Does prison strain lead to prison misbehavior? An application of general strain theory to inmate misconduct

Robert G. Morris, Michael L. Carriaga, Brie Diamond, Nicole Leeper Piquero, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper applies macro-micro General Strain Theory (GST) to predict prisoner misconduct. It is hypothesized that prison-based strain will adversely affect inmates and increase their misconduct. Methods: Data from a large southern state are used to examine how environmental strain measured at the prison level influence inmates' violent misconduct. Analyses will include a group-based trajectory model on monthly counts of violent misconduct for the first three years of incarceration and assess whether the strain of the environment (using a latent measure of prison deprivation as a proxy for environmental strain) distinguishes between trajectories. The analysis will employ finite multilevel mixture modeling with environmental strain as both a within- and between-class predictor, but at the prison level. Results: Findings suggest that prison strain is positively associated with prison misconduct; however, the magnitude of the effect varies across distinct inmate trajectories. Conclusions: Theoretical and practical implications are highlighted as are directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes

Cite this