 12 met inclusion criteria (n = 194,078). A moderate association was found between SC and any recidivism (odds ratio [OR] = 1.67, 95% confidence interval [1.41, 1.97]), which persisted in controlled studies (OR = 1.41). This association was replicated across types of recidivism comprising violence (OR = 1.41), rearrests (OR = 1.37), and reincarceration (OR = 1.67). Moreover, a more recent exposure to SC increased recidivism risk (OR = 2.02), and a dose–response relationship was found between days in SC and recidivism. The overall database presented high heterogeneity but no publication bias. Findings show a small to moderate association between SC and future crime/violence. Considering the societal costs associated with antisocial behaviors following SC, mental health and psychosocial programming facilitating inmates’ successful reentry into society should be implemented and rigorously evaluated in strong research design.
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