Is death row obsolete? A decade of mainstreaming death-sentenced inmates in Missouri

Behav Sci Law. 2005;23(3):307-20. doi: 10.1002/bsl.608.


Death-sentenced inmates in Missouri have been integrated or "mainstreamed" into the general population of the Potosi Correctional Center since 1991. By comparing the rate of violent misconduct among these mainstreamed death-sentenced inmates with that of the life-without-parole and parole eligible inmates under fully integrated conditions of confinement, this study provides the first empirical (statistical) evaluation of this innovative alternative to segregated death row confinement. The mainstreamed death-sentenced inmates committed no inmate or staff homicides, or attempted homicides. Comparison of their rates of institutional violence revealed frequencies that were similar to those of life-without-parole inmates, and well below those of fellow inmates who were sentenced to parole eligible terms. These findings cast serious doubt on the security-driven assumptions that have typified the segregation of death-sentenced inmates and have dictated highly restrictive confinement policies for this group. A conclusion that death-sentenced inmates can be safely integrated into a general prison population has significant implications for allocation of scarce fiscal resources and correctional staff, as well as for inmate mental health, particularly given the extended tenure that death-sentenced inmates typically serve between sentencing and relief/execution.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capital Punishment*
  • Humans
  • Missouri
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Prisons
  • Safety
  • Social Isolation
  • Violence / trends*