The Inmate World: Living Behind Bars
1. Profile state inmate populations.
2. Explain what inmate subculture is.
3. Distinguish among deprivation theory, importation theory, and the integration model as they explain the development of inmate subculture.
4. Know what is meant by the prison code, and be able to list some elements of the prison code.
5. Explain what is meant by prison argot.
6. List some common roles that male inmates assume.
7. Describe some major differences between womenís and menís prisons.
8. Compare some of the characteristics of female inmates with those of male inmates.
9. Explain how the social structure in womenís prisons differs from that in menís prisons.
Men in Prison
What is the Inmate Subculture?
∑ A general inmate subculture that characterizes the lives of inmates in prisons nationwide.
∑ Prisonization if the process by which inmates adapt to prison society, taking on the values and beliefs of the prison culture.
∑ Inmate subculture will vary from institution to institution.
How Does an Inmate Subculture Form?
∑ Deprivation theory suggests that the subculture forms in response to the deprivations in prison life.
∑ Importation theory suggests that inmates bring the subculture with them from the outside world.
Norms and Values of Prison Society
∑ Prison code:
o Donít interfere with the interests of other inmates.
o Donít lose your head.
o Donít exploit other inmates.
o Donít whine.
o Donít be a sucker.
Prison ArgotóThe Language of Confinement
∑ Prison argot originated partly as a form of secret communication.
∑ A special language of the inmate subculture.
Social Structure in Menís Prisons
∑ There are a hierarchy of positions within the prison.
∑ There are specific social roles that some inmates assume or are forced into.
∑ Inmates roles are prison lifestyles or forms of ongoing social accommodation to prison life.
o The real man.
o The mean dude.
o The bully.
o The agitator.
o The hedonist.
o The opportunist.
o The retreatist.
o The legalist.
o The radical.
o The colonist.
o The religious inmate.
o The punk.
Sexuality in Menís Prisons
∑ Violence and victimization occur in menís prisons and a good deal of prison violence has sexual overtones.
∑ Men are heterosexual inmates who feel compelled to engage in homosexual behavior by the conditions of confinement.
∑ Punks are owned by powerful inmates.
∑ The most powerful men in prison society will own the most desirable punks.
∑ Targets tend to be physically slight, young, white, nonviolent offenders from nonurban areas.
∑ The typical incident of sexual aggression is carried out by a group.
Women in Prison
Characteristics of Women Inmates
∑ The female prison population has grown 42 percent since 1995 but it still makes up only 6.8 percent of the nationís inmates.
∑ Female inmates largely resemble male prisoners in race, ethnic background, and age.
∑ They are more likely to be serving time for a drug offense and less likely to have been sentenced for a violent crime.
∑ Usually have shorter records than male inmates and have shorter maximum sentences than men.
Offenses of Incarcerated Women
∑ Drug use and abuse, or crimes stimulated by the desire for drugs and drug money, are what send most women to prison.
Social Structure in Womenís Prisons
∑ Very different than that of menís prisons, but little research has been done on the social structure of womenís facilities.
o The cool inmate.
o The square inmate.
o The life inmate.
∑ Two features that distinguish womenís prisons from menís prisons:
o A greater emphasis on homosexual relations as a mode of adaptation to prison life.
o The mode of adaptation a female inmate selects is best assessed by studying the inmateís preinstitutional experiences.
Pseudofamilies and Sexual Liaisons
∑ The female inmates will often develop familylike relationships with other inmates where they assume roles as husband and wife, children, and other members.
∑ The social and behavioral patterns of family relationships in prison mirror their traditional counterparts in the community.
Special Needs of Female Inmates
∑ Gender-responsive programming is needed to strengthen policies against staff sexual misconduct in institutions that house women, provide more safe and nurturing drug treatment programs, and help inmate mothers to maintain strong relationship with their children.
∑ Gender specific training is vital for correctional officers who work in womenís prisons.
∑ It is important to realize that a womanís children are usually very important to her and that many imprisoned women have children on the outside that they were the primary care givers to prior to incarceration.
Mothers in Prison
∑ Over 5 percent of women are pregnant at the time of incarceration.
∑ An estimated 3,000 women prisoners give birth each year.
∑ More than three-quarters of all women in prison in have young children.
∑ Grandparents are the most common caregivers for the children while the mothers are in prison.
∑ Many programs have been developed to help the inmate mothers maintain strong relationships with their children while incarcerated.
∑ Cocorrections has been cited as a potential solution to a wide variety of corrections problems.
∑ Rationales in support of these institutions are:
o Reduces the dehumanizing and destructive aspects of incarceration by permitting heterosocial relationships.
o Reduces problems of institutional control.
o Creates a more normal atmosphere.
o Allows positive heterosocial skills to emerge.
o Cushions the shock of release.
o Increases the number of program offerings and improves program access for all prisoners.
o Expands career opportunities for women.
Most state inmates are male, belong to racial or ethnic minority groups, are relatively young, and have been incarcerated for a violent offense.
Prison inmates live their daily lives in accordance with the dictates of the inmate subculture. The inmate subculture consists of the customs and beliefs of those incarcerated in correctional institutions.
Deprivation theory holds that prisoner subcultures develop in response to the pains of imprisonment. Importation theory claims that inmate subcultures are brought into prisons form the outside world. A more realistic approach might be the integration model, which uses both theories to explain prisoner subcultures.
An important aspect of the male inmate subculture is the prison code. The prison code is a set of norms for the behavior of inmates. Central elements of the code include notions of loyalty (to prison society), control of anger, toughness, and distrust of prison officials. Because the prison code is a part of the inmate subculture, it is mostly opposed to official policies.
The inmate subculture also has its own language, called prison argot. Examples of prison argot are ďfishĒ (a new inmate), ďcellieĒ (cell mate), and ďhomeboyĒ (a prisoner form oneís hometown).
Inmate roles are different prison lifestyle choices. They include the real man, the mean dude, the bully, the agitator, the opportunist, the retreatist, the legalist, and the punk.
There are far fewer womenís prisons than menís in the United States. Womenís prisons often have no gun towers or armed guards and no stone walls or fences topped by barbed wire. They tend to be more attractive and are often built on a cottage plan. Security in most womenís prisons is more relaxed than in institutions for men, and female inmates may have more freedom within the institution than do their male counterparts in their institutions. Other gender-based disparities favoring male prisoners exist. A lack of funding and inadequate training have been cited to explain why programs available to women inmates are often not on a par with those available to male prisoners.
Female prisoners largely resemble male prisoners in race, ethnic background, and age. However, they are substantially more likely to be serving time for drug offenses and less likely to have been sentenced for violent crimes.
While there are many similarities between menís and womenís prisons, the social structure and the subcultural norms and expectations of womenís prisons differ from those of menís prisons in a number of important ways. One important difference is that the prisoner subculture in a womenís prison tends to encourage relationships rather than isolation. As a consequence, pseudofamilies arise, with fully developed familial relationships and roles.
Total institution: A place where the same people work, play, eat, sleep, and recreate together on a continuous basis. The term was developed by the sociologist Erving Goffman to describe prisons and other similar facilities.
Inmate subculture: The habits, customs, mores, values, beliefs, or superstitions of the body of inmates incarcerated in correctional institutions; also, the inmate social world.
Prisonization: The process by which inmates adapt to prison society; the taking on of the ways, mores, customs, and general culture of the penitentiary.
Pains of imprisonment: Major problems that inmates face, such as loss of liberty and personal autonomy, lack of material possessions, loss of heterosexual relationships, and reduced personal security.
Deprivation Theory: The belief that inmate subcultures develop a in response to the deprivations in prison life.
Importation theory: The belief that inmate subcultures are brought into prisons from the outside world.
Integration model: A combination of importation theory and deprivation theory. The belief that, in childhood, some inmates acquired, usually from peers, values that support law-violating behavior but that the norms and standards in prisons also affect inmates.
Prison code: A set of norms and values among prison inmates. It is generally antagonistic to the official administration and rehabilitation programs of the prison.
Prison argot: The special language of the inmate subculture.
Inmate roles: Prison lifestyles; also, forms of ongoing social accommodation to prison life.
Pseudofamilies: Familylike structures, common in womenís prisons, in which inmates assume roles similar to those of family members in free society.
Coed prison: A prison housing both female and male offenders.
Cocorrections: The incarceration and interaction of female and male offenders under a single institutional administration.