The Effect of Facility Security Classification on Serious Rules Violation Reports in California Prisons: A Regression Discontinuity Design

  • Sarah TahamontEmail author
Original Paper



Prison facility security classification is intended to recognize differences across inmates with regard to the propensity to commit misconduct and to appropriately house inmates with varying levels of violent and/or antisocial behavior while they are incarcerated. The intent of security classification is to increase safety for staff and other inmates, but little is known about the effect of security classification on prison misconduct.


Using administrative records of roughly 60,000 inmates in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), this study attempts to identify the relationship between security classification and rules violation reports using a regression discontinuity design.


Results indicate that inmates placed in Level II (medium security) prisons are approximately 11 percentage points more likely to be written up than inmates placed in Level III (close security) prisons, and that the difference is driven almost entirely by a higher likelihood of write ups for the lowest level offenses like bartering and gambling. In contrast to prior work, this study does not detect an effect of Level IV (maximum security) prisons on rules violation reports.


The fuzzy regression discontinuity design allows for a rigorous way to estimate the causal effect of facility security classification on rules violation reports in California prisons, providing an evidence base for policy-makers facing capacity constraints within the prison system while at the same time updating the extant literature on the effects of an important feature of prison structure on inmate outcomes.


Corrections Prison misconduct Administrative data Regression discontinuity 


Supplementary material

10940_2019_9405_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (836 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 836 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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