Coping, aggression, perceived social support and demographic variables as predictors of prison adjustment among male incarcerated offenders

Published date01 April 2024
AuthorCodi Rogers,Jacques Jordaan,Karel Esterhuyse
Date01 April 2024
Subject MatterArticles
Criminology & Criminal Justice
2024, Vol. 24(2) 339 –361
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/17488958221106610
Coping, aggression,
perceived social support and
demographic variables as
predictors of prison adjustment
among male incarcerated
Codi Rogers, Jacques Jordaan
and Karel Esterhuyse
University of the Free State, South Africa
The unique contextual attributes of the correctional environment and the frustrations, deprivations
and challenges associated with it impact adjustment to incarceration. Offenders who cannot
adjust to the correctional environment may experience behavioural and psychological challenges,
including institutional misconduct, violence, aggression, withdrawal, anger, hostility, anxiety and
depression. It is imperative to identify which variables are possible predictors of correctional
adjustment among male incarcerated offenders in a private, maximum-security correctional
centre in South Africa. In this quantitative study, 418 male maximum-security offenders were
sampled. Questionnaire data were collected, and the results indicated that the combination of
some variables (Friends, Avoidance and Problem-solving) predicted Internal Adjustment and
(Anger, Friends and Verbal Aggression) predicted External Adjustment of the offenders. The
results from this study could aid in the development of future programmes that assist offenders
with adjusting to the correctional environment.
Adjustment, age, aggression, coping, male offenders, offender type classification, perceived social
support, predictor variables, private maximum-security correctional centre, sentence length,
South Africa
Corresponding author:
Jacques Jordaan, Department of Psychology, University of the Free State, 205 Nelson Mandela Drive, Park
West, Bloemfontein 9301, South Africa.
1106610CRJ0010.1177/17488958221106610Criminology & Criminal JusticeRogers et al.
340 Criminology & Criminal Justice 24(2)
Each year, millions of offenders are incarcerated worldwide for their crimes (Agboola,
2016; Wagner and Rabuy, 2016; Wagner and Sawyer, 2018). Once incarcerated, offend-
ers in South African correctional centres are no longer considered free citizens (Rogers,
2019), and they are housed within strict, rigid and structured non-therapeutic environ-
ments (Jordaan, 2014). Many offenders experience incarceration as traumatic (DeVeaux,
2013; Muntingh, 2009a; Picken, 2012; Rogers, 2019; Wright, 1983). They are confronted
with the realisation of the loss of freedom, punitive conditions of confinement, adapting
to an often new and unfamiliar environment, separation from loved ones, and they expe-
rience countless fears relating to personal safety and victimisation (Blevins et al., 2010;
Carr, 2013; Casey et al., 2016; Crank, 2010; Delaney, 2019; DeVeaux, 2013; De Viggiani,
2007; Jordaan and Hesselink, 2022). These unique stressors can, in some instances, lead
to a deterioration in the mental health of incarcerated offenders (Asberg and Renk, 2012;
DeVeaux, 2013; Newhard, 2014; Picken, 2012).
Therefore, incarcerated offenders are expected to adjust to the correctional environ-
ment (Crank, 2010; Picken, 2012) as they may experience severe stress due to prevailing
personal and/or correctional conditions (Asberg and Renk, 2012; DeVeaux, 2013;
Peacock, 2008a; Picken, 2012; Tomar, 2013). While numerous studies highlight how
offenders adjust to incarceration, relatively few studies examine the variables that can be
used to predict correctional adjustment among male incarcerated offenders (Gonçalves,
2014), particularly in South African correctional centres (Hesselink and Booyens, 2014;
Hesselink and Grobler, 2015). As a result, variables predicting correctional adjustment
are significant to research from both an administrative and management perspective,
including the treatment of offenders while they are incarcerated and for subsequent
adjustment to being back in the community (Gonçalves, 2014).
The South African correctional context
In South Africa, the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) manages 243 correc-
tional centres (of which 235 are operationally active). Approximately 42,061 staff
members throughout South Africa manage these centres (Department of Correctional
Services (DCS), 2020). The DCS is responsible for classifying offenders, and this clas-
sification determines at which correctional centres the offenders are detained. There are
three categories of correctional centres in South Africa, namely (a) minimum-security,
(b) medium-security and (c) maximum-security (Neser, 1993). Offenders incarcerated
in maximum-security correctional centres are considered dangerous to society and a
major threat to themselves and others. Maximum-security correctional centres are
highly secured, and offenders’ movements, rights, associations and privileges are
strictly controlled and monitored under direct supervision (Matshaba, 2007; Neser,
1993). Furthermore, these incarcerated offenders are controlled stringently with little or
no autonomy, and they are counted frequently to ensure their presence (Matshaba,
2007). South Africa currently has two private correctional centres in operation, with
both being maximum-security correctional centres. Only offenders that receive a maxi-
mum-security classification are held in one of these two centres (Matshaba, 2007).

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