Winner of the 2023 ACJS Outstanding Book Award, sponsored by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.
Twenty to forty percent of the US prison population will spend time in restricted housing units—or solitary confinement. These separate units within prisons have enhanced security measures, and thousands of staff control and monitor the residents. Though commonly assumed to be punishment for only the most dangerous behaviors, in reality, these units may also be used in response to minor infractions. In Surviving Solitary, Danielle S. Rudes offers an unprecedented look inside RHUs—and a resounding call to more vigorously confront the intentions and realities of these structures. As the narratives unfold we witness the slow and systematic damage the RHUs inflict upon those living and working inside, through increased risk, arbitrary rules, and strained or absent social interactions. Rudes makes the case that we must prioritize improvement over harm. Residents uniformly call for more humane and dignified treatment. Staff yearn for more expansive control. But, as Rudes shows, there also remains fierce resilience among residents and staff and across the communities they forge—and a perpetual hope that they may have a different future.
About the authors
Danielle S. Rudes is a Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology at Sam Houston State University and the Deputy Director of the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence.She was formerly an Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University.
"In this landmark study, Rudes shines an essential light on the lives of prisoners and workers in these facilities. It is essential reading that should make an impact well beyond academic criminology."
—Shadd Maruna, Queen's University Belfast
"This important, insightful book treats the people in RHUs with deep respect, and it tells their story with honesty and power. Rudes has provided an always eloquent, admirably fair, and sometimes shocking portrayal of what our incarceration policies have given us. Many readers will think we should end the practice; those who do not will find a persuasive set of ideas about how to make the RHU world better for those we kept there and for their keepers."
—Todd Clear, Rutgers University Law School
"Thoughtful and nuanced, this book is pathbreaking for its sensitive portrayal of residents and staff in RHUs. Books this timely, relevant, and important are all too rare."
—Chris Uggen, University of Minnesota
"Rudes, two colleagues, and more than a score of undergraduate, graduate, and scholarly researchers offer a brilliant 'behind the walls' ethnographic study of incarcerated persons and security staffs.... The result is an exceptionally candid, far-ranging articulation of issues.... Highly recommended."
—R. D. McCrie, CHOICE