Aging and Inmate Misconduct: A Test of the Importation Theory

By Veronica Horowitz.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Two important social trends in the contemporary United States are the aging of the population and the growth of incarceration as a means of social control. The purpose of the current study is to provide a detailed examination of inmate misconduct in the older inmate population, to compare older inmates with younger inmates, and to test predictors of inmate misconduct separately for older and younger inmates. It is well documented that older age groups of prisoners engage in less misconduct. This research sees older adults at a different stage in their life course than their younger counterparts. Therefore, this research will examine the predictors of misconduct for inmates in different age cohorts separately. Inmate misconduct is defined as the frequency, type, and severity of rule infractions by incarcerated individuals. The importation model suggests that an individual’s experiences and characteristics prior to incarceration largely determine the behaviors that they exhibit within the institution. Much research using the importation theory as an institutional theory to explain misconduct includes age as an important and significant factor in contributing to misconduct, but these studies focus on younger age groups. Some of the extant tests of the importation theory find that gender, race, educational attainment, and employment prior to prison are significant in determining official misconduct in prison. This study uses data from the Survey of Inmates in State and Correctional Facilities, a nationally representative sample of inmates in state prisons and federally owned and operated prisons (2004) collected through individual interviews with inmates. This study finds that the importation theory does not explain misconduct among older inmates.

Keywords: Importation Theory, Crime and Aging, Inmate Misconduct

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.53-69. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 508.015KB).

Veronica Horowitz

Graduate Assistant, Holocaust Resource Center, Kean University, Edison, New Jersey, USA

Veronica Horowitz is a graduate student in the Sociology and Social Justice Program at Kean University in New Jersey, and a graduate assistant at the University’s Holocaust Resource Center. Previously, she worked as a research assistant for the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice in the University of Iowa’s School of Social Work. Her current research focuses on incarceration in the United States, in particular theoretical approaches to interpreting misconduct within prisons and infusing a life course perspective in the study of inmate misconduct. She has examined measurement issues related to the reliance on official reporting of misconduct, and the policy and practice implications of measurement problems on the lives of incarcerated individuals. With current trends toward mass incarceration and population aging, issues related to aging within the prison population warrant increased attention.