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Adjustment to Prison - A Review of Inmate Characteristics Associated With Misconduct, Victimization, and Self-Injury in Confinement

NCJ Number
W R Chapman
Date Published
162 pages
This report summarizes over 35 studies published between the late 1950's and the late 1970's on the relation between inmates' preincarceration characteristics and institutional misconduct, victimization by other inmates, and inmate self-injury. Attention is given to the relevance of these studies for New York State's prisons.
The studies reviewed differed from each other on several factors, including the institution's location, security level, and sample size. Most inmates successfully adjust to prison, and only about 10 percent of the inmate population are frequent rule violators. In general, inmates 22 or younger incur disciplinary infractions more frequently, are more likely to be victimized, and are more likely to injure themselves in confinement. White inmates are more likely to be victimized by others, and white and Hispanic inmates are overrepresented among inmates who purposely injure themselves. Research on New York's system revealed no meaningful differences in the frequency of disciplinary infractions according to ethnic status. Inmates who resided in more populous areas were somewhat more likely to violate prison rules, while those from small towns or rural areas were more likely to be targets of sexual aggression. Inmates who had a somewhat more stable life on the outside, as reflected in marital status and employment, tended to adjust to prison with fewer problems. There was a tendency for inmates with police/court contact at an earlier age, who had committed violent offenses as juveniles, and who had been committed to juvenile institutions to have higher rates of misconduct. Inmates who served longer than 5 years showed rates of disciplinary infractions about one-half that of inmates who served 5 years or less. The study cautions against using preincarceration inmate characteristics alone to predict adjustment to prison since too much depends on the interaction between individual characteristics brought to prison and the circumstances met there. The appendixes contain a typology of self-injury crisis themes, an explanation of the multiple regression technique, and approximately 60 references.