Tuesday, September 4, 2018

OSCAR Student Heather Pickett Examines the Contextual and Interactional Barriers in Solitary Confinement at Pennsylvania Prisons to Propose Implements Towards Reform

I am a SIG research assistant for Dr. Danielle Rudes’ study called “Changing the Hole Mind: Living 
& Working in Solitary Confinement During Reform”. This project is a sub-study that contributes to an on-going larger study of hers. This qualitative research project allows my teammates and I to create research questions that dig deeper into the conditions and behavioral processes in solitary confinement. The questions my teammate Bryce and I created are specifically on support and coping mechanisms, what the process is like of those, and what would make it easier to access them. My role is to ask the questions by interviewing inmates and correctional staff at the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PADOC) all-male prisons in solitary, what they call restrictive housing units (RHU), and severely mentally ill inmates who are in the diversionary treatment unit (DTU). We then write formal fieldnotes, analyze the data by coding, and determine what implements towards reform to propose to the PADOC with our findings.

Dr. Rudes introduced the research assistant positions for the project during her CRIM 402: Punishment & Corrections class. I became interested in the project as soon as Dr. Rudes said the words: “interviewing inmates”. My first thoughts were: how cool would that be and what a rare opportunity! Her class focused on solitary confinement, which is something that is rarely talked about that I absolutely believe needs to be. I want to help, and by having a role in this project I believe I can. So, I went for it! It relates to my long-term goals because every skill I have learned throughout this project will benefit me in any criminal justice field I work in. On a weekly basis I am usually continuously writing a journal article that includes a literature review with my teammate, brushing up fieldnotes and other documents, and submitting videoblogs to document my experience throughout the project. I have discovered numerous things; a few include what the research design and process is like, what it’s like to write a collaborated literature review and working with mentors.