Exploring the Link between Prison Crowding and Inmate Misconduct: A Panel Data Analysis

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Research on the impact of prison crowding on inmate misconduct is mixed, with studies finding positive, negative, and null results. These inconsistencies may be due to the use of data restricted to one specific point in time as previous studies have heavily relied on cross-sectional methods. These cross-sections may or may not be representative of longer-term trends, and they do not allow for the examination of changes over time. To address this limitation, the current study utilizes state prison panel data to examine monthly within-institution changes. Using modern data gathered from January 2012 through December 2014 from a large state correctional system, this study demonstrates the utility of examining this research question longitudinally. Findings demonstrate that prison crowding leads to increases in misconduct rates, although this relationship diminishes after crowding reaches a certain threshold. However, our data did not support the expected relationship between crowding and violent misconduct specifically. Other time-varying factors were found to consistently predict misconduct and violence. Policy implications and future directions are discussed.