Victimization, fear, and coping in prison

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Chubaty, Donna
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The present study was an investigation of violence, fear, and coping in a prison setting. Integral parts of prison life, high levels of fear and violence, combined with ineffective coping, likely undermine the rehabilitative goals of prison. The present study focused on personality predispositions, victimization experiences, coping, and social support as probable factors affecting level of fear and psychological symptomatology. At Stony Mountain Institution and Saskatchewan Penitentiary, inmates c mpleted a questionnaire package and file reviews were conducted to obtain further demographic and personality test scores. Data were factor analyzed, then entered into multiple regression equations. A set of exploratory correlational analyses was conducted in order to provide additional information and clarification of results. While the overall model was not supported by the present study, it was clear that the present sample tended to report personality pathology, coping deficits, social isolation, and psychological symptoms. Victimization experiences within prison were associated with higher levels of self-reported fear. While only personality maladjustment and escape-oriented coping evidenced predictive utility with regards to psychological symptoms, exploratory analyses suggested a range of mental health difficulties and difficult early familial experiences in the lives of prison inmates. Specifically, parental loss and a history of physical/sexual abuse emerged as prominent themes among the sample. Implications for identification and management of vulnerable inmates, as well as for further research, are discussed.