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Numbers and Narratives of Prisoner Maladaptation

Contemporary Psychology , Volume 35 (6): 596 – Jun 1, 1990


American Psychological Association
Copyright © 1990 by American Psychological Association
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Numbers and Narratives of Prisoner Maladaptation


<p> I n their preface, the authors tell us that a friend warned them, "Some read numbers; others, narratives. No one likes both" (p. ix). Luckily for readers, the authors ignored the implied advice and wrote a book that combines the best of large-scale, multivariate statistical analyses with detailed, individual case studies in order to learn about patterns of chronic prison maladjustment among male inmates. The results are excellent—an intriguing methodology for operationalizing and studying long-term patterns of disruptive behavior, an initial typology of maladaptive behavior illustrated by the case-level narratives, and a proposed technique for reducing maladaptive prison behavior that is nicely integrated with several recently developed principles for behavior change.</p> The methodology <p>The authors collected the disciplinary records of over 9,000 inmates in the state prisons of New York and cross-referenced them against the treatment files maintained by mental health staff in the institutions. They then arranged the data on disruptive behavior (a written record of infraction events recorded on a "warden's record card") and mental health disturbances in chronological order for each inmate so that a prison career, defined as a temporally ordered string of publicly observed and documented behavioral incidents, could be traced for
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