Psychology-Institutional Aggression

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Outline and Evaluate explanations of Institutional Aggression.

Institutional Aggression can be defined as aggressive behaviour that occurs within an institution and is motivated by social forces, rather than anger or frustration. An institution usually refers to an organisation or place of confinement with its own social roles where behaviour is formally restricted and under the control of specific staff; for example, prisons, hospitals, army camps and boarding schools.

The ‘importation model’ proposed by Irwin and Cressey (1962) claims that prisoners bring their own social histories and traits with them into prison, and this influences their adaptation to the prison environment, Irwin and Cressey argue that 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.

The importation model has received some research support, particularly in terms of individual factors such as age, education level and race. For example, Harer and Steffensmeier (2006) collected data from 58 US prisons and found that black inmates had significantly higher rates of violent behaviour but lower rates of alcohol-related and drug-related misconduct than white inmates. These patterns parallel racial differences in these behaviours in US society and so support the importation model. Instead of viewing inmates as solely influenced by one shared, common set of values, the Importation model has merit in looking at subcultures with prison institutions. Early theories of prison culture, such as those proposed by Clemmer (1940) tended to suggest that inmates imported one ‘holistic’ criminal subculture within prison. However it has little practical use as it has been suggested that the Importation Model fails to provide suggestions for how best to manage aggressive prisoners and/or policy suggestions for reducing prison violence in general (McCorckle et al. 1995). Delisi et al (2004) studied...
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