Final Notes

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16 Apr 2012
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Week Seven Lecture: Prison Social Structure
Subculture: system of beliefs/values that exist in specific group, part of wider society
- Professional, ethnic, criminal
- Endless breakdown in smaller subcultures
- Sets of informal rules, but does not mean these people don’t share larger common
values
- Hard to conduct studies with current prison system, interviews now conducted
retrospectively
The Inmate Code: set of rules in prison subculture (can either separate or divide inmates)
- Mind your own business, do your own time
- Show respect, strength, courage, don’t ask don’t tell
- Inmate roles identified
- Square-john (not previously involved in crime), right guy (was involved), wolf (sexual
predator), rat (snitch), peddler (sells contraband), tough (prey on others)
- Many financial transactions occur from the outside, peddlers make more money in
prison due to the upgraded value
Subcultures Why?
- Nature of human behaviour, natural formation of groups
- Deprivation model: prison subculture exists because of the pains of imprisonment
- Nature of prisons themselves has produced unique human response
- Loss of liberty, security, heterosexual relations (problems in women’s prisons
coercion by guards), little access to goods & family
- Acclimation, cannot adapt outside of prison system
- Evidence: inmate innovation (weapons, alcohol, underground economy), hetero
vs. homosexuality (not sexual but form of dominance), substance abuse (like
soldiers), gang formation (protection & dominate economy), institutional
differences
- Wheeler effect: new inmates had conventional values however adherence to
values of inmate code developed overtime as a form of survival, nearing end of
sentence conventional values resumed
- Importation model: values are imported from the streets
- Different types of inmates with different backgrounds held different values
- How you adapt is based on who you were outside of prison, if prison system
created code then all inmate behaviour would be uniform
- Evidence: previous criminal history patterns (personality traits continuing into
prison), gender differences (less female violence more verbal bullying, male
hierarchy), age differences (parallel to values of wider society)
- What happens on the inside influences what happens on the outside
- Need for integration, must acknowledge influence of prison system in combination with
individual traits
Benefits: reason for subculture is because it serves purposes
- Survival, eases the pain, and reduces mental health issues
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- Correctional officers keep control by giving privileges (gain confidence)
Consequences: prison violence, substance abuse, hurts rehab, corruption of prison
officials
- Substance abuse is several times higher within prison
Contraband: friends and family (sometimes threats), lawyers (face-to-face interaction that
is allowed), guards (form of control, low pay, fear, can’t snitch on other guards [won’t
have your back]), random drops
Subculture change: harder to document now because of lack of access researchers get
(evaluation of job a fear, criticism)
- Greater racial segregation (Arian nation recruits within prison, white inmates are the
minority and feel compelled to join for protection)
- Younger people show less respect to older peers than in the past, some want to go in
order to gain street cred.
- Less inmate solidarity (inmates used to join forces to fight for rights from all
backgrounds) also due to technology (television)
General inmate profile: male, young, single parent, etc.
- Increasing elderly with highest rates of suicide
Mortification: free citizens into inmates
Status degradation ceremonies: psychological and material stripping (no restoration)
Pains of imprisonment: loss of liberty, access to goods, heterosexual relations, autonomy
and security
Prisonization: inmates become socialized into norms, can turn into institutionalization
whereby inmates cannot function on the outside
Mature coping: dealing with problems in a mature way, avoiding deception and violence,
being altruistic (not only commitment but capacity to change as well)
Lifers: loss of freedom and contact with family, Life Line In-Reach helps effectively
manage time and prepare for possible parole
- Duration unrelated to changes in attitude (positive or negative)
- State-raised offender especially need assistance
Expressive violence: neither planned nor deliberate
Instrumental violence: means to an end
- Level of violence depends on conditions, COs, overcrowding and competition
Passive precautions: keeping to oneself and avoiding certain areas (long sentences and
victimized in the past)
Aggressive precautions: tough attitude and physique (younger inmates)
Family dynamics: similar to loss of parent, lock-up of mother worse
Suicide: most common death followed by homicide and accidents, young or elderly,
alcoholics, history of behavior and mental illness
- Primary suicide prevention efforts: address institutional factors
- Secondary prevention: individual inmates at risk
Week Eight: Working in Corrections
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