This study examined whether adjustment patterns in prison for a sample of women inmates was related to the length of their sentences; and if so, the factors involved in this relationship.
Data for this study were collected as part of a larger longitudinal study that focused on the relationship between personality disorders and adjustment to the prison environment. Participants included 692 women incarcerated in a maximum-security prison in central Virginia. The sample was divided into 3 sentence groups: long-term inmates with sentences of 10 years or more (n=199), medium-term inmates with sentences of 2 to 10 years (n=350), and short-term inmates with sentences of less than 2 years (n=143). The measures included items that addressed inmates' current emotional status, behavioral adjustment, and reported adjustment to the prison environment. Data on these measures were collected simultaneously within a 6-month period. Multivariate analyses of variance were used to assess the relationship between sentence length and three indexes of institutional misconduct (violent infractions, nonviolent infractions, and institutional infractions), while controlling for age and length of time served. A significant relationship was found between sentence length and nonviolent institutional misconduct. Long-term inmates and medium-term inmates committed significantly more nonviolent infractions than short-term inmates. No significant differences were found, however, in the number of nonviolent infractions committed by medium-term and long-term prisoners. No significant relationship was found between sentence length and violent infractions, after controlling for effects of age and time served. The same pattern was found with reference to institutional infractions and higher rates of reporting conflict in prison. There was no significant relationship between sentence length and emotional adjustment. Implications are drawn for differences in the management of women inmates according to their sentence length. 2 tables and 23 references