SOC229 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Cabaret Balkan, Anomie, Wage Labour

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January 19, 2016
Theories of Prison Riots
To provide an overview of each theory
To critically analyse each theory
Apply to prison riots
The powder keg theory
Merton’s anomie
Durkheim’s anomie
The powder keg theory –
Theoretical analogy to explain riot
Kegs store explosive powder
Prison environments are explosive
Oppressive conditions lead to ‘spark’
Prisons are like this – spark meaning riot. Oppression meaning – lack of rec time, being sent off
The critique of powder key theory
Prison conditions are improved over 50 years
In theory, riots should cease
Rehabilitation periods of 60s – increase in riots despite improvements
Work release conjugal visits, temporary absences, wage labor, educational program.
(In theory riots would decrease, cuz better condition)
A second critique
Theory would imply that older institutions would see more riots than newer facilities
Older institutions have tougher conditions but riots rarely occur
Therefore bad prison conditions are not the sole factor contributor to riots
Third critique
Over predicts number of riots that should occur
Oppressive conditions and volatility are constant – riots rarely occur
Concluding remarks
Theory is limited
Necessary but not sufficient explanation
Starting point of theorization of riots
Oppression, angry prisoners, criminals as basis of riots.
Robert Mertons theory of Anomie (strain) – (sociological theory used once to apply to why
riots occur)
1938 ‘Social structure and Anomie’
Explain distribution of crime amongst poor
Western society stresses wealth and conformity work
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