Addressed Prisoner Power And Survival Criminology Essay

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The literature on gender differentiation suggests that women and men distinguish and take action to the world in dissimilar ways. One dissimilarity may be that women personalize interactions and events. We have by now noted how relationships of female inmates with additional inmates and staff are likely to be more private and to have more emotional components than those of males. The officers also recommended that female inmates take the reality of imprisonment more "personally" than males. This response seems to happen in response to disciplinary hearings and to officers giving instructions and reprimands. Officers state that women "take things to heart" more than do males, which is an additional way of saying that similar event impacts more harshly on the women. Women may not be capable of isolating themselves from the shock of stress in the way that most men obviously can (or apparently can).

An point of reference of women towards person more willingly than issue is somewhat implied by the supposed focus of women's demands and grievances. An insight that women are more self-centered than men may be somewhat due to diverse care concerns of men and women. While women do look as if to stick up for each other and be worried for each other, this anxiety was focused on private matters and took place impulsively, while males were more often occupied in enterprises which were issue-oriented, premeditated, and organized.

To discover the causes of such apparent differences between male and female prisoners, it may be helpful to exploit the well- worn model of deficiency and importation. As we know from many preceding studies, deprivation is the amount of problems posed by the establishment or the incarceration know-how which are thought to bring on specific adaptations or responses; introduction refers to dissimilar dispositions brought in from the exterior by the inmates which have an effect on their adaptation or response to the prison setting. 12

Importation factors would comprise sex differences and the demographic disparities of men and women inmates. Sex distinctions, as discussed earlier, may be biological, products of singular socialization patterns, or a mixture of the two. Officers recognize a lot of sex differences (with no regard to causation) among male and female inmates. The experimental differences consist of more open and impulsive displays of emotion and a more tailored advance to daily events and connections. These "imported" dissimilarities, if they subsist may have a say to the difficulty officers come across when supervising women. For example, officers explain a situation in which both men and women may be disturbed about lack of movies, but women would be inclined to be more vocal and louder, and independently complain to anyone who is available, from the officer to the manager. Men, in contrast, might complain, but be less probable to spontaneously protest and more likely to go through conduitz, utilizing organized forms of resistance.

A different importation effect may speak about to demographic differences connecting groups of men and women. Generally, women inmates typically are older than the male inmate populace. In addition women are likely to have less extensive institutional knowledge than males. In one representative state women had a smaller amount extensive institutional experience (28% of incarcerated women had no previous criminal documentation as compared to 11% of men; and 55% of the males had previous institutional experience as compared to only 26% of the women). In addition, in this state on the average, incarcerated women were older than the imprisoned male populace. Absence of institutional experience may be one motive why women have more [problems following prison rules. Officers stated that men appeared to be more "institutionalized" than women. The insight of some officers that women's behavior was comparable to that of young males tends to hold up the idea that preceding levels of institutionalization of men and women may be a fractional motive for the different behavior outlines that the officers experienced.

Deprivation factors would comprise institutional boundaries and the kind of supervision acknowledged. Yet again, gender-related differences in the inmates' insight of the institutional experience would be significant. We remember that the total prison knowledge is supposed to be more difficult for women than for men. Living conditions, orders, division from family--everything merges to make the skill more shocking. This awareness seems to be held in regular by both women inmates and officers. Whether it is actually true is durable to say. Ward and Kassebaum and Giallombardo grappled with the issue of whether prison was more of a deprivation for men or women, and both studies came to the conclusion that different aspects of imprisonment composed the deprivation understanding for the two sexes. 14

We have celebrated that institutions for women fall further down the action end of the treatment-custody range. The physical capability may be a lesser amount harsh, the population lesser, and individualized concentration seems to be normal. In such settings, inmate subcultural customs tend to break down, particularly the norms against interaction with staff or against individual involvements in the midst of inmates. Since very marked differences were experienced by the officers, it might be that the type of institution is a dangerous variable of which the officers are comparatively unaware. Some proof of the institution's influence on performance is found in the meetings with co-correctional officers, who were inclined to see less extreme behavioral differences among men and women inmates. Co-correctional officers were not as likely than officers in single-sex facilities to consider that women were harder to oversee or that there were distinctions in supervising them.

Do officers in co-correctional institutions precisely recognize less extreme differences among male and female inmates? Or does the co-correctional organization, by its very environment, demand similar action and supervision of men and women inmates, which, consecutively, elicit similar behavior? The consequence that the type of establishment has on behavior is not obvious, but management and administration style do seem to be factors one ought to add to the effect of significant sex differences.

One characteristic of institutional differences entails the conduct of inmates by officers. In the women's establishment, there seems to be more staff-inmate connection, 15 which may avoid inmate solidarity and subcultural norms, but may also be inclined to disturb the smooth operation of the facility, for the reason that authority is damaged by lessening the social distance between inmates and officers. The grounds for this style of supervision is more probable to be experienced in women's facilities is partly owing to the larger number of female correctional officers there who support this style of supervision, but also an insight by both male and female officers that women are more in necessity of nurturance and individual support.

As with the insight that females find prison more difficult to bear, the awareness that females have to to be taken care of with more individualized awareness, with more hold up and leniency, is mutual by officers and prisoners equally. At least this comes into view as a case from the officers' descriptions of the inmates' behaviors and burdens. Communal stereotypes of women being "softer" and "more moving" seem to be common by prison staff and undoubtedly influence their response to women in prison. It is also accurate that staffs who sense that "prison is no position for a lady" may believe actions which would be intolerable to them from men.


It appears that the majority of prisoner subcultural research supports a deprivational or functional theory as the basis for prisoner assimilation .32 Yet Irwin and Cressey raised a theoretical challenge--importation theory--to the deprivation model. 33 They, followed by Jacobs, 34 argued that prisoner behavior is predominantly influenced by preprison variables. Further, Thomas has attempted to clarify the importation-deprivation debate by suggesting that preprison, prison- specific, and extraprison variables are all equally important influences in the prisoner assimilation process. 35 Unfortunately, the deprivation, importation, and Thomas all-inclusion models are not helpful in explaining prisoner assimilation into a religious fellowship, a self-help group, or a gang at CIM.

The present author proposes situational expectancy theory (SET) to explain prisoner assimilation at CIM and in general. SET is based on an explanatory model combining sociological, structural, and cognitive variables or influences. Prisoners and staff who had served time--as convict or employee--in minimum or maximum California state institutions consistently reported distinctly different social experiences between the CIM and their other institutions. They reported that CIM was more relaxed, allowed more individuality, and had fewer conflicts and almost no homicides. As one prisoner suggested:

This place is for the birds. People walk around here like it's a damn country club. You get no respect from the police [staff], and the prisoners don't really know what's going on--it's too relaxed.

He and others, especially new arrivals from northern California prisons--Soledad, San Quentin, and Folsom--seem to object to the nonchalant attitude which was ostensibly present at CIM. Similarly, a newly transferred staff member complained:

This is not a prison. Prisoners run wild and get their way. Staff are not protected; the rules are vague or non-existent; and you never know what to expect . . . it's not like up north where everything is as tight as a drum.

It's as though they had a fixed cognitive map and rule book that did not fit the CIM situation. More important was an observation of a high level staff member who corrected a new staff member. The new staff member argued with a prisoner in the dining hall for taking two pieces of meat instead of one; the high level staff member said:

You don't do things like that around here [ CIM]. You could have started a riot or something. When an inmate breaks a rule at CIM and he is in the company of other prisoners it is best to let him go. Later with the aid of other officers and when the prisoner is alone or you can call him up to the control booth; then you can write him up or lock him up.

It appears that the high staff is communicating the CIM strategy. He is sharing with the officer the psychological expectations of the staff and prisoners at his institution; that is, things are handled with caution, sophistication and common sense at CIM. Not so surprisingly, most prisoners also thought this way. As one prisoner reported:

The other day I caught a dude walking out of my house [cell]. I jammed him up [confronted him aggressively] and he backed down and explained that he had made a mistake and went in the wrong house. I was confronted by some of my partners [recently transferred from up north] and they suggested that I stick [stab] the dude. I explained to them that you don't stick people at CIM like up north. This is a give and take thing here.

Normally the rule for uninvited visitors or thiefs at a penal institution is "where you catch'em you leave em"--that is, they should be seriously injured or dead. It seems that when there is a conflict between prisoners at CIM they're expected to talk it out; it is not seen as being weak or passive to do otherwise. It is as though the prisoner and staff code at CIM is centered around using verbal skill and psychology to handle problems or achieve goals. Thus it is the interaction of the situational variable ( CIM versus up north) and the cognitive variable (prisoner and staff code or psychological expectancy) that influence prisoner and staff behavior--not prison deprivations or imported preprison behavior. Further, it was discovered that if prisoners or staff could not adapt to the CIM environment, they were soon transferred to a different institution.

Prisoners and staff at CIM, and most likely other prisons, assimilate through a trial-and-error process; that is, due to the situational and psychological expectancy interaction, the prisoners learn that their universal needs are best met when they conform to the rules established and communicated in the prison-staff social network. Just as the new officer learns from his superior, the prisoners learn from their peers. The rules or code as well as the universal needs are learned and transmitted in an intimate social or group setting; this process is best explained by Sutherland and Cressey differential association theory. 36 Also, because of the potential of violence or ostracism if a prisoner violates the prison code, the need for clear and accurate information becomes even more crucial. The options for prisoner assimilation lie in the religious fellowship, self-help group, or gang. However, as stated earlier, only the gang is truly capable of providing the rules and the back-up for survival, and only the gang can withstand error or mistakes.

It appears that the key actors in the prison staff social network run the prison, because they are both well-informed on the prisoner and staff code and on the general psychological expectancies that govern the prison environment. In this sense, crucial information is circulated within the prisoner social network, and access to this information requires some form of group affiliation. From this perspective, prisoner assimilation is an attempt to satisfy the universal needs; prisoner power and survival are contingent upon a prisoner's ability to assimilate and adapt to the norm of the prison environment. The choice between a religious fellowship, self-help group, or gang may be based partially on the prisoner's preference or his preprison group or organizational affiliation. In this light, ethnic affiliation before incarceration is likely to influence ethnic affiliation within the prison environment.

At a minimum institution like CIM, prisoners and self-help groups are appropriate mechanisms or vehicles to facilitate the assimilation process. Because of the varied institutional resources and potential for contact with the community, administrative actors and key men are very important in a minimum institution; tact, articulation, and knowledge of administration politics are the primary media for achieving institutional and group goals. In contrast, in a maximum- security institution, physical aggression and coercion are the media for achieving prisoner goals: the psychological expectation in the prisoner-staff code is based on dominance. In this type of environment prisoners learn to comply or act aggressively. As one prisoner suggests: "Up north if there is a conflict, big or small, somebody is going to get hurt . . . there is no compromise." In summary, SET explains prisoner assimilation as an attempt to satisfy his universal needs. Assimilation is best facilitated through group affiliation or by access to crucial information transmitted by key men and the administrative factors in the group's social network. Hefice prisoners learn the psychological expectancies and assimilate in a process of differential association.


In conclusion, the paper has addressed prisoner power and survival in a minimum correctional institution. Power is the ability of a prisoner to influence his environment. Survival is based on a prisoner's ability to satisfy his universal needs (safety, friendship, freedom, goods and services). Because of its psychological and physical deprivations, its coercive compliance structure, and its vulnerability to violence, the prison environment virtually forces a prisoner to seek power and survival mechanisms. Prisoners entering the prison soon learn that power and survival is in friendship or group affiliations. This occurs because there is in prison no such thing as an individual existence. The prison environment prohibits privacy and social distancing. Prisoners must interact and rely on other prisoners and staff to function and exist.

The solution for the prisoner, like it or not, is socialization and assimilation into the prison environment. It is likely that the assimilation reduces psychological stress, helping the prisoner to relax and to develop a cognitive strategy for coping with his new environment. It should not be strange that those prisoners who mostly come from homogeneous ethnic communities identify with prisoner's organizations and administrators of a similar ethnic background. This was especially true in the prisoner-staff or group-administrator relationship in the prison social network at CIM. In this case we should recognize the sociometric relationship, not as a negative aspect of racial stratification but, rather, as a congenial pattern of social relationships which aids prisoner assimilation and survival in a strange, hostile, and potentially violent setting. Subsequently, prison administrators should make use of the naturally occurring process of assimilation which is facilitated equally by religious fellowships, self-help groups and gangs. All groups should be treated equally fairly and be given the resources and opportunities to contribute constructively to the prison community. The point is that prisoner mechanisms of assimilation are not supported by most prison administrators and especially custodian-oriented prison staff. This attitude is counterproductive for the prisoner and society, considering the services provided by prisoner groups at CIM and many other institutions.

Historically speaking, the American prison has failed in its attempt to provide treatment or rehabilitation for prisoners; yet, the prisoner groups have been successful in providing universal needs, skills and training, and vital community resources and contacts for themselves. The successful prisoner groups and leaders provide modeling and experience for prisoners by demonstrating productive prisoner-prisoner interaction, prisoner-staff interaction and prisoner-free community interaction. This experience is unprecedented in any prison administration-initiated program. Under proper supervision, prisoners should be allowed to form organizations and govern their own activities. Prisoner groups should be given resources, meeting spaces, permanent sponsors with whom they can identify (ethnically, religiously, educationally, and so on), assistance and freedom to make community contacts and to have community people or organizations visit their meetings, teach classes, and counsel, and so on; they should be allowed, when possible, to represent their group or interact with their community counter- part in the free community.

Similarly, the prison gang should be recognized for its productive contributions to prisoner power and survival, although its crimes of murder cannot be condoned by the state. The gang is sometimes violent, involved in vice and corruption, but provides more protection, safety and freedom for prisoners than any other prisoner group affiliation. We must admit that the prison staff are often incapable of protecting themselves or their captives. Also, considering the current prisoner-staff ratio, staff members, like free community police, can only respond to a crime or violent act after it has been committed. On the other hand, the prison gang provides a 24-hour service and is aware of most prison crime and criminals; they also have a sure way to deal with the perpetuators of crime or prisoners who violate the prison code. Can they be made less lethal?

It was discovered in the present research that many self-help group leaders were former gang leaders or members in their northern maximum-security institutions. It appears that in an environment like CIM, where the psychological expectancy and the prisoner-staff code emphasizes verbal articulation, mental psychology, and administration politics to achieve group goals and universal needs, the gang member sublimates his energy into religious and self-help group activities. If SET can be tested, we may find that institutional violence can be curbed by altering the prisoner-staff psychological expectancy. This is clearly the next step which should be followed from the present research: Can we alter the psychological expectancy of a prison, and second, will this alter the social behavior of the prisoner and the staff?

Last, we must realize that allowing prisoner self-help groups to develop and achieving social justice in prison will only solve the internal prison problem. The society which disproportionately arrests, convicts, and imprisons its Bilalian, minority, and poor population is unjust. The conditions and social circumstances which produce unemployment, poverty, and "criminal behavior" --which is survival behavior for many--must be addressed and changed. The prison and criminal justice system are intricately linked to persistent racial, economic, and social injustices deeply rooted in American society. Thus the prisoners' struggle for social justice is tantamount to the free citizens' struggle for social justice.