BACKGROUND: Research conducted with forensic psychiatric patients found moderate correlations between violence in institutions and psychopathy. It is unclear though, whether the PCL-R is an accurate instrument for predicting aggressive behavior in prisons. Results seem to indicate that the instrument is better suited for predicting verbal rather than physical aggression of prison inmates. METHODS: PCL-R scores were assessed for a sample of 113 imprisoned sex and violent offenders in Switzerland. Logistic regression analyses were used to estimate physical and verbal aggression as a function of the PCL-R sum score. Additionally, stratified analyses were conducted for Factor 1 and 2. Infractions were analyzed as to their motives and consequences. RESULTS: The mean score of the PCL-R was 12 points. Neither the relationship between physical aggression and the sum score of the PCL-R, nor the relationship between physical aggression and either of the two factors of the PCL-R were significant. Both the sum score and Factor 1 predicted the occurrence of verbal aggression (AUC=0.70 and 0.69), while Factor 2 did not. CONCLUSION: Possible explanations are discussed for the weak relationship between PCL-R scores and physically aggressive behavior during imprisonment. Some authors have discussed whether the low base rate of violent infractions can be considered an explanation for the non-significant relation between PCL-R-score and violence. The base rate in this study, however, with 27%, was not low. It is proposed that the distinction between reactive and instrumental motives of institutional violence must be considered when examining the usefulness of the PCL-R in predicting in-prison physical aggressive behavior.