Misconduct in prison : examining MMPI-2 personality characteristics within a correctional sample

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Frackowiak, Marita Szatanik

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More than 2 million people are incarcerated in local, state, and federal correctional facilities (U.S. Department of Justice, 2002). In the past 20 years forensic and prison populations have increased by 400 percent, reaching record high numbers, with little indication of slowing growth (Megargee, 1994). Parallel to this rapid increase, questions of institution management, inmate behavior, and conformity to prison rules, as well as cost effectiveness become relevant. According to prison administrators, the management issue of greatest priority is maintaining the safety of the institution (Cullen, Latessa, Burton, & Lombardo, 1993). The present study therefore examined the differences in rates and the seriousness of inmates’ misconduct in relation to their personality characteristics and psychopathology, as measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory – 2 (MMPI-2). Data were obtained from archival records at a low-security federal institution in the Southwestern U.S. The sample consisted of 250 protocols of male inmates who produced a valid MMPI-2 profile. Demographic information as well as inmates’ institutional behavior was obtained from the federal records. Institutional behavior was assessed in terms of frequency of behavioral infractions and the severity of the misconduct. The MMPI-2 profiles of inmates who engaged in misconduct differed descriptively from those who did not and selected scale elevations were significantly related to prison misconduct. No significant results were found in the prediction of the severity of inmate misconduct. In addition, the MMPI-2 based four-group classification model was examined, however, no significance was found in its relation to prison behavior. As a result of these findings, the model itself was examined for its applicability to a criminal sample. Cluster analysis did not confirm the four-group model; instead, it revealed a three-group solution: psychotic, depressive, and normal. The findings are discussed in terms of clinical implications as well as directions for future research.


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