Schmallager Chapter 14 Prison Life

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chapter 14
Prison Life
LEARNING OBJECTIVES
After reading this chapter, you should be able to
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OUTLINE
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Introduction The Male Inmate’s World The Female Inmate’s World The Staff World Prison Riots Prisoners’ Rights Issues Facing Prisons Today

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Describe the realities of prison life and prison subculture from the inmate’s point of view. Illustrate the significant differences between men’s prisons and women’s prisons. Describe the realities of prison life from the corrections officer’s point of view. Describe the causes of prison riots, and list the stages through which most riots progress. Discuss the legal aspects of prisoners’ rights, and explain the consequences of precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court cases in the area of prisoners’ rights. Describe the major problems and issues that prisons face today.

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PA R T 4

Corrections

Mass incarceration seems to have made the streets safer. The vast increase in the prison and jail population from about 380,000 in 1975 to 2.2 million today overlaps with equally stunning declines in crime. . . . Many critics of incarceration argue (a bit too quickly) that crime would have fallen without the prison boom. Perhaps. Still the value of safer neighborhoods is immediate, while the costs of excessive imprisonment are theoretical and vague. —Jason DeParle1

Jurisdictions should develop, with the assistance of prosecutors and others, community supervision programs that allow all but the most serious [offenders] to avoid incarceration and a conviction record. —American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section2

INTRODUCTION
On the FOX TV show Prison Break, Wentworth Miller plays the role of an engineer named Michael Scofield who holds up a bank so that he can join his brother in the fictional Fox River State Penitentiary. Scofield’s brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), has been convicted of a sensational murder and is housed on the prison’s death row. The show, which centers around Michael’s elaborate plan to break Lincoln out and to prove that he’s innocent, draws a large weekly audience and demonstrates the fascination that the American public has with prison life. For many years, prisons and prison life could be described by the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” Very few citizens cared about prison conditions, and those unfortunate enough to be locked away were regarded as lost to the world. By the mid-twentieth century, however, this attitude started to change. Concerned citizens began to offer their services to prison administrators, neighborhoods began accepting work-release prisoners and halfway houses, and social scientists initiated a serious study of prison life. Today, as shows like Prison Break make clear, prisons and prison life have entered the American mainstream. Part of the reason for this is because prisons today hold more people than ever before, and incarceration impacts not only those imprisoned but family members, friends, and victims on the outside. Dominic Purcell (left) and Wentworth Miller, stars of the hit FOX TV show Prison Break. Why do so many TV viewers find prison life intriguing? John Zich/CORBIS-NY

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This chapter describes the realities of prison life today, including prisoner lifestyles, prison subcultures, sexuality in prison, prison violence, and prisoners’ rights and grievance procedures. We will discuss both the inmate world and the staff world. A separate section on women in prison details the social structure of women’s prisons, daily life in those facilities, and the various types of female inmates. We begin with a...
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