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Prison Clinicians' Perceptions of Antisocial Personality Disorder as a Formal Diagnosis

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 20 Issue: 3-4 Dated: (1994) Pages: 159-186
G F Stevens
Date Published
28 pages
A survey and subsequent interviews with clinicians who work with prison inmates examined how, when, and why the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder is used.
The use of this diagnosis among offenders is controversial, because the criteria seem to distinguish offenders from nonoffenders. The diagnosis is also the only nomenclature available to clinicians to designate someone as a psychopath, because psychopathy is not an official diagnosis. The participants in the survey were 15 psychiatrists, 24 psychologists, and 14 psychiatric social workers with positions in the New York prison system or at a New York institution for mentally ill inmates. Seventy percent of the participants had at least 10 years of experience in the mental health field. Fifteen of the participants were also interviewed in the summer of 1988. The results generally indicated that these clinicians use the diagnosis antisocial personality disorder liberally among inmates they diagnose and that they feel that the majority of inmates could be so diagnoses. On the other hand, a large minority of the clinicians report that they do not rely entirely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria to diagnose an inmate antisocial personality. These clinicians indicate that they often look for characteristics more closely associated with the concept of psychopathy. The majority of clinicians also report that these inmates are more disruptive in prison and more likely to recidivate than other inmates. In addition, they are considered manipulative and difficult to treat. Tables and 18 references (Author abstract modified)