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Personality, Criminal Behavior, and Risk Assessment: Implications for Theory and Practice

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 34 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 60-75
Date Published
January 2007
16 pages

This study examined whether personality, as measured by the Jesness Inventory, was related to reoffending (recidivism) over a period of 10-12 years for a cohort of Federal prison inmates.


In two of three tests, specific personality attributes were significantly predictive of recidivism, defined as any new arrest and arrest for a specific charge, including drug offenses, property offenses, or violent offenses. The impact of personality attributes was independent of other risk factors. The "aggressive" and "neurotic" personality types, as defined by the Jesness Inventory, were significantly related to long-term recidivism even when race and risk were controlled. Neurotics were more likely than the other personality types to be arrested for a drug-related offense. This may be due to the medicating of anxiety and depression. Although aggressive offenders had high recidivism rates, rates for neurotic offenders were higher. Neurotics suffer from trait (ongoing) and not state (related to circumstance) anxiety. Their childhoods are often characterized by abuse and dysfunction, and they have difficulty adjusting to prison, as evidenced by their high rates of depression and aggression while incarcerated. The original (Time 1) sample consisted of 369 inmates admitted to either a Federal penitentiary or a Federal prison camp between September 1986 and July 1988. The Time 2 sample consisted of 75 percent of the Time 1 sample (n=277). Social, demographic, and criminal-history data were obtained through interviews and reviews of presentence investigations. The Jesness Inventory was administered at Time 1. Recidivism data were collected in November 1998 (Time 2). 3 tables, 3 figures, 7 notes, and 63 references

Date Published: January 1, 2007