Aids knowledge and risk perceptions among Pennsylvania prisoners

Sherwood E. Zimmerman, Randy Martin, David Vlahov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


As part of a preliminary study of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections AIDS Education Program, AIDS knowledge levels and perceptions of risk were assessed among 108 inmates from a medium-security prison, and the results were compared with AIDS knowledge levels in samples of Maryland inmates and males in the general U.S. population. The Pennsylvania inmates were quite knowledgeable about established routes of AIDS transmission. However, there was considerable confusion about unlikely routes of transmission and, especially, about behaviors involving casual contact. These findings were consistent across the three samples. The level of knowledge about casual contact was strongly associated with perceptions of the risk of contracting the AIDS virus while in prison; specifically, lower levels of knowledge were associated with greater perceptions of risk. In addition, based on inmates' rankings, it appears that the Department of Corrections was a frequent and trusted source of AIDS information, which strongly suggests the potential value of AIDS education programs in correctional settings. Finally, the data indicate that inmates continued to engage in high-risk behavior while incarcerated, further highlighting the need for effective AIDS education programs as well as other related interventions in corrections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-256
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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