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Prison Subculture Kate's fourth lecture of the Winter Semester 2011: Prison Subculture It includes... Prison Life (Normative culture, prisonization) Inmate Code (Sykes) Informal Rules of Social Control (Cooley) Sykes Deprivation Model

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University of Ottawa
Kate Fletcher

Criminal Culture or Penal Adaptation? The Existence of a Prisoner Subculture Tuesday, February 1, 2011 Are ppl importing the preexisting criminal values they have on the outside, into prison? OR is the criminal subculture an adaptation to the pains of being imprisoned? Culture studies Diff btw cultures and the subcultures with subcultures within it are the sets of ideas Subcultures take the ideas from the culture and alter them in some way Cultures are defined by a value system Subculture: “takes its norms from the larger culture, but turns them upside down” Prison Life Normative culture: official rules, standards enforced within prison The norms values, belief system that facilitate the operation of the prison itself Standards we feel ppl should be abiding by How we feel the institution should be run Prison subculture: indep values, lifestyles, expectations, language Both work simultaneously and govern behavior of those residing or working within that place Prisonization – socialized into the subculture Many say that high levels of prisonization, leads to recidivism You become so used to that way of life that it becomes difficult Affected by: Age: you went in and come out Length of sentence # of stays: each time you go back in you have to adjust each time Attachment to outside: social ties; if loving outside life, try not to get involved in prison subculture Inmate Code Sykes (’58), Sykes & Messinger (’70) Provides prisoners with sense of cohesion, solidarity, and a front against the institution – that’s why it develops The Code of Behavior of the Subculture Don’t interfere with interests of others: (most important) don’t rat Don’t lose your head: remain emotionally invulnerable – allows cohesion in group Don’t exploit inmates: don’t rip them of Don’t weaken: want to be invulnerable; maintain autonomy Don’t be a sucker Informal Rules of Social Control Cooley (’92): Less formal rules than Sykes When you went inside you figure them out quickly cuz they help everyone get along Do your own time: mind your own business; don’t ask questions, go about day/time Avoid the prison economy: high interest rates and potential to get hurt Don’t trust anyone Show respect: Hierarchy Informal rules that allow the subculture to maintain social control Argot Prisoner jargon Fish: the new guy (fish outta water; shows your vulnerability, sink or swim?) Merchant/Peddler: entrepreneurial prisoners; have goods Gorilla: has sexual overtone; ppl who will coerce sex from other prisoners by offering goods or by force Tough: tought guys; more willing to use physical violence Why Prison Subculture? Because ppl doing time are adapting to the deprivations of being locked up They need it; it will allow them to fcn Mirrors values, roles, beliefs, inclinations they ho
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