Defining "Too Close for Comfort": Individual and Structural Determinants of Variations in Perceptions of Crowding Among a Sample of Federal Inmates

Erik Faust Dietz, Federal Bureau of Prisons

Overcrowding has been a serious problem for almost as long as prisons have existed. The crisis was exacerbated in the 80's with the rapid increase of the priso population brought about by changes in sentencing policy. Given the extent of the problem, a large body of literatur exists on the topic of prison overcrowding. The majority of the prior research on prison overcrowding, however, has focused on the detrimental effect of these situations by examining institutional measures of crowding such as spatial or social density. Less commonly examined are the perceptions of the inmates living in these overcrowded environments. This study examines the perceptions of crowding for 950 inmates residing in 10 low-security federla correctional institutions. The extent to which individiau level variables affect perceptions of crowding is explored. Further, hierarchical linear modeling is used to investigate the extent to which institutional and individual level variables interact with one another and effect inmates' perceptions of crowding. Results, including policy implications, are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006