Causes and correlates of prison inmate misconduct: A systematic review of the evidence

Benjamin Steiner, H. Daniel Butler, Jared M. Ellison

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Purpose: Inmate rule violations or "misconducts" reflect offending within a prison, and this study involved a systematic review of studies of the causes/correlates of inmate misconduct published between 1980 and 2013. Methods: An exhaustive search of relevant high impact journals yielded 98 studies of causes/correlates of inmates misconduct published between 1980 and 2013. The final models from these studies were examined to assess the impact of the predictor variables on misconduct. Results: Findings revealed that predictor variables reflecting inmates' background characteristics (e.g., age, prior record), their institutional routines and experiences (e.g., prior misconducts), and prison characteristics (e.g., security level) all impact misconduct. Conclusions: Researchers should apply general theories of crime and deviance (e.g., control) that can incorporate all of the empirically relevant inmate and prison characteristics to the study of offending in prison (misconduct). Researchers should also examine the sources of variability in the effects of predictor variables across studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-470
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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