Malingering in a correctional setting: The use of the structured interview of reported symptoms in a jail sample

Barbara E McDermott, Gregory Sokolov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The ability to detect malingering in the correctional setting is of paramount importance. The burgeoning jail and prison population combined with statutory requirements for the provision of mental health treatment require that only those most in need receive these services. Several structured assessments have been developed to assist in the identification of individuals more likely to be feigning psychiatric symptoms. Prior to the development of these specialized assessments, subscales of standard psychological tests were used as an indicator of assessment attitudes, for both malingering and other dissimulation. At the Sacramento County (CA) Jail, the Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS) is routinely administered when clinicians feel there is a possibility that an inmate receiving psychiatric services may be feigning or exaggerating his/ her symptoms. Our study examined data from these evaluations of inmates in conjunction with other clinical data (e.g., psychiatric diagnosis, educational level) to determine those factors most associated with malingering in jail inmates. Our results indicate that the prevalence of malingering in our sample was quite high: over 66% were found to be malingering based on the scoring criteria for the SIRS. Inmates diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder were nomorelikely to feign symptomsthan inmates without this diagnosis. Inmates designated as malingering in their charts were no more likely to be found malingering on the SIRS, suggesting that they may have adopted an effective strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-765
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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