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The Culture of Prison Violence

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  1. The Culture of Prison Violence Guest Lecture: Issues Correctional Administration Feb.22, 2015 James Byrne, UML

  2. USA and Mass Incarceration • Size: Over 5,000 prisons and jails operating in the USA today • Incarceration Rates: 10-15 times higher than other developed countries • Who goes to prison in USA: 1,574,700 in federal and state prisons in 2013; minority over-representation( blacks 16% of pop but about half of all state prisoners; Hispanics are fastest growing group of federal prisoners • Federal Prisoner Crime Conviction Profile: 6/10 drug • State Prisoner Crime Conviction Profile: about half are convicted for violent crime; 30% drug, 20% property, gun, public order • Global Context: 1in 3 women incarcerated globally are in USA prisons; USA has 5% of world pop., but 25% of all prisoners are in USA prisons

  3. A Profile of new state prison admissions in 2009 • 482,000 new admissions( new convictions and technical violators) • 27% Violent offenders( murder, rape, robbery , assault) • 29% property offenders • 28% drug offenders • 14.5% public order offenders

  4. Types and Rates of Mental Illness among Prisoners • Rate of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders is three to five times greater among prisoners as compared to the U.S. population., while the rate of bipolar disorder is 1.5 to 3 times greater (NCCHC,2002). • Conservatively, it is estimated that “ there are at least 350,000 mentally ill people in prison and jail on any given day”, • There are three times as many severely mentally ill individuals in prison than in psychiatric hospitals.

  5. Health Status of Prisoners: Disease Prevalence Compared to U.S. Population • Infectious disease: Hepatitus C(4x greater), AIDS infection (8-9 x higher), Active TB (4x greater) AIDS (5x greater) • Chronic Disease: asthma (higher) • Mental Illness: Schizophrenia(3-5x higher), Bipolar(1.5-3 x higher), major depression(same) • Substance Abuse: 25% fit Alcohol dependent profile; 83% with drug use history

  6. Official View of Prison Violence in USA • Death in prison: illness, homicide, suicide, and deaths from unknown causes • 3,175 deaths in prison in 2000; 3,351 in 2012 • 2,402 illness/natural causes in 2000; 2,953 in 2012( 88% of all deaths, with over half age 55+) • 302 AIDS in 2000 vs 74 in 2012 • 198 Suicide in 2000 vs 205 in 2012 • 56 Homicide in 2000 vs 85 in 2012 • 217 other causes: executions, accidents, drug overdoses in 2000 vs 26 in 2012

  7. Assault in Prison: The Official View • 34,000 inmate-on inmate assaults in 2000 • 10% of all prison inmates are victims of sexual assault in prison( PREA data) • 18,000 inmate-on-staff assaults in 2000 • Inmate-on inmate assaults are higher in private than public prisons • Inmate assault on staff increases by security level; it is also higher in private vs public prisons

  8. Riots and Major Disturbances • Riots and major disturbances( 5 or more inmates) resulting in serious injury or damage: riots, include fires, hunger strikes, work slowdowns • 606 major incidents in 200 vs 317 in 1995, likely due to increased prison population during this period. • Drops in number of fires( 816 vs 343) and other disturbances( 1,808 vs 639) reported between 1995-2000. • Federal Prisons, Immigration violations and riots: cheap labor, poor conditions, and bad food are a recipe for rioting( 19% of federal prisoners are immigration violators)

  9. Unofficial Estimates of Violence and Disorder • Physical/sexual violence goes under-reported for a variety of reasons: inmate code, lack of procedural justice • We likely under-report homicide in prison( suicide, overdoses, unknown causes) • Self report studies suggest at least 1 in 5 state prisoners are victims of physical /sexual assault in prison • What happens in prison does not stay in prison

  10. Causes of Prison Violence: An Overview • Importation theories: offenders placed in prison are more violence prone, and have significant mental health problems • Deprivation theories: offenders become violent in prison as an adaption to the prison environment, including regime, staffing, inmate culture, boredom, isolation from family, and unclear LOS.

  11. A Review of the Research on Prison Violence • Prison Culture: management culture, staff culture, inmate culture— unknown effects • NIC’s Institutional Culture Change Initiative in USA focused on changing staff culture with modest short term impact • Research by Sparks and Bottoms on British prisons demonstrated that you can reduce inmate on inmate violence by focusing on order maintanence, but you will increase self injury and collective violence

  12. Crowding and Prison Violence • Effect of crowding on violence currently unknown, due to lack of quality research • 6 of 8 non-experimental studies did report a link between crowding and violence in prison.

  13. Other factors linked to prison violence • Staffing levels, staff characteristics, staff quality: unknown effects • Programming( level/quality) : positive impact of programming on prison violence’infractions( 2/3 RCTs, 3 quasi-experiments, 11 non-experimental designs • Classification practices( external/internal): no impact of assigning maximum security inmates to medium security facilities; or assigning medium security offenders to minimum security on overall or serious misconduct • Prison Management practices: unknown effects( only 3 studies identified; two level 1s,1 level 2);the myth of the charismatic leader explored; the promise of procedural justice • Situational Context: precipitation control( controlling prompts, reducing provocations), and opportunity reduction( rewards/punishments, location restrictions, etc): mixed results reported by Wortley • Inmate Profiles/Gang membership: unknown effects( 6 level 1 studies available for review)

  14. Classification Systems Need To Redefined • The implications of these findings for external classification systems are straight-forward: • (1) contrary to expectations, placement of higher risk offenders in more restrictive prison settings does not lower their rate of institutional misconduct, while placement of higher risk offenders in lower risk settings does not raise their rate of misconduct; and, • (2) alternatives to control-based placements should be field-tested to determine their effect on inmate misconduct.

  15. Treatment Assessment • Education • Skill Level and Work History • Individual Problem Areas: substance abuse, mental health problems, sex offender treatment. • In each treatment area, objective, standardized assessment instruments are available • The problem? Treatment availability, access, and quality in prison settings

  16. Key Findings and Policy Implications • 1. Increase the quantity and quality of inmate programming and you will decrease the level of violence and disorder in our prison system. • Field test a new generation of prison classification systems, which link an inmate’s risk level to specific in prison treatment programming.There is no evidence that current prison classification schemes result in safer prisons, primarily because placement in a particular custody level does not appear to either decrease or increase the risk of inmate misconduct while in prison.

  17. New Directions in Prison Violence Reduction • 1. Inmate-focused strategies designed to resolve ongoing conflicts among inmates using restorative justice and conflict resolution techniques. • 2. Staff-focused Strategies designed to change the negative staff culture that exists in many USA prisons. • 3. Management-focused strategies designed to change the situational context of prisons, e.g. daily routines, access to programs, staffing patterns, crowding reduction).

  18. Inmate-Focused Strategies • 1. fulfill prisoners basic human needs( food, health care, socialization) • 2. ensure personal safety • 3. provide opportunities to exercise personal autonomy • 4.build in mechanisms—such as restorative justice panels—to resolve conflicts • 5. transformation targeting the culture of street crime, linking transformed prisoners to other prisoners and to the community( The Lifers Model)

  19. Staff and Management-focused strategies • 1. NIC’s Institutional Culture Change Initiative: training of staff based on the notion that if you change staff culture, inmate culture will follow; strategic planning by mid level mgs; change advisors for top management( leading and sustaining change) • 2. Wortley’s Situational Prison Control Strategies: changes in physical environment, size of prison, crowding,staffing,sanctioning practices, protection of vulnerable prisoners, program/treatment availability • 3. Performance Measurement and External Review: What gets measured, gets done!