Prison Culture

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Prison Culture

Prison Culture


Nearly two thirds (63-65 percent) of the in- mates entering American prisons each year have been in prison before. An even higher proportion, approximately four out of five (80 percent) of the prisoners who are sent to solitary confinement- the jail within the prison-it has been estimated by prison administrators, have been in solitary confinement or punishment status before. This high proportion of failure indicates that the problem of inducing conforming behavior from persons exposed to our punishment programs remains unsolved. It is difficult to solve because of conflicting needs on the part of administrative personnel and on the part of the non-conforming personality. On the one hand, the authority of society must be maintained and, on the other, the permissive therapeutic atmosphere is necessary to effect spontaneous and genuine personality changes. This interdependent major dilemma in handling prison disciplinary problems renders their analysis most difficult. The analysis of prison disciplinary problems must include the non-con- forming behavior of the individual as well as the countering behavior of the prison administration which cures, intensifies, or fails to affect the objectionable behavior of the individual. (Andenaes, 2004, 21)

The disciplinary problems in a prison constitute the manifest culmination of all the problems faced by the inmates and the administration of the institution. Disciplinary problems constitute a threat to an administration because they disrupt the order, tranquility, and security of the institution. In many prisons, the reaction to this threat is immediate and drastic. In the majority of adult penal institutions in the United States, psychological and social treatment ceases when rules are violated, and the offenders are placed in solitary confinement or in other punishment status. Upon violation of rules, then, prisons are faced with a policy dilemma in their withdrawing treatment facilities from those who, by their behavior, have demonstrated that they need treatment most. (Bittner, 2006, 79)

Many prison personnel and even parole boards have displayed a tendency to evaluate the prospects of successful adjustment outside the prison on the basis of an inmate's lack of misconduct reports in the prison. Many wardens regard the institution as a small community which gives practice to prisoners in getting along with others, the effect of which can be transferred to the larger community. There is, too frequently, no suspicion that the ability to adjust to institutional controls is little assurance that adjustment can be made as easily when those institutional controls are re- moved. That discipline is necessary for the treatment process, however, is obvious. The problem is in determining how much, hovy little, and how the best discipline is achieved to accomplish optimum results. (Andenaes, 2004, 21)

The analysis of prison disciplinary problems, then, is a highly significant project, but it is most controversial. The practical implications of such an analysis may threaten and question many practices that are customary, almost traditional, in present American penology. (Fishman, 2004, 28)

Prison Discipline

The term, "discipline", has frequently been con- fused with some of the techniques by which it is ...
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