Institutional Aggression

Topics: Sociology, Violence, Aggression Pages: 4 (700 words) Published: April 14, 2013
Institutional Aggression

The term refers to collective violence
E.g. violence within institutions such as prisons, students, police and army

They are danger for both inmates and workers
Benjamin Mogmat a member of ‘the number’ in a South African prison was sentenced to nine years. Now in prison he claims to have killed more inmates than he can remember. All to impress a gang.

Initiation rituals

One way institutions show aggression towards each other is through violent initiation rituals. Such rituals create a common bond among the members of a group within an institution. They undergo painful psychological and physical rituals to prove that they can handle a particular situation and to show that they are capable of going further and that they are committed to the group.


A number of studies have found evidence of violent hazing in institutions as a show of status for example sports teams, fraternities and the public services. This shows that it exists


Issues arise in the investigation of initiation rituals
It is difficult to define aggression in this context as individuals would regard it as innocent fun. E.g. Researchers stated 1 in 5 students asked in their study met the criteria of aggressive initiation. However when the students were asked if they felt the same way only 1 in 20 thought they had.

Explanations of institutional aggression

EXP 1: Importation model
Prisoners bring their own social histories and traits with them into prison and this influences their adaptation to the prison environment. Prisoners are not ‘blank slates’ when they enter prison and that many of the normative systems developed on the outside would be ‘imported’ into the prison. E.g. violent prisoners import their cultural norms that condone violent behaviour


Harer and Steffensmeier - black inmates
Collected data from 58 US prisons and found that black inmates had significantly higher rates of violent behaviour but lower rates of...
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