Acting Out examines the prison careers of the most problematic group of inmates-those who appear to sabotage their own rehabilitation by repeated displays of violence, disruptiveness, or otherwise self-defeating behavior. A particular challenge with these prisoners is determining the extent to which their problem behavior is a result of mental illness, as opposed to purely "characterological" defects. Author Hans Toch calls this the "bad versus mad" distinction. Clearly, these two alternatives demand different kinds of responses by prison staff, yet they are often hard to disentangle.
As in his previous books focusing on the criminal justice system, Hans Toch brings his subject alive by unearthing rich source material. Here, he uses disciplinary records and mental health exams to reconstruct the careers of chronic offenders. His ability to find common threads in their behavior results in a fascinating analysis of the events that precipitate the prisoners' "acting out." Furthermore, his research findings inform a model intervention that holds real promise for disrupting the cycle of self-defeating and maladaptive behaviors. "Acting Out" is a newly revised edition of Toch's earlier work "Coping" and is essential reading for all who are interested in the rehabilitation of chronic recidivists.