prisonization | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Corrections

Prisonization is a process by which inmates become socialized into the norms and values of the prison subculture, adopting attitudes and behaviors that enable them to survive and cope with the stresses of incarceration.

When individuals enter the prison system, they face a new environment, rules, and social dynamics. To navigate this environment, prisoners often adopt coping strategies and behaviors that are adapted to the unique conditions of life behind bars. These behaviors may include aggression, violence, and other forms of antisocial behavior that would be unacceptable in the outside world. Over time, these behaviors become normalized, and inmates may develop a sense of loyalty and solidarity with other prisoners while feeling disconnected from the values and norms of mainstream society.

The process of prisonization is influenced by a number of factors, including the length of time an individual spends in prison, the severity of their offense, and the conditions in which they are housed. In general, prisoners who are housed in maximum-security facilities or who are serving long sentences are more likely to become prisonized than those in lower-security facilities or serving shorter sentences.

Prisonization has a number of negative effects on inmates and the broader society. Inmates who become prisonized may experience difficulty adjusting to life outside of prison, as they may have difficulty reintegrating into society and following the rules of mainstream society. They may also be more likely to engage in criminal behavior, particularly if they have developed antisocial attitudes or behaviors while incarcerated.

Furthermore, prisonization can harm prison staff, who may be subject to increased levels of violence and aggression from inmates who have become prisonized. This can make the prison environment more dangerous for staff, inmates, and other members of the prison community.

Efforts to reduce prisonization include programs that promote rehabilitation and reentry, such as education, job training, and counseling services. These programs can help inmates develop the skills and attitudes they need to succeed outside of prison, reducing their reliance on the prison subculture for survival. Additionally, efforts to reduce overcrowding and improve the conditions of confinement can also help reduce the negative effects of prisonization, as inmates are less likely to develop negative attitudes and behaviors in a more humane environment.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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