Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Gender, Culture, and Prison Classification: Testing the Reliability and Validity of a Prison Classification System
by Bellmore, Aimee Ryan, Ph.D., Portland State University, 2011, 143; 3488160
Abstract (Summary)

Research consistently shows actuarial classification instruments have equal or higher predictive validity than clinical judgment and can lead to more ethical and fair treatment of incarcerated men and women (Austin, 1983, 1986; Bonta, 2002; Clements, 1981; Holsigner, Lowenkamp, & Latessa, 2006; Meehl, 1954; Salisbury, Van Voorhis, & Spiropoulos, 2009). Best correctional practice recommends all objective classification systems are tested for reliability and validity to ensure they are effective for the population they intend to serve (Austin, 1986; Holsinger et al., 2006; Salisbury et al., 2009). This study examined the reliability and validity of the classification and assessment instruments currently used by Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility (Golden Grove), located on St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

Golden Grove is a mixed-gender, mixed-security status prison managed by the USVI territorial government, and is subject to United States Federal laws and mandates. Data from archival files were used to assess the internal reliability, construct validity, and predictive validity of the classification and assessment instruments used with incarcerated men and women at Golden Grove (N = 200). Primary objectives of this study were separated into four main categories: 1) examine the construct validity of Golden Grove's custody assessment tools; 2) investigate the predictive validity of Golden Grove's custody assessment tools across gender; 3) determine reliability and assess to what extent the primary classification officer's decisions have higher predictive validity than the actuarial tool; and 4) investigate the relationship between items on the needs assessment form and level of custody (minimum, medium, or maximum).

Results were mixed but generally indicated weak reliability, construct validity, and predictive validity. Contrary to most research on gender and classification, a significant correlation between the initial custody score for incarcerated females and disciplinary reports (r = .26, n = 56, p < .05) indicated the initial custody tool predicted misconduct for maximum custody females better than for males. The mean number of disciplinary reports for maximum women (M = 1.12) was significantly higher compared to maximum men (M = .46). The classification officer overrode the instrument at a high rate for both the initial assessment instrument (44%) and the reassessment instrument (36.4%) rendering the objective assessment overly subjective. Overall, findings show the classification system at Golden Grove is not functioning as intended and improvements are recommended.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Coleman, Daniel
Commitee: Cahn, Katharine, Feyerherm, William, Salisbury, Emily, Thompson, Melissa
School: Portland State University
Department: Social Work
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-A 73/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Social work, Criminology
Keywords: Assessment, Caribbean, Culture, Gender, Prison classification
Publication Number: 3488160
ISBN: 978-1-267-07966-4
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