Robert Johnson, Carlos A. Cuevas, Natasha Frost
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Department or Academic Unit
College of Criminal Justice
coping, fear, misbehavior, misconduct, prison, violence
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Prison misconduct and specifically prison violence generate serious problems in prisons across the United States. Most of the research on prison misconduct has focused on static rather than dynamic characteristics of prisoners. This study examined a dynamic personal attribute, prisoners' ability to cope. The research tested whether prisoners' ways of coping affect their involvement in serious prison misconduct and violence. The study also examined the traditional predictors of serious prison misconduct and violence and their relationship to ways of coping.
The research used a mixed methods design and a concurrent data collection strategy. The quantitative data collection, which was the dominant approach, included self-report surveys administered to a random sample of 312 prisoners stratified by involvement in serious misconduct and residing in the medium and maximum security facilities, and extraction from the prison system's database. The qualitative research included in-depth interviews with staff and prisoners, and observation of classification and disciplinary hearings. The study yielded a number of findings about serious prison misconduct and violence. First, five out of the eight ways of coping in the study were directly related either to violence alone or serious misconduct and violence. Prisoners who learned to elicit both emotional and instrumental support from loved ones, fellow pro-social prisoners, and staff were less likely to be disruptive. Those who coped through venting their emotions, and bravado, and who charged into reacting to stressors were more likely to be disruptive and to misbehave. Second, trait emotions did affect misconduct. That is, when the personal predictors and coping were taken into consideration, prisoners who were angry were less likely to be involved in misconduct and violence, while those who were anxious were more likely to be involved in serious misconduct. Third, the study yielded at least five categories of prisoners that were more apt to be involved in serious misconduct and violence: prisoners with mental health problems, young prisoners, weak prisoners, gang members, and those prisoners, usually more well-behaved, who fought back when victimized by others. The study also found that policies, practices, and the level of staff skills affected serious prison misconduct and violence. Finally, it was concluded that a reconceptualization of the predictors of serious prison misconduct and violence into static and dynamic predictors would be useful to focus future research and policy recommendations.
Ann Marie Kelley Rocheleau
Rocheleau, Ann Marie Kelley, "Prisoners' coping skills and involvement in serious prison misconduct and violence" (2011). Criminal Justice Dissertations. Paper 6. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20001195
Click button above to open, or right-click to save.