Prison Gangs in the United States - Research Paper Example

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Running Head: PRISON GANGS Prison Gangs [Name] [University] Prison Gangs Introduction For decades, the proliferation of gangs in prison has disturbed correctional institutions (Knox, 2005). Prison Gangs have become a significant source of violence in American correctional facilities…
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Prison Gangs in the United States
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Download file to see previous pages First, inmates are not to interfere with other inmates, a rule which places a premium on "minding your own business." Inmates are not to inform on one another and not to place a fellow inmate in a precarious situation. The second principle commands "don't lose your head." Inmates should control their emotions during their incarceration. Third, inmates should not exploit each other. The traditional inmate code forbids racketeering, welshing on bets, stealing from other inmates, or retracting promises. Inmates have an obligation to share any wealth which they may acquire. Fourth, inmates should not show weakness or they jeopardize their masculine image. It is very important for an inmate to maintain his masculinity. Any signs of fear or cowardice will greatly harm an inmate's reputation in the prison. Finally, "don't be a sucker," in other words, prisoners should not trust the administration. This final principle demands that inmates reject the values of society represented by prison officials. Guards are always considered to be wrong in any dispute with inmates. The administration must not be trusted for any reason (Sykes and Messinger, 1960, p. 7-8). Adherence to the inmate code varies greatly. While most inmates make strong verbal commitment to the code, the actual behaviors of inmates often deviate from it (Ross & Richards, 2002). The inmate code serves to lessen the pains of imprisonment by increasing solidarity among the inmates (Sykes and Messinger, 1960. p. 16). By uniting inmate society, the code lessens the sense of isolation inmates often face. An inmate follows the prescription to share wealth, he can alleviate animosity and hostility. By sharing the limited wealth offered by prison society, the potential for psychological harm can be decreased substantially (Sykes and Messinger, 1960, p. 16). The threat to an inmate's masculine self ­image can be substantially alleviated by the requirement that inmates maintain their manhood through shows of strength and suppression of weakness (Sykes and Messinger, 1960. p. 17). When inmates arrive in prison they undergo prison procedures which have been likened to a series of status degradation ceremonies (Cloward, 1960; Sykes, 1958). These ceremonies convey two messages to the inmate. First, they involve the "ritual destruction of the individual's identity" (Cloward, 1960, p. 20). The individual's dignity is removed as his status is lowered. The lowering of status and stripping of dignity occurs through such procedures as strip searches, assignment of identification numbers instead of names, and the provision of uniforms, all of which create a homogenous inmate society. Second, the new identity provided to the inmate is of a lower status than their previous rank as a member of free society (Cloward, 1960, p. 20). Cloward (1960) argues that prison allows inmates to enhance their status through illegitimate means. Inmates may take on several roles in their efforts to gain status within prison culture. They may become merchants or peddlers who specialize in providing material goods to other inmates. Politicians, or "big-shots," will control the spread of information among inmates (Cloward, 1960, p. 34). These inmates will seek positions, which grant them greater freedom of movement or greater access to prison officials, allowing them to gather information. Finally, an inmate may assume the role of "right ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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