Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Joshua C. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William D. Bales, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bryanna Fox, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ojmarrh Mitchell, Ph.D.


Corrections, Inmate Behavior, In-Prison Sanctions, Intersectionality


The dramatic increase in the U.S. prison population has renewed scholarly interest in the prison experience. Researchers have built upon and extended classic theories of inmate behavior to better understand the mechanisms that lead to inmate violence and misbehavior. Yet, scholars still consider what happens to inmates inside of prison a “black box,” due to limited systematic assessments of the prison experience. This body of scholarship is also limited by its narrow focus on males, as theories of inmate behavior have been developed around male experiences and, in turn, ignore the possibility that gender may influence prison life. Feminist theory suggests that assessments of the prison experience necessitate a focus beyond a “gendered” analysis, to one that simultaneously takes in to account race and ethnicity. Theory indicates that the intersection of gender, race, and ethnicity influence the prison experience and the way in which prison staff react to behaviors of different inmate groups.

Accordingly, the goal of this dissertation is to address these research gaps and to systematically examine female inmate behavior and official reactions to behavior. Specifically, this dissertation examines three domains of the prison experience. First, it examines gender and race/ethnicity-based variation in the trends and predictors of formal in-prison misconduct. Second, the dissertation explores gender and racial/ethnic differences in how prisons sanction inmate misconduct and focuses specifically on the use of disciplinary confinement, losses of gain time, and assignment to extra work duty. Third, the dissertation assesses how in-prison punishments influence future in-prison misconduct and examines whether there is gender and racial/ethnic variation in those effects.

Towards this goal, this dissertation uses longitudinal data that come from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), and include all inmates that entered Florida prisons between 2005 and 2011. The data are especially useful in the assessment of the female prison experience, because they include a large enough sample of female inmates of Black, White, and Hispanic background to allow for systematic empirical assessments, which are typically rare in the study of this type of population. This dissertation uses a number of different analytic techniques, including bivariate comparisons, life table analyses, multilevel logistic regression models, negative binomial regression, and multilevel survival analyses.

The dissertation’s analyses identify several critical results that advance prison research, theory, and policy. First, the findings highlight that there are notable gender and racial/ethnic differences in official misconduct, which point to the possibility of behavioral differences or differential rule enforcement, or perhaps both. At the same time, this dissertation shows that prior incarceration and age are the strongest predictors of misconduct, violence, and order violations for Black, White, and Hispanic males and females. Second, this dissertation identifies disciplinary confinement as the most frequently used in-prison sanction across male and female inmates incarcerated in Florida prisons. Third, empirical assessments showed little to no deterrent effect of harsher in-prison punishments (e.g., disciplinary confinement). More broadly, the findings underscore a need for more nuanced assessments of the female prison experience, and one that can account better for officer decision making patterns. The dissertation concludes with an overview of the findings, and a discussion of theory, research, and policy implications.