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Prison Culture & Inmate Life

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1 Prison Culture & Inmate Life
Mr. Concannon Smith Unit 5

2 Prison Culture Prison cultures are unique because prisons are total institutions The culture encompasses every aspect of an inmate’s life Prisoners cannot leave the institution or have meaningful interactions with outside communities All prisoners are required to follow the schedule in exactly the same manner every aspect of daily life is arranged by someone else (zero autonomy in a social sense)

3 Prison Hierarchy Inmates develop their own language (argot/jargon)
Inmates create their own economy in the absence of money (which can buy goods for trade) Food, contraband, sexual favors etc… Inmates establish methods of determining power and their own social world According to most academic reports the list looks something like this: High minded robbery (heist/financial)  drug offenses  murder  petty theft  assault (domestic)  rape/incest offenses  pedophiles and snitches  law enforcement

4 Innovative Economy

5 2. Instant Coffee Cost $3.35 per 4-ounce bag Limit 3 per week Use Getting buzzed cheaply. Value Prisons just say no to drugs, so caffeine is the licit stimulant of choice. 3. Postage Stamps Cost $8.80 for 20 stamps Limit 3 books per week Use Paying off large gambling debts or buying protection quickly. Value High price-to-size ratio; easy to conceal. Without access, snail mail is king. 4. Combination Lock Cost $6.50 and up Limit 1 Use Keeping stuff secure. Plus, you can put it inside a sock to make a weapon. Value Let’s just say it’s worth a heck of a lot more than a pack of cigarettes if someone needs one in a pinch.


7 How many “macks” is that?

8 Required Reading?


10 Free Write: Reflection
What do you think about the prison economy? Do you think there is a solution to the underground market for things? What are your thoughts on the “Fresh Out Series: Prison Talk Channel on YouTube” and the survival guides? How does the existence of these videos and publications effect/impact this problem within prisons?

11 Do Now Read Articles Discuss with a partner for two minutes…
Discuss as class.

12 Who is in Prison? Mr. Concannon Smith

13 An Aging Population The most significant change in the prison population involves age While the majority of inmates are under the age of 34, the number of inmates over 55 has more than doubled since the mid-1990s Several factors have contributed to this upsurge, include “get tough on crime” measures (three strikes, mandatory sentencing, the War on Drugs) Almost 250,000 federal and state prisoners are currently said to be classified as 'aging' or 'elderly' The costs of confining older prisoners are around double that of the average younger inmate at $80,000 per year Three-strike laws and life-without-parole became popular ways to keep felons in jail, causing soar in prison numbers

14 Nathan Brown is one of the oldest prisoners at Rhode Island's John J
Nathan Brown is one of the oldest prisoners at Rhode Island's John J. Moran Medium Security Prison at 75. He is serving 55 years for sexual assault. Brown insists that he didn't commit the offence he was jailed for and refuses to undertake a sexual rehabilitation course to be eligible for parole.

15 An Ailing Population Older inmates are likely to suffer from medical concerns (very costly to taxpayer) The death rate of inmates dying from poor health has increased by 82 percent between 1991 and 2004 More than 40% suffer from at least one illness Approx. 50% suffer from mental illnesses (DSM V) In sum: corrections budgets are straining under the costs of health care

16 In poor health: David Smith, who is 70, is currently six years into a 40 year sentence for attempted murder: this is his fifth time in state prison, he has also served two sentences in federal prison

17 now suffers from a long list of medical problems including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, diabetes and ulcers

18 John Armstrong who is 61 and is currently in the most advanced stage (stage four) of Hepatitis C, has been in and out of prison since the late 1970s


20 Compassionate Release
Process by which inmates in criminal justice systems may be eligible for immediate early release on grounds of “particularly extraordinary or compelling circumstances which could not reasonably have been foreseen by the court at the time of sentencing”



23 Adapting to Prison Society
Mr. Concannon Smith

24 Arriving at the Gates On arriving at prison, each convict attends an orientation session and receives a “Resident’s Handbook” Provides information about meals and official count times, disciplinary regulations, visitation guidelines, etc. Norms and values of prison society cannot be communicated by staff or learned through the handbook

25 Prisonization Prisonization is the adaptation to the prison culture
Inmate gradually understands what constitutes acceptable behavior in the institution as defined by other inmates Two primary areas How prisoners change their behavior to adapt to life behind bars How life behind bars has changed because of inmate behavior

26 Patterns of Inmate Behavior
Criminals adapt by “doing time” “jailing” is establishing yourself in the power structure of prison culture “gleaning” is working to improve yourself in preparation for a return to society “disorganized” criminals exist on the fringes of prison society


28 Unit 5 Mr. Concannon Smith
Prison Violence Unit 5 Mr. Concannon Smith

29 Violence in Prison Culture
In the past, prison “elders” would themselves punish any peers showing proclivity toward assaulting fellow inmates Today, violence is used to establish prisoner hierarchy, separating the powerful from the weak Other reasons also exist for violent behavior Provides a deterrent against being victimized Enhances self-image Gives sexual relief Serves as a means of acquiring material goods through extortion or outright robbery

30 Deprivation Model to Blame?
The Deprivation Models states that prison subcultures develop as a response to a number of deprivations that prison offers. There are 5 deprivations of prisons: Liberty Good and Services Heterosexual Relationships Autonomy Security These stressful and oppressive conditions often lead to aggressive behavior of inmates Violent behavior may simply be a means of relieving tension

31 Prison Riots The concept of relative deprivation might explain rioting
Kratcoski argues that since prisoners enjoy such meager privileges further deprivation can spark disorder Useem observed that the famous New Mexico prison riot erupted when additional security measures were imposed on inmates Peter C. Kratcoski currently holds the positions of emeritus professor of sociology and justice studies at Kent State University, temporary instructor in sociology and justice studies and director of the Justice Volunteer Center at Kent State University. His areas of specialization include juvenile justice, corrections, crime prevention, and international policing. Bert Useem is Head of the Department of Sociology. He received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in He has published two books on prison riots – one on their causes and another on strategies for their resolution. A more recent book examines the prison buildup – its causes, impact on order behind bars, and the effect on the crime rate.


33 Using Data to Make Inferences
Compare the two charts (NYDC and NMCD). Which institution faces more violence? Be prepared to explain how you arrived at this conclusion. Is it valuable to compare operating expenditures with violent measures in both places? What might this tell us about change over time? What about inmate population/capacity as an indicator of violent measures? Inmate to staff ratio? What problems––if any––can you find with comparing these data sets? Is there more information about one vs. the other? Are the measurements made in different units? Problems with the data: Different units of measure for violent measures. NYC doesn’t count inmate on officer violence which may skew the data downward. NYC has a section on inmate characteristics that would be useful in comparing with NM pop No measure for NM use of force against inmates

34 Prison Rape Mr. Concannon Smith

35 The Prison Rape Phenomenon
Rape occurs in prison and jails, but it is difficult to determine how widespread the problem is Prison officials are often unwilling to provide realistic figures for fear of negative publicity Most inmates are ashamed of being rape victims and refuse to report instances of sexual assault. If not ashamed they are afraid of being harmed for snitching

36 Sex Act or Violent Act (or Economic Act?)
Inmates subject to rape (“punks”) are near the bottom of the prison power structure Many prisons do not offer sufficient medical treatment for rape victims Corrections officials rarely are held responsible for inmate-on-inmate violence Should they be held accountable?

37 PREA (2003) In 2001 Human Rights Watch released a paper, titled "No Escape: Male Rape in U.S. Prisons". The release of that paper was the single event that contributed most to the passage of Prison Rape Elimination Act two years later. The purpose of the act was to “provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape.”



40 First five minutes…

41 Inside Women’s Prison Mr. Concannon Smith

42 Characteristics Characteristics of female inmates
Male inmates outnumber female inmates by a ratio of 9 to 1 Most female inmates are low income undereducated history of unemployment disproportionately African American Most have been incarcerated for a nonviolent drug or property crime

43 History of Abuse The single factor that most distinguishes female prisoners from male prisoners is a history of physical or sexual abuse 55% of female jail inmates have been abused at some point in their lives 57% of women in state prisons and 40% of women in federal prisons report some form of past abuse Levels of abuse are possibly related to significant amount of drug and/or alcohol addictions, as well to mental problems that addictions can cause or exacerbate

44 The “Motherhood Problem”
Drug and or alcohol use within a women’s prison often linked to depression experienced due to separation from children 7 out of 10 female inmates have at least one child (under age 18) Female inmates are often housed at a great distance from their children Separation can have serious consequences on the children Children are likely to live with relatives or be sent to foster care

45 Violence in Women’s Prisons
Women’s prisons have comparatively low levels of physical aggression Gang activity and violence does occur but at lesser rates Most incidents involve conflicts over personal relationships Research has shown that there are more episodes of petty violence in women’s prisons than in male institutions

46 Women’s Prisons The Pseudo-Family
Mr. Concannon Smith

47 The Female Family Phenomenon
The process of prisonization is evident Adaptation relies on tightly knit cliques of prisoners mimicking the traditional family structure The more experienced convicts adopt the “father” or the “mother” role, acting as a parent figure for younger, inexperienced “sons” or “daughters” Inmates choose their roles depending on appearance, personality, and background Prison female families restrict sexual contact between members, relying on one another for emotional support Homosexuality often manifests itself through the formation of a monogamous couple Women are not automatically labeled as homosexual Lesbians are not hampered in their social-climbing efforts


49 Morning Edition

50 Discipline & Punishment
Mr. Concannon Smith

51 Sanctioning Prisoners
Prisoner Manuals list the types of behaviors that can result in disciplinary action Institutional disciplinary committee decides the sanctions for specific types of misconduct Sanctions include loss of privileges Most severe sanction is solitary confinement Currently being examined by the Senate Committee on Human Rights

52 Use of Force For the most part, the judicial system has not greatly restricted disciplinary actions in prison Generally, corrections officers are given a great deal of discretion to determine when force is warranted Whitley v. Albers (1986) SCOTUS held that the use of force by prison officials violates inmate’s Eighth Amendment if force is unnecessary Excessive force can be considered “necessary” if legitimate security interests of the penal institution are at stake Hudson v. McMillian (1992) SCOTUS ruled that minor injuries suffered by a convict at the hands of a correctional officer violated his rights The issue is not how much force was used, but how used

53 All Things Considered

54 Protecting Prisoner Rights
Mr. Concannon Smith


56 Protecting Prisoner’s Rights
The 13th Amendment indicates that the inmates do not have the same guaranteed rights as other Americans Courts have followed the spirit of the 13th through the “hands- off” doctrine Unwritten judicial policy that favors noninterference by the courts in the administration of prison and jails However, SCOTUS asserts that “there is no iron curtain between the Constitution and the prisons of this country” Treatment is based on a balancing act between prisoners’ rights and the security needs of the correctional institution

57 AMENDMENT XIII SECTION 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. SECTION 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

58 Grounds for Legal Retribution
“Deliberate Indifference”: knowing about horrid condition but doing nothing to remedy the situation. Estelle v. Gamble (1976)—Supreme Court established the “deliberate indifference” standard Prison officials violate a convict’s Eighth Amendment rights if they deliberately failed to provide him/her with necessary medical care Guarantees certain level of healthcare Defined as a standard that must be met by inmates trying to prove that their Eighth Amendment rights were violated by a correctional facility

59 “Identifiable Human Needs”
Wilson v. Seiter (1991)—SCOTUS created standard for determining 8th Amendment violations that has drawn criticism from civil rights lawyers Prisoner must show that the institution has denied him or her a basic human need The Court failed to mention any other needs besides food, warmth, or exercise Forced courts to interpret “identifiable human needs” for themselves


61 You Decide! Gender Identity as an Identifiable Human Need

62 The Process of Parole Mr. Concannon Smith



65 This past Christmas Eve, the state's highest court ruled that juvenile offenders can no longer be sentenced to life without parole. More startling, for some, was the court's decision to apply this ruling retroactively, meaning offenders who received life sentences as juveniles would now be eligible for parole after 15 years of imprisonment. More than 60 prisoners in Massachusetts are in this category. The family of Colleen Ritzer, a Danvers High School teacher allegedly murdered by a 14-year-old student on Oct. 22, released a statement noting their "deep sense of betrayal and anguish" with the decision. Ritzer's accused killer, Phillip Chism, has been indicted on charges of murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery but has not yet gone to trial. "There will never be ‘parole' for our family's life sentence without Colleen," the Ritzer's statement reads. "If the individual charged with her horrific murder is convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he must never, ever have an opportunity for parole. Paroling such violent offenders would be more cruel and unusual punishment to victims' families and loved ones."

66 Types of Release Unconditional Release: when prisoner completes the terms of sentence and no longer requires incarceration or supervision Mandatory Release: occurs when an inmate has served the maximum amount of time on the initial sentence, minus reductions for good-time credits Pardons: a form of executive clemency which forgives a convict’s criminal punishment Temporary Release: may be allowed for inmates who exhibit qualifying behavior (low risk to society) A furlough is for a certain amount of time, usually between a day and a week May be granted because of family emergency Can be particularly helpful for an inmate who is nearing release and can use them to ease the readjustment period

67 Eligibility for Parole
Under indeterminate sentencing, parole is not a right but a privilege Greenholtz v. Inmates of the Nebraska Penal and Correctional Complex (1979)—SCOTUS ruled that inmates do not have a constitutionally protected right to expect parole, (states set their own standards) A convict does not “apply” for parole Inmate’s case automatically comes up before the parole board a certain number of days before he or she is eligible for parole Date of eligibility depends on statutory requirements, terms of the sentence, and the behavior of the inmate in prison “Life without Parole” is common punishment for capital offenders or “3 strike” violators.

68 The Parole Board Responsible for answering the question of when an offender should be released The Parole Board has four basic roles To decide which offenders should be placed on parole To determine the conditions of parole and aid in the continuing supervision of the parolee To discharge the offender when the conditions of parole have been met If a violation occurs, to determine whether privileges should be revoked Composition of parole board Most are made up of five to seven members In many jurisdictions, terms are limited to between four and six years Requirements vary Half the states have no prerequisites Some states require a bachelors degree Some states require some expertise in criminal justice field

69 Reentry into Society Mr. Concannon Smith

70 Reentry into Society This concept has come to mean many things to many people It is defined as encompassing “all activities and programming conducted to prepare ex-convicts to return safely to the community and to live as law abiding citizens” The largest obstacle is the difference between life behind bars and life on the outside (overcoming prisonization) Prison environment insulates inmates Housing can be difficult to secure A convict’s criminal past limits his or her ability to find employment

71 Reentry into Society Economic barriers can be complicated by the physical and mental conditions of the freed convict The goal of reentry is to promote desistance, a general term used to describe the continued abstinence from offending and the reintroduction of offenders into society Work release programs allow prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences to find work out in the community Inmates on work release must return to the facility at night or live in community residential facilities known as halfway houses





76 3 Reasons “Columbia Students are totally cool with cop killer professor.”
It is a private school You are not forced to take her course offerings She is qualified to teach the subject matter she is teaching

77 Challenge of Sex Offenders
Mr. Concannon Smith



80 Barriers to Successful Reentry
Studies show benefits of reentry programs but sex offenders typically are denied access to these programs The return of sex offenders to the community causes a great deal of anxiety ALL 50 states and the federal government have their own version of Megan’s Law, a sex offender notification law requiring local law authorities to alert the public when a sex offender has been released No two laws have the exact same provisions

81 Vigilant Tracking In general, the laws require sex offenders to notify officials when they take up residence in a state Two main models for how to track and warn Under the active model, authorities directly notify members of the community Under the passive model, information regarding sex offenders is made available to the public, but citizens must access it Massachusetts has SORI (Sex Offender Registry Information) data available online.

82 Who is Allowed to See this Data?
Level 1: The public is not allowed to see information about unclassified and Level 1 offenders. The information can, however, be released to the Department of Corrections, police departments, parole boards, the Department of Youth Services, the FBI, and other similar law enforcement agencies and departments Level 2 and Level 3: Adults 18 or older can request information about Level 2 and Level 3 offenders for their own protection, for the protection of a child, or for the protection of other adults for whom they have responsibility, care, or custody. The request can be made in person at the local police station, or by mail to the Sex Offender Registry Board. Level 3: Police departments are required to actively notify community organizations and members of the public who are likely to encounter Level 3 sex offenders. Information about Level 3 sex offenders is also available online using the Level 3 Sex Offender Search Form. It is against the law to use Sex Offender Registry information to commit a crime against a sex offender, or for illegal discrimination or harassment of a sex offender.

83 Special Conditions of Release
Generally, sex offenders are supervised by parole officers and are subject to the same revocation threat as others Paroled child molesters have additional conditions of release No contact with children under 16 Continued psychiatric treatment No change of residence without permission Keeping distance from schools or parks where children congregate Cannot possess toys that might lure children Cannot obtain jobs or participate in activities that involve interaction with children

84 Registered Sex Offenders Worcester, MA


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