“Locked in a Box: How Solitary Confinement Influences Public Attitudes”

Authors: Toby Bolsen, Bailey Fairbanks, and Kristina LaPlant

Corresponding Author: Dr. Toby Bolsen, Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA), tbolsen@gsu.edu

Abstract:

Issues in the criminal justice system such as juvenile incarceration, the use of solitary confinement, and racial inequality have become increasingly salient to the American public as a function of growing politicization, popularization in media and film, and the enduring pessimism of race relations in the United States. Our research uniquely assesses attitude formation on solitary confinement with a two-pronged approach. First, a team of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students developed an experimental research design which allowed survey participants to enter a solitary confinement prison cell replica. By utilizing a priming experiment, we find participants were significantly less likely to support solitary confinement for both juveniles and adults when exposed to the treatment. Second, we analyze participant demographics and attitudes toward the criminal justice system as predictors of support for solitary confinement. We find evidence that race, party identification, ideology, and attitudes toward the criminal justice system play a significant role in shaping opinions about the use of solitary confinement.

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