CHANGES AND VARIABILITY IN PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS
AMONG FEMALE PRISON INMATES
AS A FUNCTION OF LENGTH OF INCARCERATION AND RACE
BARBARA NANCY LEWIS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE
DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
I would like to express my thanks and appreciation to
the following people who have helped make this study possible:
Dr. Joe Wittmer, my chairman, for his support, encouragement,
advice and guidance.
Drs. Gary Seller and Harry Grater, my committee, for their
comments, criticisms, and helpful hints.
Mr. William Booth, Superintendent, Florida Correctional
Institution, for permission to conduct the study.
Dr. Virginia Palmer, Department head, Counseling and Social
Services, Florida Correctional Institution, for assis-
tance in the process of the research.
Mark Leary, for his expertise and invaluable assistance in
Charles and Dorothy Lewis, my parents, for their unflagging
support, and for instilling in me the compulsiveness to
complete the task.
Dolf Lowey-Ball, my friend, for his years of encouragement.
Ann Browning, my friend, for her love and support.
Jim Hiett, my friend, for his ideas, advice and feedback.
George Medzerian, my friend and colleague, for his faith.
The countless others who helped, advised, listened, counseled,
and, most of all, put up with me throughout this project.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . ... . . ii
LIST OF TABLES . . . . . . . ... . . . v
. . . . . vi
ABSTRACT . . . . . . . .
I INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . .
Statement of the Problem . . . .
Population . . . . . . . .
Rationale . . . . . . . .
Definition of Terms . . . . . .
II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE . . . . . .
The History of Punishment . . . .
Punishment Versus Rehabilitation . .
The Failure of Rehabilitation . . .
The Impact of Incarceration . .....
The Mortification of Self . . . .
The Pains of Imprisonment . . . .
Adaptation to Institutions . . . .
The Inmate Code . . . . . . .
Mitigating the Pains of Imprisonment .
Development of the Inmate Social System .
Conformity to the Inmate Culture . .
Primary Group Affiliation .. . ....
Women in Prison . . . . . . .
The Impact of Incarceration on Women .
The Incarcerated Mother . . . . .
Homosexuality and Play Families . ..
Male and Female Inmate Social Systems .
The Process of Prisonization . . .
Two Models of Prisonization . ....
Factors Minimizing or Maximizing
Prisonization . . . . . . .
The Universal Factors of Prisonization
The Effects of Incarceration ...
The Effects of Incarceration on Women .
Criminal Identification . . . . .
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reduction of Variance in the Prison
Population . . .... . . . . 62
The Personality of Prisoners . . . ... 64
Male/Female Differences ...... . . 65
Racial Differences . . . . . .. 67
Development of a Modal Personality . . .. 69
The Sociopathic Personality . . . . . 71
Summary . . . . ...... . . . . 73
III METHODOLOGY . . . . . . . .... 75
Hypotheses . . . . . . . .. . 75
Subjects and Procedures . ... .. . . 76
Instrumentation . . . .... . . . 78
Validity and Reliability ...... . . 81
Data Analysis . . .... .. . . . .. 84
IV RESULTS. . . . . . . . . . . 88
Analysis of Pretests ...... . . . 88
Hypothesis Testing . . . . . . .. 92
Limitations . . .... . . . . . 99
Methodological Assumptions . . . . .. 100
V SUMMARY, DISCUSSION, AND CONCLUSIONS . . . .. 101
Summary . . . . . . . . . . 101
Discussion . . . .... . . . . 102
Conclusions .. . . ... . . . . 108
Recommendations for Further Research .... 111
APPENDIX . . . . ... . . . . . . . 113
REFERENCES . . . ..... . . . . . . . 114
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . .... . . . . . . 123
LIST OF TABLES
1 Differences on scale 5 pretest scores as a
function of time served . . . . .... . . 90
2 Differences on pretest scale scores as a
function of race . . .... . . . . . 91
3 Differences on scale 5 posttest scores as
a function of time served . . . . . .... .. 93
4 Differences on posttest scale scores as a
function of race . . .... . . . . . 95
5 Interactional effects of time and race on
posttest scale 7 scores . . .. . . . . . 97
6 Interactional effects of time and race on
posttest scale 4 scores ..... . . . . . 98
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
CHANGES AND VARIABILITY IN PERSONALITY CHARACTERISTICS
AMONG FEMALE PRISON INMATES
AS A FUNCTION OF LENGTH OF INCARCERATION AND RACE
Barbara Nancy Lewis
Chairman: Dr. Joe Wittmer
Major Department: Counselor Education
This study investigated personality change in incarcer-
ated women as it related to the factors of length of incar-
ceration and race. Subjects were first-time inmates at the
Florida Correctional Institution, Lowell, Florida. Scores
on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
were used as a measure of personality characteristics.
Pretest data were provided by the routine administration of
the MMPI to all inmates upon admission to the institution.
Posttest data were gathered by the investigator and compared
with pretest data to examine personality changes and changes
in group variability as a function of length of incarceration
and of race. Results of an analysis of variance showed no
personality change in the groups comprising the sample as a
function of length of incarceration alone. Several differ-
ences in personality as a function of race were revealed on
MMPI scales 1 (hypochondriasis), 6(paranoia), 7(psychastenia),
8(schizophrenia), 9(hypomania), and 10(social introversion).
These results show that the black inmates in this study were
more concerned with bodily functions, delusional, obsessive-
compulsive, schizophrenic, overactive, and socially withdrawn
than the white inmates.
Interaction effects of length of incarceration and race
appeared on scales 4(psychopathic deviance) and
7(psychasthenia). These results indicate that the races are
affected differentially by the experience of incarceration.
A test of homogeneity of within group variance-covariance
matrices revealed no changes in group variability. All
inmates were shown to maintain the basic sociopathic elements
of their personalities, as measured by MMPI scale 4(psycho-
pathic deviance), throughout incarceration.
If you keep one (man) in penal servitude
and another in the House of Lords for ten
years, the one will show the stigmata of
a typical convict, and the other of a ty-
pical peer (George Bernard Shaw, The Crime
Prison is a very democratizing institution:
soon the psychopaths talk like the lawyers,
and the lawyers talk like the psychopaths
Upon entering a correctional institution, inmates are
stripped, searched, fingerprinted, bathed, and assigned a
uniform and a number. Clothes, jewelry, and any other
personal belongings in their possession are confiscated.
They are separated from family and friends; they are deprived
of status, individuality, privacy, and freedom. These
deprivations have been referred to as the "pains of imprison-
ment" (Sykes, 1958).
The immediate reaction of the inmate is one of shock,
disbelief, confusion, disorientation, and denial. Adjustment
to this new environment is not easy, but, in time, most do
adjust in one manner or another. To aid in this adjustment,
and to ease the "pains of imprisonment," an informal organi-
zation is developed around a system of group norms, referred
to as the inmate code. The code reflects inmate solidarity
an opposition to prison authorities and conventional values.
The varying degrees to which inmates support the code con-
stitute the inmate social system. Hawkins (1976) has remarked
that despite the diversity in the inmate population, there
is "only one strikingly pervasive value system": the inmate
Most inmates adjust to prison by the gradual adoption
of the inmate code; this process has been called
"prisonization" (Clemmer, 1958). The process entails chang-
ing habits of eating, sleeping, dressing, working, and
language; acceptance of subordinate status; and learning
that nothing is owed to the environment for the support it
provides. Hawkins (1976) has stated that the process of
prisonization is so disruptive to the long-term inmate's
personality that adjustment to any other community becomes
virtually impossible. Clemmer (1958) believes that the
effects of prisonization on the personality function to
create or increase criminality and sociopathy. Research on
prisoners' personalities has shown them to resemble typical
sociopathic patterns in their resentment of social demands,
conflict with authority, feelings of isolation, emotional
shallowness, lack of responsibility, inability to learn from
past experiences, lack of gratification from social experi-
ences, disregard for danger, etc. (Dahlstrom et al., 1972;
Eysenck, 1964; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1973; Joestring et al.,
1975; Panton, 1974).
Statement of the Problem
The purpose of the present study was to examine the
effects of length of incarceration on personality, both of
individual inmates and on the inmate community as a whole.
As suggested above, length of incarceration appears to have
some effect on personality. But, does it also function to
reduce the variance in personality in the general inmate
population by creating a typical or "modal personality"
(DuBois, 1960) as several anthropologists have suggested
regarding groups that are raised similarly and all treated
alike? Specifically, the study attempted to answer the
following questions: Would the personality characteristics
of prison inmates change as a function of time served? More
specifically, would personality characteristics distinguish
newly admitted inmates from those who had served 3-6 months
and/or from those who had served 9 months or more, and would
there be differences among these groups? Would a "modal
personality" develop as a function of time served? More
specifically, would the variance of personality characteris-
tics in a female inmate population diminish as a function of
time served? Would race be a factor in personality change?
In short, the present study examined whether the more time
people were incarcerated, the more their personalities would
resemble those of their fellow inmates.
The sample of subjects used in this study consisted of
81 female inmates at the Florida Correctional Institution,
Lowell, Florida. All subjects were serving their first
state prison sentence, i.e. recidivists were not used as
subjects in this study. Also excluded were inmates housed
in "honor" facilities and those in disciplinary confinement.
It was felt that the experiences of the latter inmates might
have differed significantly from those of the general
In theory, today's prisons are agents of rehabilitation.
Yet the high recidivism and ever-rising crime rates in our
cities indicate that the criminal justice system's attempts
at rehabilitating public offenders may not have been effective.
The experience of incarceration poses a profound threat to
inmates' self-concepts and may even foster sociopathic
tendencies. Several authors have commented that this is
especially true for female inmates, yet little research has
been published concerning women in prison.
The present study investigated the effects of incarceration
on women, particularly its propensity to create, over time,
a modal personality. Considering the amount of public funds
allocated for the construction and maintenance of correctional
institutions, research to explore the effects of these
institutions on their inmates, and consequently on society
in general, is much needed. This study represents an attempt
to meet this need.
Definition of Terms
Inmate one of those confined in a prison.
Modal personality central tendencies in the personalities
of a group of people subject to common cultural pressures.
Newly admitted inmates those inmates who have been incar-
cerated in the state prison less than five weeks, i.e.
those inmates housed in "Reception and Orientation" at
the time of this study.
Personality characteristics those characteristics measured
by the various scales of the MMPI.
Prisonization the taking on in greater or less degree of
the folkways, mores, customs, and general culture of
the penitentiary (Clemmer, 1958).
Recidivism repeated or habitual relapse into crime.
Recidivist a repeat offender; one who has served two or
more nonconcurrent sentences.
Sociopathic (or Psychopathic) personality a mental disorder
characterized by eccentricity; emotional instability;
perversity of conduct; undue conceit and suspiciousness;
or lack of common sense, social feeling, self-control,
truthfulness, energy or persistence.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
This chapter presents the literature related to the
present study. First, an overview of the history of the
criminal justice system and the concept of rehabilitation is
presented. Next, the failure of rehabilitation is demon-
strated by exploring the effects of the prison experience on
inmates' self-concepts. The inmates' reactions to incarcer-
ation are discussed in terms of the "pains of imprisonment"
they suffer and the ways in which they adapt to prison life.
And finally, the impact of prison on the inmate population
is examined as it functions to produce a so-called "modal
personality," resembling the sociopathic personality.
The History of Punishment
Sutherland and Cressey have defined punishment as a
method which ". . involves pain or suffering produced by
design and justified by some value that the suffering is
assumed to have" (1970, p. 298), and which is ". . inflic-
ted by the group in its corporate capacity upon one who is
regarded as a member of the same group" (1970, p. 298).
Historically, four types of punishment have been used
in dealing with public offenders: 1) physical torture;
2) removal from the group by death, exile, or imprisonment;
3) social degradation; and 4) financial loss (Sutherland 9
Cressey, 1970). These methods are by no means mutually
The first of these methods, physical torture, is demon-
strated in the corporal punishment popular before 1800.
This concept is based on the hedonistic philosophy that when
the pleasure of committing socially undesirable acts is
exceeded by the pain of the consequences, the undesirable
acts will cease.
In the early nineteenth century there arose concern for
the humane treatment of public offenders, and prisons were
established as places of confinement and custody. In England,
imprisonment was rarely used before the last part of the
thirteenth century. The House of Corrections was established
around the middle of the sixteenth century, and by the
beginning of the nineteenth century, imprisonment had become
the principal method of punishing serious offenders (Suther-
land 9 Cressey, 1970).
In the United States today, public offenders are pun-
ished chiefly by the methods of imprisonment and financial
loss. Social degradation is also included since, in most
states, convicted felons lose their rights to vote, to hold
public office, and to practice certain professions and
Punishment Versus Rehabilitation
Punishment as a method of dealing with public offenders
has been justified as a means of atonement, deterrence, and
retribution; as a producer of income for the state; and as a
way of restoring or promoting the solidarity of the community
(Sutherland 9 Cressey, 1970).
However, punishment has been ineffective in preventing
the offender's return to crime, as well as in deterring
others. In fact, punishment seems to strengthen the inclina-
tion toward crime since the resentment it engenders leads to
a greater rigidity of response in the offender (Reid, 1976;
The concept of rehabilitating offenders arose out of
the failure of punishment. Goffman (1966) defines rehabili-
tation as ". resetting the inmate's self-regulatory
mechanisms so that after he leaves he will maintain the
standards of the establishment of his own accord" (p. 65).
The first official recognition of the desirability of reha-
bilitating prisoners came in 1773 when the English Parliament
authorized magistrates to appoint chaplains in jails.
Today, the attempt at rehabilitation is standard practice in
our correctional facilities. Sutherland and Cressey (1970)
state that ". .. the trend during the last century has been
toward a societal reaction in which the criminal is treated
rather than punished" (p. 347).
Despite this trend, today's prisons do not seem to be
effective agents of rehabilitation. Hassler (1972) states
that "The best of prisons does not reform or rehabilitate.
It punishes, but punishment neither eradicates the original
misdeed nor reforms the criminal. Neither does it serve as
an effective deterrent, as is evident by the steadily rising
rate of crime. It does not deter others from following a
criminal career--for the simple reason that no man commits a
crime expecting to be caught" (p. 196). It now appears that
the new humane treatment of the twentieth century has been
just as ineffective at solving the crime problem as the
corporal punishment of the eighteenth.
The Failure of Rehabilitation
". . the crimes that shock and terrify the law-
abiding citizens are almost without exception crimes commit-
ted by graduates of our prisons, our jails, our parole
systems" (Prisoner no. 4000X, 1972, p. 190). The preceding
statement, made by a convicted felon serving his second term
in a penal institution, indicates that these institutions do
not serve as effective rehabilitation agents. The fact is
that many, if not most, of the "graduates" of the present
American penal system return to crime and, eventually, to
prison. The high recidivism rates in our prisons, averaging
70%, reflect the failure of their attempts at rehabilitation
(Levenson, 1975; Zimbardo, 1972).
When prison does cause permanent change in inmates,
these changes are most often not in the intended direction
(Goffman, 1966). The data from Persons' (1970) study of a
boys' reformatory show that the reformatory, instead of
initiating a rehabilitative process, actually increases
psychopathology. Sutherland and Cressey (1970) have stated
that the prison experience ". . is conducive to the reten-
tion and development of criminal attitudes, rather than to
reformation" (p. 546). Clemmer (1958) believes that prisons
do "immeasurable harm" not only to their inmates, but to
their employees, and that rehabilitation, when it does
occasionally occur, occurs in spite of, rather than as a
result of, the prison culture.
Petersen and Truzzi (1972) explain the penal system's
lack of success as a rehabilitative agent in its failure to
". .promote the self-respect of the prisoner as a neces-
sary condition for successful rehabilitation" (p. 187). The
next several sections of this chapter explore the system's
disregard for the importance of self-respect by examining
the impact of incarceration on the inmate.
The Impact of Incarceration
Admission to a correctional institution is a shocking
and traumatic experience for the new inmate. "The immediate
and overwhelming impression of prison, and one that continued
through my sentence and beyond, was the feeling of
humiliation. . Morethan anything else, I think, the
convict is infuriated and discouraged by the planned indig-
nities and degradation that are his lot from the moment he
gets into the hands of the prison authorities" (Hassler,
1972, p. 194). Ward and Kassebaum (1965) describe the
initial reaction to incarceration as an overwhelming feeling
of confusion and insecurity with complete loss of perspective.
The admission process has been described as a harsh, demor-
alizing, and depersonalizing experience (McCleery, 1966),
and one that causes a serious disruption in the emotional
stability of the inmate (Gill, 1952).
Reid (1976) states that the admission procedures, which
include stripping of personal belongings, assignment of a
number, examining, inspecting, weighing, and documenting,
deprive the inmate of a sense of personal identity.
Gill (1952) studied in detail the impact of the first
few months of incarceration on the inmate using the test-
retest method with the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale,
the MMPI, the Rorschach, and the TAT. The protests were
given as soon as feasible after commitment; the posttests
were given three months later. He found that depression-
like symptoms appear immediately following commitment.
These symptoms gradually diminish and are supplanted by
feelings of dissatisfaction, boredom, and self-pity, which
heighten tendencies toward an unwholesome mode of thinking.
Upon retest, he found a general reduction of self-confidence.
The Rorschach scores suggested a general reduction of higher
intellectual functioning and organizational ability, greater
awareness of the obvious features of the environment, in-
creased attention to relatively unimportant details, and a
tendency toward a less mature mode of thinking. The MMPI
retest revealed an elevation of all of the clinical scales.
The depression scale (D) revealed the largest increment of
increase, increasing significantly from insignificance to
abnormal elevation. The schizophrenia scale (Sc) revealed
the second largest increment of increase; the psychasthenia
scale (Pt) the third; and the psychopathic deviate scale
(Pd), which was the most elevated scale on both administra-
tions, still revealed the fourth largest increment of in-
crease. The hypomania scale (Ma) also became elevated;
indicating a heightened interest in exciting, emotionally-
laden situations. Gill remarked that the MMPI retest pro-
files were dominated by the psychotic scales--Pd, Pa
(paranoia), Sc, and Ma--and noted the relatively unimportant
position of the "neurotic triad"--Hs (hypochondriasis), Hy
(hysteria), and Pt. Gill concluded that the first three
months of imprisonment cause a significant shift in person-
ality toward psychopathology.
The tendency is for new inmates to internalize the
social rejection implicit in incarceration into self-rejection
and lowered self-esteem (Wheeler, 1961). They must reorga-
nize their lifestyles, learn new ways of reacting to situa-
tions, and adopt new values and self-concepts (Gill, 1952).
In short, they must "unlearn" former behavioral patterns and
substitute new ones demanded by the institution.
Culbertson (1975) found that inmates at a boys' refor-
matory incarcerated for the first time showed a significant
decline in self-concept during incarceration. While showing
no significant changes during incarceration, self-concepts
of boys with one previous incarceration were lower upon
protesting than "first-timers"; and those of boys with two
or more previous incarcerations were lower still. Brown
(1971) found that younger delinquent girls shifted to a
distrustful and nondependent view of self after incarceration.
Sykes' (1958) analysis revealed that the anonymity of a
uniform and a number rather than a name, and the insistence
on gestures of respect and subordination when addressing
officials produce a constant threat to the inmate's self-
Total institutions, defined as those which erect a
barrier to social intercourse with those outside, eliminate
the normal barriers which separate the three spheres of
life: work, play, and sleep. All activities from all three
spheres are conducted in the same place, under the same
authority, with the same company of numerous others. Life
in these institutions is highly regimented; scheduled activ-
ities are imposed by the authorities and are designed to
meet official institutional goals (Goffman, 1966). The
total institutions being studied here, prisons, seem to have
a profound impact on their inmates, particularly in the area
The Mortification of Self
Goffman (1966) has theorized on the damage done by
total institutions to inmates' self-concepts. He has labelled
the process by which this occurs "the mortification of
The process of mortification of self begins with role
dispossession as individuals are separated from the outside
world and must abandon their previous roles in terms of
their families, jobs and education. Ties to these roles
through correspondence and visits are closely supervised by
institutional staff. This lack of privacy in interpersonal
relationships with significant others adds to the mortifica-
tion of self.
The second step in the process is encountered during
admission procedures. These procedures involve the learning
of deference obligations and the dispossession of personal
property. The procedures involving the learning of deference
obligations provide a sort of initial obedience test of
whether or not the inmate is prepared to be "appropriately"
deferential. Deference obligations include saying "sir" or
"ma'am" when addressing staff members, having to ask to go
to the toilet or to smoke, and other demeaning rituals. The
dispossession of personal property has long been noted by
religious orders as aiding in the process of mortification
of self. Goffman stresses its importance here "because
persons invest self-feelings in their possessions" (1966, p.
26). Dispossession of property involves some damage to
those self-feelings. This dispossession also includes the
loss of one's name as it is replaced by a number. This may
be the greatest loss.
The third step is personal defacement. Inmates are
stripped of their usual appearance and of the equipment and
services by which it is maintained. They suffer the anonym-
ity of wearing the same uniform as all others around them.
Inmates are then assigned to, and come to adopt, disidenti-
fying roles. Labeling theory suggests that labeling someone,
for example, a "criminal," will cause others to respond
differently to that individual, leading the individual to
respond in different ways, thereby creating a self-fulfilling
prophecy (Reid, 1976). Zimbardo (1972) has stated with
regard to prisons that merely assigning labels to people and
placing them in a situation in which that label has validity
and meaning is sufficient to elicit pathological behavior.
The denial of heterosexual activity may induce inmates to
question their masculinity or femininity and adopt the alien
role of "homosexual." The exclusion of inmates from know-
ledge of decisions regarding their fates is a denial of
their command of self. They may come to question their
status as "adult," i.e. having self-determination, autonomy,
and freedom of action, and adopt the role of dependent
The process of mortification of self is complete.
Goffman (1966) states that "Mortification or curtailment of
the self is very likely to involve acute psychological
stress for the individual" (p. 48). Yet it is only one of
the pains of imprisonment.
The Pains of Imprisonment
Sykes (1958) created the term "pains of imprisonment"
to describe the deprivations and frustrations of prison,
including loss of liberty, deprivation of goods and services,
and frustration of sexual desire. Sykes and Messinger
(1960) list the five major deprivations as: 1) the rejected
and subordinate status of inmate, 2) material deprivations,
3) sexual deprivation, 4) the constant social control imposed
by the prison custodial staff, and 5) the constant presence
of other offenders.
The subordinate status of the inmate has been discussed
in the preceding sections covering the impact of incarcera-
tion and the mortification of self.
Material deprivations are felt although inmates' basic
material needs are met. Needs are met for all inmates in
the same way, with the same uninteresting food, the same
anonymous clothing, and the same basic furniture. These
items quickly become boring and lack the symbolic or senti-
mental value invested in personal possessions. Society
equates material possessions with personal adequacy, their
deprivation with inadequacy. "Now in modern Western culture,
material possessions are so large a part of the individual's
conception of himself that to be stripped of them is to be
attacked at the deepest layers of personality" (Sykes, 1958,
The deprivation of heterosexual activities causes
severe psychological problems. Latent homosexual tendencies
may surface, whether behaviorally expressed or not, arousing
strong guilt feelings at a conscious or unconscious level.
Anxiety over masculinity or femininity is generated whether
the inmate is coerced, bribed, or seduced into homosexual
activity (Sykes, 1958). Sexual identity is questioned and
self-concept is threatened.
The constant social regulation by the prison staff is
perceived and felt much differently than the social regula-
tion by custom in the free world. The power is not freely
given; it is total and imposed. Explanations of rules and
regulations are often withheld from inmates, leaving them
confused. The rules and regulations are designed to control
inmate behavior in minute detail, and frustrate inmates'
decision-making abilities, leaving them feeling confused.
This deprivation of autonomy and initiative threatens the
inmates self-concpet as an adult (Reid, 1976; Sykes, 1958).
Imprisonment causes the inmate to be separated from
family and friends. As time passes, the ties weaken and
loneliness and boredom ensue. The inmate seeks to replace
the lost emotional relationships with new ones. Yet the
inmate is surrounded by other inmates, other "criminals."
Deprivation of the sense of security that comes from living
with people who can reasonably be expected to abide by the
rules of society is felt as a result of prolonged intimacy
with people who have a history of violent, aggressive, or
exploitative behavior (Sykes, 1958). This deprivation of
security is anxiety-provoking and causes inmates to question
their ability to cope with violence, aggression, and exploi-
All of these deprivations present an attack on the
inmate's self-concept, and post a threat to the individual
at a deep psychological level. The experience of incarcera-
tion in today's prisons may be just as painful as the physi-
cal maltreatment they replace. "Deprived of liberty, stripped
of worldly possessions, denied access to heterosexual rela-
tionships, divested of autonomy, and compelled to associate
with other deviants, the inmates find that imprisonment
still means punishment however much imprisonment may have
softened in this modern era by an accent on humanitarianism
and reform" (Sykes, 1958, p. 131). Inmates find they must
somehow adapt to the institution to ease the pains of
Adaptation to Institutions
After enduring the process of mortification of self and
suffering the "pains of imprisonment," inmates find they
must reorganize their lives and adapt themselves to their
institutions. In prison, this reorganization is based
on adherence to rules, privileges, and punishment (Goffman,
1966). In adapting to prison, inmates become assimilated
into the predominant culture. Assimilation is defined as
". .. a more or less unconscious process during which a
person, or group of persons, learns enough of the culture of
a social unit in which he is placed to make him characteris-
tic of that unit" (Clemmer, 1958). The effect of the insti-
tution on its inmates depends on the degree to which they
become assimilated. Since the "official" culture of total
institutions is one which demeans and degrades the inmates,
disrupts their personalities, threatens their self-concepts,
and makes them weak and helpless, it would seem that assimi-
lation into this culture would have personally devastating
In reference to adaptation to total institutions, those
which relieve their members of the burden of decision-making
twenty-four hours a day, such as armies, orphanages, prison,
and hospitals, Waller (1944) states that "All such institu-
tions rob the individual of his sense of self-direction and
ultimately damage the capacity for it. Virtue in such
institutions consists in having no preference about many
things; in eating whatever is put on the table, in wearing
what one is told to wear, in making the best of things. The
good institution member does not make choices or decisions.
He submits and permits himself to be carried along, as it
were, in a 'moral automobile.' When he returns to civilian
life, his suddenly uncorseted soul seems flabby and incapable
of standing alone" (p. 191). With regard to the particular
total institution studied, the army, Waller goes on to say,
"The regimentation of the lives of millions of men involves
S. .some damage to their sense of self and to their power
to think for themselves; it involves a redirection of their
emotional life into channels acceptable to the military
system. The solder must form a soldier's habit . learn
to eat, sleep, dress, bathe--as a soldier, adjust his sex
life to the soldier's necessities. Necessarily, he loses
the sense of self-direction. A personality formed by such a
milieu is thereby to some extent unfitted for civilian life"
Coser (1962) studied a similar phenomenon occurring in
another total institution, the hospital. She states that as
patients become increasingly assimilated into the hospital
culture they begin to lose interest in people and activities
on the outside. As the frequency in number of admissions
increases, the patient's "hospital-orientation" increases,
and "outside-orientation" decreases. "Patients who have
been more frequently exposed to the hospital atmosphere are
more likely to be hospital-oriented and to find in the
hospital structure the sources of gratification of their
passive needs" (p. 124). Time has a cumulative effect. The
more patients look to the doctor or the hospital to gratify
their needs, the less prepared they become to resume their
Coser also notes that adaptation to the sick role of
hospital patient has dysfunctional consequences. She reports
that ". . the patient during the whole length of his stay
in the hospital is not expected to make his own rational
choices. By the time he is discharged he may have 'unlearned'
the making of choices" (p. 114). She adds that "The demands
made on patients appear to be rationally ordered and logi-
cally consistent, but they entail a difficult psychological
transition from one state to another . It is not always
easy . for a person who has given up his substantial
rationality in the hospital to recapture it when his health
is restored" (p. 114). She concludes that the patient who
best adapts to the hospital culture may well be the one
least prepared to return to the outside world because the
passivity appropriate to hospitalization proves to be inap-
propriate for the successful readjustment to outside respon-
sibilities. ". . it seems likely that a person's ability
to 'reorganize himself anew' may be weakened if he suffers
long and frequent exposure to an environment which demand
unquestioning and unreflective behavior" (Coser, 1962, p.
These institutions are similar in many respects to
prisons. It would seem that prisoners who adapt to the
official culture would leave the institution ill-prepared to
cope with life on the outside. But few, if any, prisoners
completely adapt to the culture of the prison authorities.
The majority create their own.
The Inmate Code
Despite the diversity of the prison population along
other dimensions, Hawkins (1976) has noted that there is
only one, strikingly pervasive, value system. It is a
system of group norms, reflecting inmate solidarity in
opposition to prison staff as well as to societal goals and
values (Ward S Kassebaum, 1965; Hawkins, 1976). The solidar-
ity provides a power base from which inmates can reject the
society which rejected them, and its representatives, the
the prison staff (Wheeler, 1961). This system of group
norms is generally referred to as the inmate code.
The inmate code consists of five major tenets: 1) an
inmate should not interfere with the attempts of other
inmates to serve the least amount of time possible with the
greatest amount of pleasures and privileges; 2) an inmate
should not argue or quarrel with fellow inmates; 3) an
inmate should not take advantage of other inmates by means
of force, fraud, or chicanery; 4) an inmate should be tough,
maintain self, and not "cop out"; and 5) an inmate should
not respect the staff nor value the society for which they
stand (Sutherland 5 Cressey, 1970).
Imprisonment represents a social and moral rejection of
some individuals by the free community. This poses a threat
to prisoners' egos, and they find that to endure psychologi-
cally they must reject their rejectors (Sykes, 1958).
Through the inmate code, prisoners are able to reject society,
its values, and its power, rather than themselves (Wheeler,
1961). It provides a means to the status denied by society
Adjustment to prison life entails suffering systematic
deprivations: of material comforts and personal belongings,
of personal freedom, and of family and friends (Ward, 1965).
The inmate code develops in response to these deprivations
(McCleery, 1966; Sutherland 8 Cressey, 1970; Sykes, 1958).
One solution to the problem of deprivation is what Goffman
(1966) has referred to as "secondary adjustments"--practices
that do not directly challenge staff, but allow inmates to
obtain forbidden satisfactions or to obtain permitted ones
by forbidden means. Secondary adjustments give inmates the
feeling of having some measure of control over their environ-
ment. The inmate code provides the means of social control
to prevent an inmate from informing the prison staff about
the secondary adjustments of others (Goffman, 1966).
The norms of the inmate code are directly related to
mitigating the "pains of imprisonment" in an environment
where the staff has almost total power (Ward, 1965). Inmates
must find a way to respond and adapt to the harsh social
conditions of prison life. They must rebuild the self-
esteem destroyed by the demeaning and degrading procedures
which have relegated them to a subordinate status. They
must reconstruct their self-concepts, damaged by the deper-
sonalizing process of mortification of self. The inmate
code arises to meet these needs (Sykes & Messinger, 1960).
Mitigating the Pains of Imprisonment
Sykes (1958) cites solutions to the "pains of imprison-
ment" which rarely or never occur: physical escape, escape
into fantasy (psychosis), change by physical force (riot),
and change by persuasion. Instead, inmates seek to alleviate
these pains by means of a unifying process ". . through
which socially distant persons find themselves developing
mutual support and common counter-mores in opposition to a
system that has forced them into intimacy and into a single,
equalitarian, community of fate" (Goffman, 1966, p. 54).
The inmate code, and adherence to it, may be seen as a
logical consequence of confronting similarly situated indi-
viduals with a set of common problems (Thomas & Foster,
The value of solidarity has been noted by Sykes (1958):
". .. the greater the extent of 'cohesive' responses--the
greater the degree to which the society of captives moves in
the direction of inmate solidarity--the greater is the
likelihood that the pains of imprisonment will be rendered
less severe for the inmate population as a whole" (p. 107).
Cohesion encourages sharing, insuring that scarce goods will
be distributed more equitably, and in so doing, responds to
the problem of material deprivation. Cohesion helps solve
the problem of the deprivation of personal security. And,
finally, cohesion provides a meaningful social group through
which the inmate can achieve the status not attainable
through other channels (Sykes, 1958). "When two or more
persons perceive that they share a common motivation or
problem of action, a basis for meaningful interaction has
been established, and from this interaction can emerge the
social positions, roles, and norms which comprise social
organization" (Garrity, 1966, p. 372).
Development of the Inmate Social System
The varying degrees to which inmates support the inmate
code constitute the inmate social system (Ward, 1965). The
system, therefore, can be described in terms of certain
behavior patterns, or roles. The roles may be ordered along
a prosocial to antisocial continuum, reflecting the degree
of support for the inmate code. The greater the acceptance
of the norms of the inmate culture, i.e. the inmate code,
the more antisocial the role adaptation; the more antisocial
the role adaptation, the greater the support for the inmate
code (Thomas & Foster, 1972). The inmate social system is
dominated by antisocially oriented individuals (Garrity,
1966), and will continue to be dominated by those most
hostile to the official prison system so long as the official
system fails to reduce the "pains of imprisonment" (Wheeler,
As the inmate code determines the socialization charac-
teristics of the inmate culture, these characteristics also
determine, in part, the content of the inmate code. In
addition, the content of the code is determined by the broad
commonalities among the preprison experiences of the inmates
(Thomas & Foster, 1972). Wheeler (1961) provides two comple-
mentary explanations of the normative content of the inmate
culture. One is its problem-solving nature, discussed
earlier as a response to the frustrations, deprivations, and
adjustment problems of imprisonment. The other explanation
is "negative selection": ". . the single trait held in
common by all inmates is participation in criminal activity.
Their criminal acts indicate in varying degrees an opposition
to conventional norms. It follows that the inmate culture
should give expression to the values of those who are most
committed to a criminal value system--the long-termers,
those who have followed systematic criminal careers, etc."
(Wheeler, 1961, p. 708). The inmate code is a reflection of
a more general criminal code, imported to prison by career
criminals and adopted by others (Sutherland & Cressey,
1970). The norms value criminal behavior, and the inmate
social system is consistent with that of the criminal sub-
culture (Garrity, 1966). It follows that ". those
inmates who have thoroughly internalized a criminal value
system probably benefit most from an inmate culture based on
antipathy toward the staff" (Wheeler, 1966, p. 257).
The inmates who assume positions of power and influence
in the inmate social system are those most prepared for
those positions by past experience. They are those with the
most experience in exploitation and manipulation prior to
incarceration (Wheeler, 1966). They are the career criminals
and those who have committed the more serious offenses,
therefore, the long-termers. This being the case, the
status hierarchy in the inmate culture resembles a seniority
system (McCleery, 1966).
Conformity to the Inmate Culture
It is the long-termers, the more serious criminals, who
hold positions of power in the inmate culture, and the new
inmates must depend on them to meet their needs not met by
the official system. "The absence of official orientation
or published regulations, the secrecy and arbitrariness of
discipline, the shocking unfamiliarity of prison life and
the demands imposed by regimentation combined to make the
new inmate helplessly dependent on experienced men" (McCleery,
1966, p. 165). Senior inmates also have the knowledge of
secondary adjustments and the techniques for attaining them.
They hold the physical goods and know the ways to make
prison life tolerable, and can share them on their own
terms. "This control over the rites and tests of initiation
gave senior inmates the power to assign new men a subordinate
status and hold them there until they accepted the norms of
inmate culture (McCleery, 1966, p. 165).
In the process of adjustment to prison, most prisoners
find they must adhere to, or at least be accepted by, the
inmate culture (Sutherland & Cressey, 1970). "The inmate
who values friendship among his peers and also desires to
conform to the staff's norms faces a vivid and real role
conflict. The conflict is not apparent or perhaps is not
felt so intensely during the earliest stages of confinement,
but with increasing length of time in the prison the strain
becomes more acute; inmates move to resolve the strain
either by giving up or being excluded from primary ties, or
by shift in attitudes" (Wheeler, 1961, p. 704). Since
inmates perceive the attitudes of other inmates to be more
opposed to the staff than they actually are, probably due to
the vocal minority of powerful senior inmates, inmates who
initially conform to staff norms do not even attempt to seek
out like-minded individuals (Wheeler, 1961). By the time
they reach the crisis in role conflict cited by Wheeler
above, they perceive their choice as alliance wih the non-
conforming inmate culture, involving an attitude change, or
social isolation. "The dominant tendency is to move in the
direction of non-conformity rather than isolation" (Wheeler,
1961, p. 704). In addition, Sutherland & Cressey (1970)
note that "In a system of friendships, mutual obligations,
statuses, reciprocal relations, loyalties, intimidation,
deception, and violence, inmates learn that conformity to
prisoner expectations is just as important to their welfare
as is conformity to the formal controls extended by
'outsiders.' Powerful prisoners insist that inmates be
orthodox in their statements and actions. And orthodoxy is
more important in prison than in outside life, because in
outside life a person has freedom of mobility not possible
in prisons" (p. 532).
Primary Group Affiliation
Clemmer (1958) stated that ". it is through the
influence of relationships in groups that individuals become
persons. What we call personality is, in a large part,
group bred" (p. 112). The most influential groups in the
molding of human nature are the so-called "primary groups."
Cooley (1909) defines primary groups as those ". . charac-
terized by intimate face-to-face association and co-operation.
They are primary in several senses, but chiefly that they
are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of
the individual. The result of intimate association, psycho-
logically, is a certain fusion of individualities into a
common whole, so that one's very self, for many purposes at
least, is the common life and purpose of the group" (p. 23).
Clemmer (1958) noted that inmates form intimate social
relationships, comparable to the relationships within a
primary group in free society, based on like experiences,
stigmatization, and sharing a subservient position. He
empirically constructed the concept of the "prison primary
group," which he defines as ". . a collectivity of pris-
oners who possess a common body of knowledge and interest
sufficient to produce an understanding and solidarity which
is characterized by a we-feeling, sentimental attachment,
and unanimity, and which allows, at the same time, elements
of competition and resistance among members only to the
extent that cohesion is not disrupted" (p. 115). In his
study of prisoners, 17 percent were considered members of
prison primary groups, 40 percent were considered members
of semi-primary groups (the same as primary groups
except that members expected the bonds to weaken after
release from prison, particularly with regard to willing-
ness to protect and defend other members), and 41 percent
were considered ungrouped in the primary sense. Clemmer
found that his subjects who were members of prison primary
groups were younger, had a higher intellectual capacity, and
were more likely to have always been single, than his sub-
jects who were ungrouped. Also, those who had committed
serious or very serious crimes were much more likely to
become members of prison primary groups than those who had
committed trivial offenses when the seriousness of the crime
is determined by the amount of criminal experience of the
individual, evaluation of criminal technique, dangerousness
to society, harmfulness of the offense to the life adjustment
of the offender, and the psycho-social ramifications of the
crime on the family and friends of the offender. Increasing
length of incarceration has a negative effect on the likeli-
hood of prison primary group affiliation. Ungrouped men are
more likely to have strong ties with family and friends in
the free world (primary groups), to be asocial, or to be
rejected by all prison groups. Referring to the effects of
prison primary group affiliation, Clemmer (1958) states that
"The interaction in and about these groups, and the social
life that exists is part of the 'unseen environment' and has
much greater influence on individual personalities, we are
inclined to believe, than all the rules, official admonish-
ments, sermons, or other factors intended to guide lives"
In summary, prolonged contact with the inmate culture
and group affiliation may effect personality change in
prisoners, usually toward the antisocial or criminal end of
the spectrum and away from the prosocial end intended by
prison administrations. As inmates come to oppose the
official prison organization and value their interpersonal
relationships with one another, inmate solidarity increases,
and the likelihood of the prison acting as an effective
agent of rehabilitation decreases.
Women in Prison
The vast majority of prison literature is concerned
with males. Since this study concerns women, the following
several sections contain a review of the research on the
experience of women in prison.
Women are significantly less likely to be arrested,
tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison than are men.
This has been explained, at least in part, by Western cul-
ture's protective attitude toward women and society's
reluctance to submit them to procedures deemed appropriate
for men (Ward Kassebaum, 1964, 1965). Wheeler (1975)
states that society is more tolerant of deviant behavior for
a longer period of time from women than from men before
incarcerating them. If a woman is convicted of a crime such
as murder, she will probably be sent to prison, but other
offenses generally must be committed repeatedly before
The above statement would indicate that the populations
of women's prisons are composed of more serious and/or
habitual offenders than are the populations of men's prisons.
However, Ward and Kassebaum (1964, 1965) found that women
prisoners generally have less extensive criminal experience
and less often have long histories of incarceration, includ-
ing training schools and reformatories, than their male
counterparts. This may be partially explained by society's
reluctance to convict and incarcerate females.
Statistically, women tend to be arrested and incarcer-
ated at an older age than men although there is a recent
trend toward incarcerating younger women (Hannum et al.,
1973). Ward and Kassebaum (1965) report that higher propor-
tions of women are imprisoned for murder, forgery, and bad
checks, while higher proportions of men are imprisoned for
burglary, robbery, and sex offenses. Commitments for nar-
cotics sales and possessions are of approximately equal
The Impact of Incarceration on Women
Because of society's protective attitudes, the impact
of incarceration seems more severe for women than for men
because it is more unusual. Ward and Kassebaum (1965) state
that "a consequence of this protection is that women are
less likely to be prepared to cope with the abrupt loss of
emotional support and guidance formerly provided by parent,
brother, husband, or boyfriend. Also, in a male dominated
economic world, many women obtain rewards or security by
manipulating a man to provide them. Penal confinement puts
women entirely on their own without the complementary male
roles with which they are actually or symbolically aligned
in the outside world" (p. 14). In describing the reaction
of women to incarceration, they note that "many of them have
played the generally dependent role characteristic of women
in our society and the removal of emotional support which
has been provided by parents, husbands or lovers is a shat-
tering experience" (1964, p. 162). This "pain of imprison-
ment," the lack of heterosexual relationships, seems to be
more serious for women than for men, because women are faced
not only with physical frustration, but also "the female
prisoner finds herself cut off from the structure of American
society conducive to the cultivation of a female role, from
the avenue through which she achieves self-respect and
status" (Giallombardo, 1966b, p. 99).
The deprivations or "pains of imprisonment" noted
earlier by Sykes for male prisoners apply to females as
well. Giallombardo (1966a) describes the pains of imprison-
ment for women as ". . the abrupt termination of the
individual's freedom; the lack of opportunity for hetero-
sexual relations--the fracturing of every influence favorable
to the cultivation of emotional reciprocity as a result of
being cut off from family and friends; withholding of materi-
al goods; attacks on the self through the humiliating experi-
ence incidental to a prison commitment; the loss of autonomy
and responsibility to which life in a prison inevitably
leads; and the lack of security, and privacy" (p. 273).
Ward and Kassebaum (1964) include in their list the lack of
information, support, and guidance from the institution; the
limitations on freedom of choice; the stigma resulting from
the process of status degradation; the insecurity and anxiety
resulting from indeterminate sentencing laws; and the lack
of experience in being incarcerated.
The physical surroundings of women's prisons are gener-
ally more pleasant than men's, and there is somewhat more
opportunity for individuality as women are permitted a
greater number and variety of personal items such as clothing
and jewelry. There is also a greater variety of canteen
items including not only food but make-up and toiletries.
But although the complete deprivation of personal possessions
found in men's prisons is not the case for women, Giallom-
bardo (1966 a & b) reports that mortification of self through
the attack on a woman's self-image with reference to clothing
is particularly acute because of the relatively higher
importance assigned to fashion by women.
Existence in a women's prison is highly structured and
regulated, depriving the inmates of freedom and autonomy
through such means as exaggerated standards of neatness and
cleanliness and the total imposition of a multiplicity of
rules to control behavior. This restriction on the inmate's
ability to make choices reduces her to the status of child-
like dependency (Giallombardo, 1966b; Gibson, 1976). Compar-
ing women's institutions to men's, Gibson (1976) remarks
that ". . the reduction of women to a weak, dependent, and
helpless status is brought about by more subtle means than
by the gun or the high wall" (p. 99). Although the means
may differ somewhat, women experience the same "role dispos-
session by mortification" and the accompanying status degra-
dation, and the same "deference" or "obedience test" aspects
of initiation as men (Heffernan, 1972).
Gibson (1976) found that despite the outward appearance
of the attractive facilities and peaceful surroundings of
women's prisons, the atmosphere inside is very tense and
oppressive. There is less danger of being physically attacked
or sexually assaulted by other prisoners than there is for
men, and little danger of physical maltreatment by the
matrons (Ward & Kassebaum, 1965). However, "You can't trust
another woman" is a powerful social tenet with which most
women are raised, and which remains in force throughout
incarceration. Giallombardo (1966a) summarizes, "Hence, it
is not so much the constant fear of violence or sexual
exploitation such as is the case for the male prisoner which
creates a hardship for the female inmates, but, rather, the
strain involved in being in the forced company of women who
are believed to be untrustworthy, capable of predatory
tactics" (p. 274).
The Incarcerated Mother
While the deprivations of material goods and security
may be somewhat less acute for women than for men, "the
dispossession of the familial roles of wife and mother and
the separation from family are more severe" (Ward & Kassebaum,
1965, p. 28). The incarcerated father knows that even
though his family feels his loss as breadwinner, his wife
can still care for the children. But when it is the mother
who is imprisoned, she loses her ability to fill what society
deems her most important role. If she is married, she must
ask her husband to assume responsibility for the care and
upbringing of the children in addition to his primary role
as breadwinner (Ward S Kassebaum, 1964, 1965).
The incarcerated mother is concerned not only with her
own feelings about being separated from her children, but
also with provisions for their caretaking and the effect the
separation may have on them. She worries about the quality
of care her children receive, and that they may be shuttled
from one caretaker to another. Caretakers may not bring the
children to visit, and if they do, the circumstances of the
visit are often frightening to the children. Children may
not understand what has happened and often feel rejected.
They may be teased or shunned by their peers. Custody may
be in question and there is often no legal authority to
enroll them in school or obtain medical care (McGowan E
If children are left with the father, he may experience
the role conflict cited above and look for another female to
assume the maternal role, or custody may be taken from him
and assigned to other relatives. If the father is not
present, or adjudged not responsible, the children may
become wards of the state (Ward S Kassebaum, 1964, 1965).
Sixty-eight percent of the women in the prison studied by
Ward and Kassebaum (1965) were mothers; they found that the
impact on women of separation from their families does not
lessen appreciably over the period of incarceration.
Homosexuality and Play Families
As is true for men, women in prison search for ways to
mitigate the pains of imprisonment and thereby adapt to the
institution. Ward and Kassebaum (1964, 1965) found that
women are less likely than men to actively rebel in prison
or to develop elaborate operations for obtaining and distri-
buting contraband. Instead, the main methods of adaptation
for women are psychological withdrawal, chronic fighting and
other rule violations, institutionalization or the acceptance
of prison life as a satisfying experience, and homosexuality.
Homosexuality is by far the most frequently chosen alterna-
tive. Commenting on this compensation for the pains of
imprisonment, the authors state, "Emotional deprivation and
lack of experience in fending for oneself combine in the
women's prison to promote one predominant compensatory
response, that of homosexual involvement" (1964, p. 166).
Brodsky (1975b) adds that "The sources of opportunity for
future jobs, living arrangements, child care, and communica-
tion with the family become less likely and less realistic
as the inmate is further detached from the community to
which she will eventually return" (p. 103). This weakening
of family ties leads to much situational anxiety and
The absence of men forces women to attach new meanings
to homosexual behavior in prison (Giallombardo, 1966b).
Homosexuality functions to resist depersonalization and to
compensate for the mortification of self. It makes the
inmate feel she is worth something because someone pays
attention to her and cares about her. In addition, in
prison, the homosexual relationship is the medium of exchange
(Ward & Kassebaum, 1965).
Roles which approximate the family unit develop around
homosexual relationships (Giallombardo, 1966a). These
marriages and other kinship ties form a meaningful system in
an attempt to create a substitute society within prison
walls. These "play families" openly involve homosexual
alliances, although physical sex is more discreet. They
provide a solution for affective needs as well as an economic
structure. Heffernan (1972) explains, "The development of
family units informally provides a rationale for a multi-
plicity of close relationships to relieve the tensions of
prison life as well as legitimating dependency and dominance
roles that would not be appropriate in other areas of staff
and inmate interaction" (p. 88). This kinship structure
binds inmates together into a cohesive system. For the new
inmate, this system provides a means of learning to adapt to
prison life, as it is one of the most important duties of
"parents" to socialize "children" to the role of inmate.
The system also functions to attempt to resist the destruc-
tive effects of imprisonment by enabling the inmate to
maintain an identity relevant to outside life (Giallombardo,
Male and Female Inmate Social Systems
The pains of imprisonment account for the existence of
inmate social systems for both men and women, but the forms
these systems take differ based on pre-prison experiences,
cultural background, and social roles. The inmate social
systems in women's prisons lack the sharply differentiated
role types found in men's prisons, and exhibit a lower
degree of cohesion or solidarity. The strong social soli-
darity based on automatic adherence to a set of norms which
is found in men's prisons is replaced in women's prisons by
a "calculated solidarity" which exists situationally based
on its perceived benefit to individual interests (Giallombardo,
1966a). Giallombardo (1966a) lists four major reasons for
the different content of male and female inmate social
systems: 1) different orientation of life goals, 2) differ-
ences in passivity and aggression, 3) social acceptability
of demonstrations of affection toward a member of the same
sex, and 4) cultural lore regarding members of the same sex,
e.g., "You can't trust another woman."
The tenets of the inmate code carry less weight in
female inmate cultures than in males. Ward and Kassebaum
(1964, 1965) provide two main explanations why this is so.
First, the conditions of imprisonment are less severe for
women and fewer of them are "con-wise," indicating less of a
need for the unwavering solidarity implied by the code and
less of the pre-prison background involved in its development.
Second, the code, as it exists in male institutions, reflects
more typically male needs, such as for status, independence,
autonomy, and a masculine self-image. While adherence to
the traditional male inmate code is lower among female
inmates, it is nonetheless present. Heffernan (1972) found
a "striking uniformity" in the norms of a female prison
population reflecting behavioral prescriptions for doing
time. Individual adherence to the code was high and its
acceptance considered necessary for "doing time well,"
although in practice violations were frequent.
The inmate code exists in women's prisons as well as in
men's, and arises from similar sources. Heffernan (1972)
states, "The exigencies of pattern maintenance and integra-
tion within the system require the development and acceptance
of a set of norms and values particularly adaptive to the
status changes and controls that imprisonment brings. These
codes of behavior function both to help the individual
prisoner do 'easy time' and to support the inmate economic,
affective, power, and status systems" (p. 108). These
systems represent an attempt to mitigate the pains of impris-
onment and the mortification of self inherent in prison
life. Involvement in the inmate culture enables the inmate
to regain what the prison structure has taken from her.
This is not, however, a simple substitution process of one
culture for another. Rather, the substitution of the inmate
culture for that of free society involves a ". .. fundamental
modification of societal values and norms, involving views
of authority, concepts of interpersonal relations (particu-
larly in sexual and familial areas), recognition of certain
property rights, and generally accepted bases of role evalu-
ation" (Heffernan, 1972, p. 164). For this reason, if no
other, adaptation to prison is antithetical to rehabilitation.
Brodsky (1975b) indicates that this adaptation is desirable
only for those who never again must function outside the
The Process of Prisonization
Clemmer (1958) originated the term "prisonization" to
mean "the taking on in greater or less degree of the folkways,
mores, customs, and general culture of the penitentiary" (p.
299). It implies a high value on ingroup loyalty, opposition
to the official prison system, and increased criminal identi-
fication due to the basically criminal character of the
inmate culture (Thomas S Foster, 1972). Garrity (1966)
notes: "Prisonization can vary from simply learning compli-
ant role behavior to internalization of the role behavior
and a changed self-conception" (p. 374). It is a specific
example of the more general process of assimilation that
occurs whenever a person is introduced into an unfamiliar
culture (Wheeler, 1961).
The process of prisonization begins when new inmates
must learn about and comply with the formal prison organiza-
tion. In this stage, inmates retain most of their pre-
prison attitudes and behaviors, but adapt their personal
habits to fit the regimentation of prison life. Gradually,
they are affected by more pervasive influences. They become
accustomed to being known by a number rather than a name and
wearing the same clothing as the others around them. The
inmate becomes an anonymous figure in a subordinate group
and suffers the corresponding status degradation.
Eventually, new inmates find that it is the prisoners
who control the quality of prison life, not the administra-
tors. New inmates learn and begin to use the slang or argot
which has developed among prisoners as a distinguishing
symbol. They come to assign new meaning to the conditions
of life, and there is security in this realization that
nothing is owed to the environment for the supplying of
needs: food clothing, shelter, work, entertainment, recrea-
tion, and education. This slight change in attitude is
fundamental to the process of prisonization (Clemmer, 1958).
The final step in the process comes with the development
of new habits, behaviors, and attitudes. Prisoners learn to
gamble, engage in homosexual activities, and to hate and
distrust the prison staff. They accept the inmate code and
attempt to enforce it (Clemmer, 1958; Sutherland & Cressey,
1970). In summary, prisonization occurs when the inmate has
been stripped of symbols of personal identity and begins to
attach new meanings, supplied by the inmate culture, to the
conditions of life (Garrity, 1966).
Prisonization implies an assimilation into both the
social role continuum which constitutes the inmate social
system and the normative content of the inmate culture.
"Prisonization, the process of assimilation into this contra-
culture, is defined by both movements into one of a set of
inmate social roles and some degree of commitment to the
normative prescriptions and proscriptions of the contracul-
ture. Social role adaptations and normative assimilation
are in turn viewed as related to the development of attitudes
which oppose the prison organization, and placement of a
high priority on interpersonal relationships with other
inmates, and criminal identification (Thomas & Foster, 1972,
Two Models of Prisonization
Thomas and Foster (1972) present two models of prisoni-
zation: deprivation and importation. The models of the
process of prisonization occurring within the individual are
analogous to the models of the development of the inmate
social system within the entire prison population. The
deprivation model sees prisonization as an adaptive process
which attempts to mitigate the "pains of imprisonment." The
emphasis is on coping with the problems generated by the
immediate situation in which inmates find themselves, impris-
onment. The importation model emphasizes that assimilation
into inmate culture is influenced by factors external to the
immediate situation in which inmates find themselves. The
content of the inmate culture is based on the pre-prison
experiences of most inmates in the lower-class subculture,
the criminal subculture, and the subculture of violence
(Thomas S Foster, 1972). Assimilation into this culture is
influenced by external factors such as quality of contacts
with the outside world and expectations inmates have of
their life-chances after release (Thomas & Foster, 1972).
As with the development of the inmate social system, these
two models of prisonization are complementary. The depriva-
tion model defines the need for an adaptive process to
resolve the problems of incarceration while the importation
model defines the content of the adaptation in terms of
inmates' pre-prison experiences.
Clemmer's (1958) data indicate that the socialization
process occurring in prison is one of prisonization, the
progressive adherence to the inmate code and opposition to
staff expectations. Wheeler (1961) got somewhat different
results. He found that the predominant socialization process
operating was dependent upon institutional career phase.
Inmates' career phase is determined to be early, middle, or
late depending on how much time they have served compared
with the total amount of time they expect to serve, i.e.
incoming inmates are considered in early phase, inmates
close to release in late phase, and others somewhere in the
middle. By examining conformity to staff expectations,
Wheeler found a steady increase in the proportion of low
conformity responses, as would be expected from the prisoni-
zation model. But he also found a U-shaped distribution of
high conformity responses, indicating another process of
differential attachment to societal values based on career
phase. He hypothesized that the changes from early to
middle phase are a reaction to events within the prison,
while the changes from middle to late phase reflect antici-
pations of dealing with the outside world. Garabedian
(1963) termed this second process "adaptation," when inmates
in early and late phases conform to staff values and those
in middle phase deviate. Prison may be seen to impact
differently on different inmates, and the operative pattern
of socialization, prisonization or adaptation, seems to
depend on the inmate's social role within the prison
Factors Minimizing or Maximizing Prisonization
Clemmer (1958) states that every inmate is prisonized
to some extent, and that more inmates approach the complete
degree than the least degree of prisonization. There are
several factors which appear to maximize or minimize prisoni-
zation. Clemmer (1958) found that complete prisonization
depends on personality of the inmate, the type and quality
of relationships with people in the free world, affiliation
with prison primary or semi-primary groups, chance (through
placement in a certain cellblock or job assignment), and the
degree of acceptance of the inmate code. Faine (1973) found
that the self-concepts which inmates bring to the prison
determine both the likelihood and the direction of attitude
change which will occur. For those with deviant "social
anchorage," prisonization increased in linear fashion through
successive career phases. Those with low "social anchorage"
increased in prisonization during the middle phase and
decreased during the late phase. Those with legitimate
"social anchorage" showed no changes.
Clemmer (1958) stated that prisonization is directly
related to time served. Garrity (1966) agreed, stating that
a long sentence maximizes prisonization through a longer
subjection to the "universal factor of prisonization," to
be discussed later. Thomas and Foster (1972) found that
Prolonged interaction within the inmate society will result
in increased assimilation or prisonization" (p. 232).
Wheeler (1961) said that the degree of prisonization is
dependent on the degree of involvement in the inmate culture.
He found that initially there is no significant relationship
between involvement in the inmate culture and conformity to
staff values. But for inmates who become highly involved,
the percentage of high conformists drops off rapidly. The
process of prisonization is dependent on the socialization
of new inmates by old ones in the propagation of the inmate
code and social system (Reid, 1976). Wheeler (1961) found
that the speed and degree of prisonization are minimized for
those inmates who had positive pre-prison relationships,
those who have short sentences, those who do not affiliate
with prison primary groups, and those who are by chance
placed with inmates not integrated into the inmate culture.
Thomas and Foster (1972) stated that prisonization has
negative consequences both for the prison organization and
for the long-term life-chances for the inmate. Wheeler
(1961) found that prisonization affects inmates' self-
concepts as they come to adopt the inmate code, reject
society, and accept a conception of self as a criminal. The
degree of prisonization is the most important factor in
post-release adjustment. It is the central impact of the
prison on its inmates; the impact of an inmate society with
a view of the prison and the outside world which is dis-
tinctly harmful to rehabilitation (Wheeler, 1961).
The Universal Factors of Prisonization
Clemmer (1958) has cited several factors, applicable to
all prisoners, which cause, increase the degree of, and
hasten the process of prisonization. He has termed them the
"universal factors of prisonization." These factors include
acceptance of an inferior status; accumulation of facts
concerning the organization of the prison; the development
of somewhat new habits of eating, dressing, working, and
sleeping; the adoption of local language; the recognition
that nothing is owed to the environment for the supplying of
needs; and the eventual desire for a good job within the
prison. No inmate can remain completely unprisonized because
incarceration necessarily includes subjection to these
universal factors of imprisonment (Wheeler, 1961). The
longer this subjection continues, i.e. the longer the period
of incarceration, the greater the degree of prisonization
Referring to the universal factors of prisonization,
Clemmer (1958) said: "It is not these aspects, however,
which concern us most but they are important because of
their universality, especially among men who have served
many years. That is, even if no other factor of the prison
culture touches the personality of an inmate of many years'
residence, the influences of these universal factors are
sufficient to make a man characteristic of the penal commun-
ity and probably so disrupt his personality that a happy
adjustment in any community becomes next to impossible" (p.
300). Thomas and Foster (1972) cite three potential
consequences: 1) the development of attitudes which oppose
the formal organization of the prison, 2) the placement of a
high priority on interpersonal relationships with other
inmates, and 3) an increase in criminal identification.
"The phases of prisonization which concern us most are the
influences which breed or deepen criminality and antisocial-
ity and make the inmate characteristic of the criminalistic
ideology in the prison community" (Clemmer, 1958, p. 300).
The Effects of Incarceration
Thomas and Foster (1972) stated that the greater the
degree of assimilation into the normative culture of the
prison, the greater the negative effects of incarceration on
the inmate, in terms of personality disturbance and long-
term life-chances. Prosocial role adaptation is inversely
related to the negative consequences of prison. They also
found that the more negative the inmate's post-prison expec-
tations, the greater the negative effects of incarceration.
In 1780, prison reformer John Howard remarked that
incarceration in the British prisons of that day was the
most effective method of bringing about the destruction,
present and future, of their inmates. More recently, Gill's
(1952) data reveal that ". . confinement in a prison works
a profound change on the personality of the individual
offender" (p. 2). Garrity (1966) stated that a long exposure
to prison life leads to serious personality and social
difficulties. The results of research by Bauer and Clark
(1976) support their hypothesis that increased incarceration
has a harmful effect on personality.
Reid (1976) stated that prison destroys the inmate's
personal identity and assigns a new one of a lower order.
Bowman et al. (1974) found that incarceration depresses
positive concepts of self and strips the inmate of personal
identity. Sykes (1958) wrote that the deprivations and
frustrations of imprisonment "appear as a serious attack on
the personality" (p. 64), cause the "destruction of the
psyche" (p. 64), and "pose profound threats to the inmate's
personality or sense of personal worth" (p. 64). Garrity
(1966) stated that as time in prison increases, the person-
ality becomes less stable, and Gill (1952) adds that "person-
ality disturbances present on commitment are prone to exag-
geration under the stress conditions of prison life" (p.
While in general, it appears that prison does not
promote positive personality change (Bowman et al., 1974),
there are a couple of studies in the literature which report
mixed findings. Nieberding (1976) reported that incarcera-
tion alone does not produce changes in self-concept, but
rather it is the interaction between incarceration and
personality. The MMPI 4-8 type had more negative self-
concepts throughout incarceration than the 4-9 type, and had
poorer institutional and heterosexual adjustment. Osterhoff
(1974) studied personality change, as measured by the MMPI,
in youthful offenders during incarceration, and developed a
typology based on similarities in initial MMPI profiles. Of
the four types yielded, significantly different changes
occurred in different types. Incarceration had a positive
effect on the personalities of some inmates, a negative
effect on others, and no effect at all on others.
Garrity (1966) stated that "prison experiences, like
those of the child in family and peer group, may be suffi-
cient to shape attitudes, values, behavior patterns, etc."
(p. 362). Jacobs (1974) studied personality adjustment as a
function of time within the Colorado State Penitentiary to
determine whether psychopathology increased or decreased
during the first year of imprisonment. Using the Msikimins
Self-Goal-Other Discrepancy Scale-II (MSGO-II), it was
determined that inmates confined one year differed signifi-
cantly from those confined seven to eleven days, and from
those confined three months, on four of six factors: anxiety,
cultural rejection, interpersonal problems, and feelings of
paranoia. There was no significant difference in depression
or in the Grand Total Factor. The author concluded that
psychopathology, as measured by the MSGO-II, increased as a
function of time within the first year of incarceration.
Kozma (1972) compared short-term (six to eighteen months)
and long-term (over three years) prisoners using the Edwards
Personal Preference Schedule and the MMPI, and found that
while the prisoners showed an overall decrease in pathology
during incarceration, they retained the basic psychopathic
components of their personalities.
Banister et al. (1973) studied inmates sentenced to ten
years or more by a test-retest method on a general test
battery with an interval of 19.08 months. They found that
general intelligence was unchanged, perceptual-motor speed
declined somewhat, and hostility and introversion increased
significantly with the length of time served. Eysenck
(1964) found that incarceration increases emotionality which
potentiates antisocial habits, and Reid (1976) added that it
aggravates aggression, regression with dependency, resigna-
tion, and a fixation on, or obstinate clinging to, deviant
patterns. Gill (1952) found that "the prison environment
appears to foster, in the first offender, tendencies toward
sluggishness and apathy, rationalization and self-pity,
atypical and antisocial thinking, and increased indulgence
in fantasy as a substitute for active pursuits" (p. 53).
Wheeler (1961) found that increased length of incarceration
reduced the proportion of inmates who conform to staff
Zimbardo et al (1973) conducted an experiment in which
they simulated a prison environment. They found that the
dehumanizing procedures used, identical to those typical of
real prisons, had devastating effects on their "inmates"
(normal college students). Zimbardo (1972) reports that the
six days the experiment lasted undid a lifetime of learning,
suspended human values, challenged self-concepts, and evoked
pathology. In actual prisons, enough pathology is generated
to debase inmates' humanity, lower their feelings of self-
worth, and make it difficult for them to readjust to outside
society (Zimbardo, 1972).
Persons (1970) conducted a study to evaluate the psycho-
logical effects of a boys' reformatory on its inmates. He
compared first offenders (FOs) with recidivists (Rs), and
compared both with boys who had been institutionalized for a
long period of time (LIs). FOs and Rs were tested upon
admission (Time Period 1), and retested 20 weeks later (Time
Period 2). To examine the long-term effects of incarceration
he tested another group, the LIs, who had been incarcerated
at least eight months at Time Period 2 (X=9 1/2 months).
The instruments used were the Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS)
and the Delinquency Scale (DS), which yields four scores:
PD (psychopathic delinquency), Ne (neurotic delinquency)
PD + Ne = DS, and PD Ne (a psychopathic measure).
On retesting, there were no significant differences
between FOs and Rs, and both were significantly more neurotic
and sociopathic than boys being admitted to the reformatory.
Persons' test-retest results on Rs showed that the additional
20 weeks of incarceration increased all three indicators of
sociopathy (PD, DS, and PD-Ne). This is consistent with
Wheeler's (1961) finding that a re-prisonization process
occurs among recidivists.
Persons' data indicate that FOs are very anxious and
afraid upon admission to the reformatory. This reaction
seems to subside as they adjust to the environment, but
thereafter, further incarceration leads to increased psycho-
pathology. The LI group was more anxious and neurotic than
the Rs on either testing and the FOs on retesting. He
concludes that length of incarceration increases neuroticism
and sociopathy. These factors should lead to a high recidi-
vism rate, which seems to be the case; at the time of the
study, this institution had a recidivism rate of 62%.
The Effects of Incarceration on Women
Most of the research cited above concerns the effect
prison has on men. Gibson (1976) states that ". . all
prisons are psychologically harmful, but the typical women's
institution inflicts graver damage, in spite of its more
attractive appearance" (p. 99), and that "imprisonment is,
if anything, less rational and more harmful for women than
for men" (p. 107). Prison presents a crisis for women.
Delinquent women are already characteristically weak, depen-
dent, and helpless. Incarceration severs the ties with
those on whom a woman depends, and she needs to learn to be
independent. But the prisons to which women are confined
demand dependence and discourage independence (Gibson,
1976). There seems to be no positive solution to this
crisis which attacks a woman's self-concept. Brodsky (1975b)
states that for women, the criminal justice system effects
the "process of incorporating the belief, 'I am a failure
and a criminal, so I might as well act like one'" (p. 101).
It is fairly commonly believed that prisons are crimin-
ogenic in nature (Garrity, 1966). This may be in part due
to the learning and development of criminal technique, but
the factors which seem most responsible are those discussed
previously which foster sociopathy. Prison robs its inmates
of self-identity and attacks self-concept. The self-concept
which is reconstructed in prison seems to be one which is
based on a concept of self as criminal. Self-concept has an
effect on future behavior. Reid (1976) reported a research
finding that favorable self-concepts direct individuals
toward law-abiding behavior while unfavorable self-concepts
direct them toward delinquent behavior. Maskin and Flescher
(1975) also found that lack of self-esteem is a primary
factor in the motivation of delinquent behavior, and that a
positive self-concept serves as an insulator against
Sutherland and Cressey (1970) have stated that "persons
become criminals principally because they have been rela-
tively isolated from the culture of law-abiding groups, by
reason of their residence, employment, codes, native capac-
ities, or something else, or else have been in relatively
frequent contact with a rival criminal culture. Consequently
they are lacking in the experiences, feelings, ideas, and
attitudes out of which to construct a life organization that
the law-abiding public will regard as desirable" (p. 359).
It follows that assimilation into the inmate culture, which
is in most respects similar to the criminal subculture,
would cause inmates to identify themselves as criminals.
Sykes (1958) described the development of a criminal
self-concept in the inmates he studied as follows: "Whatever
may be the personal traits possessed by these men which
helped bring them to the institution, it is certain that the
conditions of prison life itself create strong pressures
pointed toward behavior defined as criminal in the free
community. Subjected to prolonged material deprivation,
lacking heterosexual relationships, and rubbed raw by the
irritants of life under compression, the inmate population
is pushed in the direction of deviation from, rather than
adherence to, the legal norms" (p. 22). In fact, Bauer and
Clark (1976) found that long-term prisoners show signifi-
cantly higher scores than short-term prisoners on the K, D,
Pd, Sc, and Ma scales of the MMPI, determinants of habitual
criminalism, when the effects of age, race, and educational
level are partialled out statistically.
Thomas and Foster (1972) have described the process of
criminal identification as the willingness to accept the
label ascribed by society, the incorporation of that label
into self-definition, and the willingness to continue to
associate with criminals in free society. Wheeler (1961)
stated that the net result of prisonization is "the inter-
nalization of a criminal outlook, leaving the 'prisonized'
individual relatively immune to the influence of a conven-
tional value system" (p. 697).
Miller and Dinitz (1973) found that adherence to the
inmate code leads to recidivism. From the foregoing discus-
sion it would also seem that adherence to the code would
lead to stronger criminal identification. Thomas and Foster
(1972) found that the greater the degree of criminal identi-
fication, the greater the probability of criminal involvement
after release, and, consequently, a higher rate of recidivism
for those individual seems likely. Wheeler (1961) commented
that even inmates with no intention of pursuing a criminal
career return to associations with other criminals after
release because they provide a more supportive social setting.
Further crime and repeat incarcerations often result from
Hassler (1972) admitted that prison does meet society's
demands to take criminals out of circulation for varying
periods of time, but "in most cases the criminal eventually
is released again, equipped with some new prison-acquired
skills and motivated by prison-enforced resentment" (p.
196). "By their reasoning, after an offender has been
subjected to unfair or excessive punishment and treatment
more degrading than that prescribed by law, he comes to
justify his act which he could not have justified when he
committed it. He decides to 'get even' for his unjust
treatment in prison and takes reprisals though further crime
at the first opportunity. With that decision he becomes a
criminal" (McCleery, 1953, p. 55).
It appears that the old conceptualization of prisons as
breeding grounds for crime may be fairly accurate. Wheeler
(1961) states that ". . if the (inmate) culture is viewed
as an outgrowth of the criminogenic character of inmates, it
is reasonable to expect a reinforcement process operating
throughout the duration of confinement. This is consistent
with the image of correctional institutions as 'crime schools'
(p. 708). Sutherland and Cressey (1970) noted this
phenomenon in the literature as far back as 1702, when the
Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, Committee
on Prisons presented a report of its investigations titled
"Essays toward the reformation of Newgate and other prisons
in and about London." In addition to other conditions, the
report noted that "the old criminals corrupt the new"
(Sutherland Cressey, 1970, p. 315). Prolonged associations
within the inmate culture do indeed seem to effect change
within the individual, as well as in the inmate population.
Reduction of Variance in the Prison Population
The prison experience affects not only the individual
inmates, it affects the inmate population as a whole. The
main effect produced seems to be the reduction of variance
in the population. That is, not only do inmates change as a
result of imprisonment, but they change so as to become more
like one another.
Sutherland and Cressey (1970) noted the diversity among
newly admitted inmates as follows: "Among incoming inmates
there is a variation in the degree of resentment toward the
police, courts, county jail officials, or others; variation
in the extent of remorse; variation in the extent of fear,
bravado or defiance; and variation in other personal charac-
teristics acquired prior to imprisonment" (p. 537). Incoming
inmates are generally housed together for a certain period
of time for the purposes of orientation and initial medical
and psychological testing. After this period they are
released into the general population. A federal prisoner
remarked that after release into the general population "the
differences in manner, in speech and in apartness tend to
disappear. Prison is a very democratizing institution:
soon the psychopaths talk like the lawyers, and the lawyers
talk like the psychopaths (Anonymous, 1972, p. 144).
The official prison organization does much to reduce
the variance among inmates. This fact is noted by Ward and
Kassebaum in their study of a women's prison: "In prison,
the inmate is stripped of identifying and distinctive quali-
ties, capabilities, and symbols until she comes to resemble
all others around her" (1965, p. 75). The inmate culture
also functions to reduce variance in its requirement of
orthodoxy and uniform opposition to the staff. Most inmates
conform to the inmate culture, if not out of peer pressure,
then because if they do not conform, they will be faced with
the societal rejection and the pains of imprisonment miti-
gated by the inmate culture. In sociological terms, since
every culture permits only a limited number of types to
flourish, they are those that fit the culture's dominant
configuration. Most individuals will be sufficiently plastic
to the molding force of the culture to conform to its domi-
nant configuration; hence the reduction of variance and
development of the configurationall personality" (Benedict,
In 1946, George Bernard Shaw wrote of the propensity of
the prison environment to create the criminal type: "If you
keep one (man) in penal servitude and another in the House
of Lords for ten years, the one will show the stigmata of a
typical convict, and the other of a typical peer" (pp. 105-
The Personality of Prisoners
There have been several studies comparing prisoners'
personalities with those of the general population. There
seems to be general consensus that prisoners are signifi-
cantly different from normalss." Maskin and Flescher (1975)
found that delinquents report low self-esteem and a poor
self-image with little self-respect or sense of worth.
Eysenck and Eysenck (1973) developed a measure called the "P
scale" which differentiates prisoners from normals. They
found that prisoners score significantly higher than the
general population. High P scores indicate that the individ-
ual is solitary and does not care for people; is troublesome
and does not fit in; is cruel and inhumane; is insensitive
and lacks in feelings; is sensation-seeking; is hostile and
aggressive toward others; has a liking for odd, unusual
things; is foolhardy and disregards danger; and enjoys
making fools of others.
By far, the most commonly used instrument in the study
of prisoners' personalities has been the MMPI. Reid (1976)
summarized the literature comparing delinquents with nonde-
linquents and found that delinquents score especially high
on the psychopathic deviancy (Pd) scale. Gill (1952) found
the average order of MMPI scales in the studied sample of
prisoners to be: Pd (psychopathic deviate), Pa (paranoia),
Sc (Schizophrenia), Ma (hypomania), Hs (hypochondriasis), Hy
(hysteria), Pt (psychasthenia). Persons (1971) found the
most frequently occurring MMPI high points within the institu-
tion he studied to be (in order of frequency): Pd-D
(depression), Pd-Ma, Pd-Sc, and Pd-Hy. All studies indicate
the predominance of the Pd scale. In studying criminal
prisoners using the MMPI, Eysenck (1964) found that "it is
this Pd scale which, more than any other contained in this
inventory, discriminates this group from the normal control
groups or even from neurotic groups tested in hospitals" (p.
The vast majority of research on incarcerated popula-
tions has been done on males. There has been little done on
the personalities of female prisoners (Eysenck & Eysenck,
1973; Panton, 1974). However, the literature does contain a
few studies of females, or studies comparing females with
males. Bowman et al. (1974) found that delinquent females
have more negative self-concepts than nondelinquent females.
Fry (1949) used the MMPI to compare male college students
with male prison inmates, female college students with
female prison inmates, and males with females. Female
prison inmates had higher scores than female college students
on all scales except Hysteria. Male prison inmates had
higher scores than female prison inmates on all scales
except Paranoia. Joestring et al. (1975) found that female
prison inmates had significantly higher IQs than male prison
inmates. They also found that male prisoners had signifi-
cantly higher scores than female prisoners on all MMPI
scales except L, K, and Ap, an empirically constructed
prison adjustment scale indicating an acting-out hostile
response to custodial stress and confinement marked by
deliberate violation of prison rules. Female prisoners
scored significantly higher than male prisoners on the Ap and
The most extensive study comparing female prisoners
with males (Panton, 1974) found that females are more likely
to come from shattered homes, have greater difficulty in
their interpersonal relationships with family and peers, and
present a greater instance of marital incompatibility.
Twenty-four percent of the females had records of having
been treated for mental problems compared to twelve percent
of the males. Using the MMPI, Panton compared female prison-
ers who presented valid protocols with male prisoners,
matching them for other characteristics. He found that both
females and males had elevated Pd scales, which is charac-
teristic of prison groups. However, item analysis revealed
that males responded more frequently to items denoting
authority conflict characterized by resentment of social
demands and conventions, while females responded more fre-
quently to items implying feelings of isolation and lack of
gratification in social relationships. The males presented
a 428 (Pd, D, Sc) profile code, while the females presented
a 4628 (Pd, Pa, D, Sc) profile code. The relative importance
of the Paranoia scale (second in score magnitude for females,
ninth for males) is consistent with Fry's (1949) finding,
and indicates that female prisoners, much more than male
prisoners, are overly subjective, have greater sensitivity
of feeling, and have the feeling of being different and not
easily understood by others. Females scored significantly
higher than males on the Si (social introversion) scale
indicating that they are more deviant, more inclined to
withdraw from social intercourse, and feel less confident in
their ability to cope with the socioeconomic demands of
society. The significant elevation of the means for the
males on the Hs (hypochondriasis) and D (depression) scales
indicates that they are more prone to voice physical com-
plaints, more pessimistic in their outlook on life, and more
inclined toward irritability and emotional immaturity than
In a study comparing the personalities of black and
white prisoners, Fry (1949) found no differences in MMPI
scale scores. However, in several other settings, several
other authors have found differences between blacks' and
whites' personalities using the MMPI. In an all-male popula-
tion of tuberculosis patients in a VA hospital, Hokanson and
Calden (1960) found that blacks scored significantly higher
on the Pd, Mf, Sc, Ma, L and F scales than whites. Miller
et al. (1961) compared black and white patients at a VA
mental hygiene clinic. They compared their results to those
of other similar studies and found that interaction effects
of race and the type of institution within which the research
was conducted accounted for most of the variance. On the
basis of race alone, Miller et al (1961) found that blacks
scored significantly higher than whites on the Sc and Ma
scales. McDonald and Gynther (1963) compared black and
white high school seniors from segregated schools to assess
differences based on race, sex, and socioeconomic factors.
Blacks scored significantly higher than whites on the L, F,
D, Mf, Sc, and Ma MMPI scales. An interaction effect revealed
that black females scored higher than white females on Mf.
There were no significant differences attributable to socio-
economic factors, indicating that racial differences found
are probably cultural, rather than economic. Gynther et al.
(1971) administered MMPIs to a southern, all-black community.
They found that the most frequent peak score for both sexes
was on Sc. The second most frequent was Ma for males and Pa
for females. For the most frequent two-point codes, Sc-Pa
and Sc-Ma were tied for males, and Pa-Sc, Sc-Pa, and Sc-Ma
were tied for females. Based on white norms, these codes
would be considered psychotic, yet they were the norm in the
community studied. Elion and Megargee (1975) studied the Pd
scale with male prisoners, and found that it validly differ-
entiates levels of deviance, but that the norms show racial
bias as blacks score significantly higher than whites. In
general, it appears that MMPI norms differ for the two
races, particularly with regard to the Sc and Ma scales.
Development of a Modal Personality
The literature suggests that increased accumulated time
in prison affects personality and increases psychopathology.
The greater the psychopathology of the personality, the
greater the criminal identification, and the more likely the
individual will return to crime after release and eventually
return to prison. After this return to prison, criminogenic
factors continue to operate to further increase psychopa-
thology, and a cyclical process ensues. For these reasons,
recidivists should be more deviant than first offenders.
Panton (1962) compared a habitual criminal group (inmates
serving their fourth felony prison sentence) with a nonha-
bitual group (inmates at least forty years old, serving
their first prison sentence, who spent at least twenty years
of their adult lives gainfully employed). He found the
habituals to have significantly higher scores on the Pd and
Ma scales of the MMPI than the nonhabituals. The habitual
group also had higher scores on the D, Sc, and Mf
(masculinity/femininity) scales although significance was
Bauer and Clark (1976) were also able to discriminate
recidivists from first offenders. They found that repeat
offenders scored significantly higher on the K, D, Pd, Sc,
and Ma scales of the MMPI than first offenders. They also
found that long-term offenders scored significantly higher
on these scales than short-term offenders. Because they
matched their subjects with respect to length of current
sentence, meaning that the observed differences were not due
to the sentences having been imposed on the basis of per-
ceived pathology, they were able to implicate length of
incarceration as a cause and not a result of the increased
pathology found. When they statistically partialled out the
confounding demographic variables of age, race, and educa-
tional level, the significance of the observed differences
increased, strengthening their conclusion that length of
incarceration is responsible for the increased pathology
Based on the concept of the configurational personality,
DuBois (1960) proposed the term "modal personality" to
designate central tendencies in the personalities of a group
of people which result when "potentialities are acted upon
by common cultural pressures" (p. 5). The study of the
relationship between personality and culture includes examina-
tion of certain psychological factors of individuals living
within that culture. The study of modal personality also
includes examination of the repeated and standardized experi-
ences, relationships, and values to which most individuals
in a given society are exposed. Statistically, modal per-
sonality is a profile of mean scores of a sample of members
of a given society on some instrument, measured upon a
common baseline (Zaccaria, 1967). Since prisoners constitute
a group of people subject to a common cultural milieu, it is
logical to assume the development of a modal personality.
In summary, the prison environment encourages the
development of a "modal personality" in inmates. This
personality is characterized by psychopathic deviance and
resembles the criminal or sociopathic personality.
The Sociopathic Personality
In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association defined
sociopathy or antisocial sociopathic personality (formerly
termed psychopathy or psychopathic personality) as "chroni-
cally antisocial individuals who are always in trouble,
profiting neither from experience nor punishment, and main-
taining no real loyalites to other person, group, or code.
They are frequently callous and hedonistic, showing marked
emotional immaturity, with lack of sense of responsibility,
lack of judgement (sic) and an ability to rationalize their
behavior so that it appears warranted, reasonable, and
justified (Reid, 1976, p. 162).
Eysenck (1964) defined the psychopath (or sociopath) as
one who has manifested considerable difficulty in social
adjustment over a period of many years or throughout life,
is not defective in intelligence nor suffering structural
disease of the brain or epilepsy, and has difficulties in
adjustment not characterized by behavioral syndromes known
as neuroses or psychoses.
Several authors have cited characteristics of sociopaths
(or psychopaths). Eysenck (1964) lists: defects of emo-
tional control, inability to profit from experience, impul-
siveness, lack of foresight, inability to modify infantile
standards of conduct, lack of self-reliance, unsatisfactory
adjustment to the group, inability to withstand tedium,
irresponsibility of character, and lack of understanding of
and refusal to obey social and moral rules. Reid (1976)
mentions: inability to form warm interpersonal relationships;
lack of a feeling of guilt; disregard for community or group
standards; lack of foresight; the virtual absence of moral
judgment; lack of superego; ego-centrism; lack of a life
plan; limited capacity for love and emotional involvement;
excessive dependency on others; sexual immaturity; and
emotional immaturity with an emphasis on immediate, not
deferred, pleasure. Gough (1948) includes: over-evaluation
of immediate goals as opposed to remote or deferred ones;
lack of concern over the rights and privileges of others
when recognizing that they could interfere with personal
satisfaction in any way; impulsive behavior, or apparent
incongruity between the strength of the stimulus and the
magnitude of the behavioral response; inability to form deep
or persistent attachments to other persons or to identify in
interpersonal relationships; poor judgment and planning in
attaining defined goals; apparent lack of anxiety and dis-
tress over social maladjustment, and unwillingness or inabil-
ity to consider maladjustment as such; a tendency to project
blame onto others and to take no responsibility for failures;
meaningless prevarication, often about trivial matters in
situations where detection is inevitable; almost complete
lack of dependability and of willingness to assume responsi-
bility; and finally, emotional poverty.
This, then, is the type manufactured by our prison
In the twentieth century, the field of corrections has
seen the advent of the concept of rehabilitation to replace
punishment of public offenders. Rehabilitation is not only
more humane, it is supposed to be more effective in solving
the problem of crime through the reformation of criminals.
But the ever-rising crime rate in our cities and the seventy
percent recidivism rate in our prisons indicate that it is
not. In fact, the literature reveals that our modern penal
system may have just the opposite effect.
The impact of incarceration on individual inmates is
great. Their self-concepts are damaged, self-esteem lowered,
and self-identity stripped by degrading and demeaning proce-
dures and a series of systematic deprivations and frustra-
tions. Attempting to mitigate these "pains of imprisonment,"
inmates develop an informal social system as a means of
acquiring status and a code of ethics to insure solidarity
in opposition to the prison staff.
Subjection to the prison environment, including both
the official organization and the unofficial inmate culture,
may have a harmful effect on prisoners' personalities. It
appears to elicit elements of sociopathy and pathology in
general, and increase criminal identification in individual
inmates. It seems to reduce the variance in the inmate
population through the creation of a "modal personality."
Our prisons appear to be criminogenic in nature.
Individuals incarcerated in them seem to develop personali-
ties which cause them to return to crime following release.
"Rehabilitation" appears not to be rehabilitating.
This study investigated changes in personality traits
of incarcerated women as a function of race and time served.
Both changes in MMPI mean scores and the variances within
the population were investigated. The subjects were female
inmates at the Women's Unit of the Florida Correctional
Institution at Lowell, Florida. Inmates having served a
previous state or federal prison sentence were excluded from
the sample. The personality traits studied were those as
measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
(MMPI). All inmates are routinely given the MMPI upon
admission to the institution and these scores provided the
pretest data for this study. The data collected were ana-
lyzed statistically to ascertain changes among various
groups (based on race and time served) and within population
variance as a function of time served.
The following null hypotheses were tested:
H 1: No significant differences will exist in the mean
group MMPI scale scores of newly admitted inmates, inmates
who have served 3-6 months, and inmates who have served 9
months or more.
H 2: No significant differences will exist between the
mean group MMPI scale scores of black and white inmates.
H 3: No significant differences will exist between the
mean group MMPI scale scores of black and white inmates as a
function of time served.
Ho4: No significant differences will exist in the
variances of MMPI scale scores of newly admitted inmates,
inmates who have served 3-6 months, and inmates who have
served 9 months or more.
H 5: No significant differences will exist between the
variances of MMPI scale scores of black and white inmates as
a function of time served.
Subjects and Procedures
The subjects for this study were female prison inmates
incarcerated at the Florida Correctional Institution (F.C.I.),
Lowell, Florida. Only inmates housed in general population
at the Women's Unit were considered. Those inmates housed
at the honor facility and those in administrative or disci-
plinary confinement were excluded from the sample. From
this group, seventy-six (76) were excluded from the study
because their records indicated a previous state or federal
The MMPI is routinely administered to all inmates
entering F.C.I. Any inmate who was not tested, or who
presented an invalid profile at the time of testing, was
excluded from the subject pool. Of the 348 first-time
offenders, 23 had not been tested upon admission: 16 because
of an inability to read at an advanced enough level (sixth
grade level), 4 were unable to be tested for medical reasons,
and 3 had refused testing. Of those inmates given the MMPI,
44 presented invalid profiles: 37 presumably for an inabil-
ity to read and/or comprehend the test items, and 7 for
These exclusions left the remaining sample pool at 281.
Every other inmate on this list was selected for inclusion
which yielded 141 subjects for this study.
Subjects for the "newly admitted" group were those
housed at "Reception and Orientation" at the time of the
study. The MMPI was administered to these subjects as part
of a regular battery of tests given by the staff psycholo-
gists. Of these 39 inmates, 6 had served previous state or
federal prison sentences and one presented an invalid MMPI
profile. Thus, 32 inmates (11 white and 21 black) made up
the "newly admitted" sample for this study. MMPI scores for
these subjects were obtained from the staff psychologists'
The remaining 141 inmates, selected in the manner
previously delineated, were given a brief verbal description
of the present study and advised of the confidentiality of
their responses. As dictated by the institution authorities,
they were also assured that participation was voluntary.
Forty-nine inmates chose to participate in the study and
were readministered the MMPI.
Previous research has reported few significant differ-
ences between research volunteers and nonvolunteers. Volun-
teers were found to be more moody, introverted, and possess
higher self-esteem than nonvolunteers, although not signifi-
cantly so (Riggs & Kaess, 1955; Maslow & Sakoda, 1952).
Lasagna and von Felsinger (1954) found volunteers in pharma-
cological research to be significantly more psychologically
maladjusted than nonvolunteers, yet it must be considered
that the primary motivation to volunteer for many of these
subjects was to obtain a drug which would provide relief
from their personality problems.
In studies specific to inmate populations, volunteers
were found to be loners and to have significantly higher IQs
than nonvolunteers (Arnold et al., 1970; Cudrin, 1969). In
comparing volunteers with nonvolunteers in both drug and
social-interest research, Wells et al. (1975) reported no
significant differences in demographic variables including
race, IQ, education, socioeconomic status, etc. Concerning
psychological characteristics, social-interest research
volunteers did not differ significantly from nonvolunteers
on the Adjective Checklist, the Lykken Anxiety Measure, the
Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale, the Rotter
Internality-Externality Measure, the Rigidity Measure, the
Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory, the Garabedian Index of
Prison Socialization, or the Tittle 9 Tittle Conformity-to-
prison-code Measure. On the Feelings Self-Report Checklist,
social-interest research volunteers reported significantly
less intense feelings of hopelessness than the nonvolunteers.
The groups did not differ on the other seven scales.
Inmates decisions to volunteer for research are made
impulsively and are primarily motivated by the desire to do
something worthwhile or courageous, the desire to keep out
of trouble in the institution, and a moderate degree of
belief that volunteering will improve chances for parole
(McDonald, 1967; Weissman et al., 1972; Wells et al., 1975).
Factors encouraging inmate volunteerism include the lack of
other constructive activity, need for interesting and stimu-
lating experiences, and peer pressure (Arnold et al., 1970;
Cudrin, 1969; Wells et al., 1975). Factors discouraging
inmate volunteerism include suspicion of information from
"establishment" sources and problems in communication with
the research staff (Arnold et al., 1970; Weissman et al.,
1972; Wells et al., 1975).
In the present study, the subjects who volunteered to
participate were compared to the nonvolunteers on several
demographic variables. Volunteers were found not to differ
significantly from nonvolunteers with regard to race, age,
length of sentence or length of time served. In addition,
the MMPI scores of both groups upon admission to the institu-
tion (i.e. protests) were compared to determine initial
psychological differences. The volunteers did not differ
significantly from the nonvolunteers on any MMPI scale
including the K-scale which detects the tendency to give
socially desirable responses. Therefore, the volunteers for
this study appear to be representative of the general prison
population as far as state guidelines permit comparison.
The data collected in this manner were then arranged
into groups according to the length of time the subjects had
been incarcerated. The group of inmates who had served
between 3 and 6 months consisted of 27 subjects, 11 white
and 16 black. The group having served 9 months or more
consisted of 22 subjects, 6 white and 16 black. The fre-
quency distribution of the races in the three subgroups
(newly admitted inmates, inmates who had served between 3
and 6 months, and inmates who had served 9 months or more)
did not differ significantly, X2(2)=.98, p<.60. Any possible
effects of this nonorthogonal design were accounted for sta-
tistically in the analysis of the data.
Previous research has shown a significant increase in
psychopathology in inmates' personalities within the first
few months of incarceration (Gill, 1952; Garrity, 1966;
Persons, 1970). Gill's data indicate that this change has
already begun to occur at three months.
The instrument used in this study is the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). It is a personal-
ity test designed to provide an objective measure of psycho-
pathology. It contains 566 items to be answered "true,"
"false," or "cannot say." The items yield fourteen scales.
The first ten scales, termed the clinical scales, refer to
specific personality characteristics. The final four scales
deal with the reliability and validity of the individual
administration of the test, but also give meaningful informa-
tion about personality. A description of each scale follows:
1-Hypochondriasis (Hs): excessive concern for health
or bodily functions which restricts one's range of activities
and interpersonal relationships. High scores on this scale
indicate egocentrism, immaturity, and a lack of insight.
2-Depression (D): High scores on this scale indicate
pessimism, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, slowing
of thought and action, and preoccupation with death or
3-Hysteria (Hy): the use of physical symptoms as a
means of solving conflicts or avoiding responsibilities.
4-Psychopathic deviate (Pd): High scores on this scale
indicate a repeated and flagrant disregard for social customs
and mores, conflict with authority, resentment of social
demands and conventions, lack of a sense of responsibility,
inability to profit from punishing experiences, feelings of
isolation, a lack of gratification in social relationships,
and emotional shallowness, particularly in sexual and affec-
5-Masculinity/Femininity (Mf): male sexual inversion.
For males, high scores on this scale indicate feminism in
values, attitudes and interests, and styles of expression
and speech, as well as in sexual relationships. For females,
interpretation is ambiguous.
6-Paranoia (Pa): delusional beliefs of reference,
influence, and grandeur. High scores on this scale indicate
misperceptions or misinterpretations of one's life situation
markedly out of keeping with ability and intelligence.
7-Psychasthenia (Pt): obsessive-compulsive syndrome.
High scores on this scale indicate obsessive ruminations,
compulsive behavioral rituals, abnormal fears, worrying, a
difficulty in concentration, guilt, excessive vacillation in
making decisions, high standards of morality, self-criticism,
and aloofness from personal conflicts.
8-Schizophrenia (Sc): bizarre or unusual thinking and
behavior. High scores on this scale indicate constraint,
coldness, apathy, indifference, delusions, hallucinations,
disorientation, inactivity, withdrawal of interest from
other people or objects, social alienation, and feelings of
0-Social introversion (Si): withdrawal from social
contacts and responsibilities. High scores on this scale
indicate little real interest in people and a withdrawn
Cannot say (?): the number of items omitted or double-
marked. High scores on this scale indicate an inability to
comprehend the content of the item, lack of co-operation,
anger, alienation, hostility, or defensiveness.
Lie (L): identifies deliberate efforts to evade answer-
ing honestly. High scores on this scale indicate a denial
of aggression, bad thoughts, weakness, poor self-control,
prejudice, or dishonesty in an effort to make oneself look
Infrequency (F): unusual responses to items nearly
always answered in one direction by the standardization
group. High scores on this scale indicate an atypical or
deviant way of answering items.
Correction (K): identifies subtle score-enhancing or
score-diminishing factors and provides a means of statis-
tically correcting the scores on the clinical scales to
offset these effects (Dahlstrom et al., 1972; Panton, 1974;
Eysenck, 1964; Joestring et al., 1975).
Validity and Reliability
Ellis (1946) has described the MMPI as one of the most
valid instruments available for the assessment of personality.
Hathaway and McKinley (1951) found that a high score on any
particular scale correlated positively with clinicians'
final diagnosis in 60% of new psychiatric admissions.
Measurements of the MMPI's validity as a personality assess-
ment instrument are generally made on the individual scales.
Rotter (1949) reported satisfactory differentiation between
patients of a given nosology, unselected patients, and
normals based on MMPI scores. Endicott and Endicott (1963)
found a significant but minimal correlation between scale 1
(Hs) scores and clinicians' ratings of somatic preoccupation
of military personnel and their dependents manifested in
independent interviews (.31). Endicott and Jortner (1967)
found correlations of .23 and .37 between scale 1 scores and
manifested somatic preoccupation in two studies of psychi-
atric patients. In separate studies of psychiatric patients,
Endicott and Jortner (1966) and Zuckerman et al. (1967)
found correlations of .51 and .59 respectively between scale
2 (D) scores and clinicians' ratings of depression. Between
self-ratings of depression and scale 2 scores, correlations
of .69 to .72 have been found (Zung, 1967; Zung et al.,
1965; Morgan, 1968). McKinley and Hathaway (1944) express
the difficulty of validation of scale 3 (Hy) scores because
of the possibility of a covert physical basis for symptoms.
Little and Fisher (1958) found a strong negative correlation
between the somatic items and the social facility items of
scale 3 among normals and a significant positive correlation
among psychiatric patients, thereby distinguishing the two
groups. Items on scale 4 (Pd) were selected for their
ability to distinguish delinquents from normals. Several
studies have shown the ability of scale 4 to make this
discrimination (Hathaway & Monachesi, 1963; Capwell, 1945 a
and b; Wirt Briggs, 1959; Richardson & Roebuck, 1965).
Scale 5 (Mf) has been shown to identify sexual inversion in
males (Terman 9 Miles, 1936), but its meaning is ambiguous
for women and this scale appears to have little validity for
them (Dahlstrom et al., 1972). Endicott et al. (1969) found
correlations of .19 and .29 between scale 6 (Pa) scores and
clinicians' ratings in separate studies. Items on scale 7
(Pt) were selected to distinguish patients manifesting
obsessive-compulsive syndrome from normals. Many of the
items correlate highly with overall scale 7 score; items
whose content reflects aspects of this syndrome show corre-
lations of .67 to .73 with overall scale 7 scores, indicating
their validity (Little, 1949). Items on scale 8 (Sc) were
selected and revised to distinguish schizophrenic patients
from normals. Items whose content reflects obvious schizo-
phrenic symptoms correlate .64 to .71 with overall scale 8
scores (Little, 1949). Items on scale 9 (Ma) were selected
to distinguish hypomanics from normals, and McKinley and
Hathaway (1944) report that it is an effective differentiator.
Items selected for scale 0 (Si) were those which distin-
guished subjects scoring above the 65th percentile from
subjects scoring below the 35th percentile on the social
introversion-extroversion subscale of the Minnesota T-S-E
Inventory (Drake, 1946).
The MMPI also contains four scales (?, L, F, and K)
termed validity indicators which provide information on the
validity of the individual test administration, and identify
sources of invalidity.
Considerably more research data have been published on
the reliability of the MMPI than on its validity. The
results of some of the test-retest reliability studies are
reported in the Appendix.
An analysis of variance was performed on the protests
of the three groups to assure their equivalence at the time
of their admission to the institution.
An analysis of variance was then performed on the
protests and posttests (for the subjects in the 3-6 months
and 9 months groups) to determine 1) changes in MMPI scale
scores as a function of time, 2) differences between blacks
and whites, and 3) differences between blacks and whites as
a function of time, i.e. interactional effects of time and
race. A Duncan's multiple range test was conducted to
further explore significant time differences. Simple effects
tests were conducted to further explore significant interac-
A test of homogeneity of within group variance-covariance
matrices was performed to assess significant differences in
variances as a function of time and/or race.
The results of these analyses are presented in Chapter
The present study examined two factors as they relate
to personality change in incarcerated women: race and
length of incarceration. The subjects were female inmates
at the Florida Correctional Institution at Lowell, Florida,
serving their first prison sentence. The aspects of person-
ality studied were those measured by the ten scales of the
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The
MMPI is routinely administered to prison inmates upon admis-
sion to a Florida correctional facility. This initial
testing provided the pretest data for this study. Subjects
were retested and their scores analyzed on the basis of race
and amount of time served between the pretest and posttest.
Personality changes were tested using an analysis of variance,
and changes in group variances were tested using a test of
homogeneity of within group variance-covariance matrices.
Results of these statistical analyses are presented in this
Analysis of Pretests
An analysis of variance was conducted on the protests
of all three groups to assure their equivalence. On the
basis of time served, the groups showed no significant
differences on any of the ten scales of the MMPI except
scale 5 (masculinity/femininity). Analysis of scale 5
revealed that scores for the "newly admitted" group differed
significantly from the scores of the 3-6 months and the 9+
months groups (see Table 1). Because of the relatively
short time intervals separating the groups, this difference
probably reflects sampling error rather than any meaningful
trend in masculinity/femininity characteristics.
On the basis of race without regard to time served,
several scales yielded significant differences as a result
of testing. On scales 1(Hypochondriasis), 6(Paranoia),
7(Psychasthenia), and 8(Schizophrenia), blacks scored signif-
icantly higher than whites, indicating that the black inmates
in this study exhibited significantly more excessive concern
for health or bodily functions; maintained delusional beliefs
of reference, influence, and grandeur; revealed obsessive-
compulsive patterns; and showed bizarre or unusual thinking
or behavior when compared to the whites. On scale
5(Masculinity/femininity), the white inmates in this study
scored significantly higher than the black inmates in this
study, indicating that they were more feminine in values,
attitudes, and interests (see Table 2).
These results are not unexpected. Previous research
has shown that while the MMPI is valid for use with black
subjects, black norms are different from white norms as
Table 1. Differences on Scale 5 Pretest Scores as a Function
of Time Served.
F (5, 75) 4.32
Scale 5 Means
Table 2. Differences on Pretest Scale Scores as a Function
Scale 1 Scale 5 Scale 6 Scale 7 Scale 8
Black means 19.02 33.21 13.96 32.17 33.47
White means 15.07 36.07 11.68 28.50 26.93
F (5, 75) 7.99 7.15 4.92 6.86 12.46
L < .01 .01 .03 .01 .001
blacks tend to score higher on most scales (Gynther, 1972;
Elion 6 Megargee, 1975). The relationship of these scores
to normative data was of no consequence to the present study
and was therefore not discussed here. These initial differ-
ences between the races, however, must be taken into consid-
eration when interpreting posttest results.
H 1: No significant differences will exist in the mean
group MMPI scale scores of newly admitted inmates, inmates
who have served 3-6 months, and inmates who have served 9
months or more.
An anaylsis of variance was performed on the protests
and posttests (for the subjects in the 3-6 months and 9
months groups) to test the preceding null hypothesis.
On the basis of time served, the analysis indicated a
significant difference somewhere among the groups on scale
5(Masculinity/femininity). A Duncan's multiple range test
indicated that the "newly admitted" group was significantly
different from the other two groups (3-6 months and 9
months), which were not significantly different from each
other (see Table 3). Since these differences appeared in
the comparison of the protests, probably as a result of
sampling error, the significance shown in the posttests
cannot be interpreted with any confidence. It seems likely
that whatever factor was responsible for the effects shown
Table 3. Differences on Scale 5
of Time Served.
Posttest Scores as a Function
Time Served Scale 5 Means
Newly admitted 32.34
3-6 months 35.74
9 months 34.73
F (5, 75) 3.41
E < .04