Race and Punishment in American Prisons

Source: Jeremiah C. Olson, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Volume 26, Issue 4, October 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
American prison staffs face the difficult challenge of maintaining order in an often overcrowded, potentially dangerous environment. Prison staffs are given wide discretion over treatment decisions inside prisons, including the decision to punish prisoners. Staffs are forced to make quick decisions in an uncertain environment and are likely to use commonly understood heuristics to simplify their decision-making. These heuristics include stereotypes regarding race and criminality. This article uses data on nearly 11,000 prisoners to examine the determinants of one of the harshest punishments available, the use of solitary confinement in American prisons. Consistent with the broader literature on race and criminal justice, I find that black inmates report higher rates of placement in solitary confinement than white inmates.