Violence and Security Threat Group Participation in Ohio Prisons

By Kowalski, Brian R.; Martin, Brian D. | Corrections Today, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Violence and Security Threat Group Participation in Ohio Prisons


Kowalski, Brian R., Martin, Brian D., Corrections Today


The formulation of correctional policies that address prison violence are complicated by the challenge of successfully managing gangrelated misconduct. Unfortunately, research findings on the relationship between gang affiliation and prison misbehavior are limited and still somewhat inconclusive. This article presents findings that help illustrate the role of gang membership in serious misconduct over time. These results are part of a larger body of work surrounding the revalidation and revision of objective prison classification instruments, and the general support of violence reduction strategy efforts in the Ohio state prison system.

Levels of violence in Ohio prisons have been increasing during the last five years.' The overall rate of guilty violent rule violations per 1,000 inmates (including fighting) has risen from 156.4 in 2007 to 229.7 in 2011. More infrequent types of serious misbehavior such as inmate-on-inmate assault rates (nonsexual) and serious injury assault rates have increased 39.5 percent and 87 percent between fiscal years 2007 and 2011, respectively. Security threat group (STG) participation in Ohio prisons, which over-whelmingly consists of street-and prison-related gang activity, is on the rise as well. STG inmates made up 16.8 percent of the state prison population in 2011 compared to 13.8 percent in 2007. Inmates with documented gang associations have become increasingly involved in inmate-on-inmate assaults, with at least one STG identified member now involved in 38.7 percent of these assaults in fiscal year 2011, up from 30.7 percent in fiscal year 2007. Preliminary numbers indicate that around half of the participants in inmate disturbances caused by four or more inmates in 2010 have a security threat group affiliation. There is also evidence of a shift in the specific gangs involved in these types of violent incidents as well. A local Ohio-based gang is now involved in 13 percent of all STG-related inmate-on-inmate nonsexual assaults, up from 5.2 percent as recently as fiscal year 2009.

Data and Methodology

The exact relationship between gang affiliation and prison misbehavior is not entirely definitive based on these descriptive statistics alone. As such, we test for statistically significant relationships in a set of models using logistic regression analysis at multiple time periods featuring several explanatory and outcome measures. The models look at two different data sources spanning six-month time periods, the male offender population committed between July 1 to Dec. 31, 2007, and the male offender population committed between July 1 to Dec. 31, 2009. In both cases, male offenders serving three months or less are removed from the analysis. Gang affiliation is measured for analytical purposes as official identification as an active or disruptive STG participant (12.6 percent and 10.9 percent of all STG participation in 2011, respectively). These multivariate statistical models contain several other explanatory variables that are highly predictive of institutional misconduct. These measures include: age at current admission, most serious current offense of conviction, security level at last prison release and assault conviction history.

Several dichotomous outcome variables (1 = yes, 0 = no) are considered, such as overall rule violations, two conceptions of violent rule violations and disruptive rule violations. Both violent outcome measures include rules of conduct that consist of assaultive behavior and sexual misconduct. The main difference between the two violent outcomes is the inclusion by one dependent measure, and the exclusion by the other, of a rule that represents physical harassment of staff (i.e., impeding movement). The disruptive misbehavior outcome measure was derived by a committee consisting of researchers, administrators and prison staff looking to operationalize a variable to capture events that cause critical problems and disruptions to the overall operations of the facility. …

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Violence and Security Threat Group Participation in Ohio Prisons
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