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Postscript: "The Most Comprehensive Empirical Review . . ."

Two years after the release of the Arbour Report Ivan Zinger completed work on his Ph.D. thesis in the Department of Psychology of Carleton University. The thesis was entitled " The Psychological Effects of 60 Days in Administrative Segregation. " The results of Dr. Zingerís work are published in the January 2001 volume of The Canadian Journal of Criminology (Ivan Zinger, Cherami Wichmann and D.A. Andrews, The Psychological Effects of 60 Days in Administrative Segregation, (2001) 43 Canadian Journal of Criminology, 47 ). Dr. Zinger in his research set out to construct a research methodology to test the effects of segregation which was not subject to what he saw as the methodological shortcomings in the existing literature. Addressing first studies that rely upon qualitative data (somewhat dismissively characterized as "casual observations, interviews and anecdotes") Zinger suggests that this body of work suffers from a number of limitations. Theses include reliance on the evidence of prisoners involved in human rights litigation (such as the McCann case), seen as problematic because these prisoners may have a special interest in demonstrating that their segregation had negative psychological and physiological effects; furthermore, such prisoners may not be representative of average prisoners and their reactions to segregations may not be the norm. With specific reference to my own research it is suggested that many of the prisoners I have interviewed were notorious, far from representative, and had filed an inordinately large number of grievances, legitimate or otherwise, against the prison system. Another problem associated with research that relies upon interviews or evaluations of segregated prisoners is said to be their failure to include a comparison group of non-segregated prisoners.

In the case of the experimental and quasi-experimental research Zinger suggests that these are also problematic in generalizing about the effects of segregation under real life conditions because many of the experiments use volunteer subjects, sometimes not even prisoners but university students who can end their participation in the experiment at will; the duration of the time spent in segregation is limited to 10 days or less whereas the reality is that 80 per cent of prisoners spend more than 10 days in segregation at any one time and the length of stay is always unknown. Some studies have screened out subjects with psychiatric history and therefore may not be representative of the population of segregated prisoners; other studies have high rates of attrition which is problematic because subjects who decide no longer to participate in the experiment may be the same individuals who would not cope well with the conditions of segregation and would be negatively effected by them. Furthermore, most of the research has been "cross-sectional," meaning a one-time study as opposed to "longitudinal," a study over a period of time, the latter is more effective in determining what observed effects other are attributable to segregation or to any existing condition of poorer mental and physical health prior to segregation.

In Zingerís view the methodological weaknesses of both the qualitative and quantitative research led to the same problem: they limited the extent to which the research could be generalized and used to make recommendations for the use of administrative segregation in Canadian prisons. This is where Zinger entered the fray. His goal was to address many of these shortcomings in hopes of obtaining useful and reliable results. To capture the realities of the administrative segregation environment, the first group of subjects in his research design were prisoners from Kingston, Collins Bay and Millhaven Penitentiaries who were placed in administrative segregation and remained in segregation for 60 days. A second non-segregated group were randomly selected from the general prison population of the three prisons and remained in the general population for 60 days. Senior psychologists at the selected institutions supervised the data collection, these psychologists selected and trained three research assistants who did psychological testing and completed the interview protocol. The assistants were graduate or students of psychology (one fourth-year student, one M.A. candidate and one M.A.). Prisoners who had just been placed in administrative segregation were asked to complete written psychological tests and take part in a structured interview. The same procedure was undertaken 30 days later and again 60 days later if the prisoners remained segregated. Non-segregated prisoners underwent the same testing procedures at the same intervals.

The tests selected by Zinger were chosen for having acceptable psychometric properties, for having a short administration time (because of the difficulty associated with conducting interviews in segregation) and had been previously used with prisoner samples. The tests included an aggression questionnaire which measures externalizing behaviours and feelings with four sub-scales: physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger and hostility, a depression inventory that measures the severity of cognitive, behavioural and physiological symptomology in depression for over the last week; the Hopelessness Scale, which measures negative experiences and pessimism concerning the future, the Shipley Living Scale which measures overall intellectual ability and Brief Symptom Inventory which screens for psychological symptoms in the last week. The symptoms include: obsessive-compulsive behaviour, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety and paranoid ideation.

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