Sociology Index


Prison Subculture is the culture of prison society and thought by some to arise from the ‘pains of imprisonment’, while others believe it is imported to the prison. Prison Subculture is also known as the ‘convict code’. The Prisonization model postulates that inmates react or adapt to the deprivations of imprisonment by forming the inmate subculture and behaving accordingly.

Subculture refers to group that shares common values, norms, beliefs and Prison subculture refers to inmate code. The process of taking on norms and customs of prisons is called prisonization. Some of the features of prison subculture are:

a)    do not inform on your fellow prisoners,

b)    do not trust staff,

c)    help other residents,

d)    show your loyalty to other residents,

e)    share what you have.

The first models of the prison subculture, such as those purported by Clemmer and Sykes, were rooted in the structural-functionalist paradigm of criminological thought. Alternative explanations, such as the importation model developed by Irwin theorize that the subculture of prison may not be centered around common norms and values. Recent attempts have been made to integrate these perspectives. Does integration have theoretical explanatory power when examining the contemporary prison subculture? Can an integrated approach inform penologists as to how females serve time? The present paper seeks to answer these questions. - Theoretical Studies of the Prison Subculture: Contemporary Explanations for Female Inmates. - Courtney A. Waid, Florida State University.

Inmate Argot as an Expression of Prison Subculture: The Israeli Case - Tomer Einat, Haim Einat, Hebrew University of Jerusalem - The study examines the argot (jargon) of prisoners as a reflection of the norms and values comprising the inmate subculture in Israeli prisons. The phenomenological interview method was used to examine the language of a sample of long-term prisoners for the existence of an inmate argot. Having established that such an argot does exist, the data was subjected to a content analysis and the salience of the argot terms assessed using two measures, attention and intensity. The argot expressions were divided into categories with reference to different aspects of prison experience: prisoner status, drugs, sexual relations in prison, violence, prisoner behaviors, nicknames for police officers, and prison staff.

Prison Subculture in Poland - Marek M. Kamiski, Don C. Gibbons - This article draws on the prison experiences in Poland of the senior author to identify some of the major ingredients of the prison subculture in that country. The dominant inmate pattern of grypsing is described, as is the physical environment of Polish prisons. This article also examines "prisonization" processes and the norms of the grypsing group. Some contrasts between American and Polish prisons are also noted.

The (post)-soviet prison subculture faced with the use of self-management doctrines by the corrections administration - This article on the post-soviet prison subculture shows the connection between the establishment of new informal rules in prisons and changes in the means of submission used by penitentiary institutions under Khrushchev, as well as the influence of the main principles of Anton Makarenko's collective pedagogics on the above-mentioned means. Analytically, the article is focussed on different forms of the public sphere which can exist in prison environments. Special emphasis is laid on the importance of the historical approach in understanding the present situation in post-soviet penitentiaries. - Abstract

Forecasting Sexual Abuse in Prison: The Prison Subculture of Masculinity as a Backdrop for Deliberate Indifference - Christopher D. Man, John P. Cronan - Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), Vol. 92, No. 1/2 (Autumn, 2001 - Winter, 2002),

Intraprison HIV Transmission and the Prison Subculture - Christopher P. Krebs, Research Triangle Institute - Two theoretical models have been employed to explain the prison subculture and inmate behavior. Prisonization model postulates that inmates react/adapt to the deprivations of imprisonment by forming the inmate subculture and behaving accordingly. Importation model contends that inmates import their social system with them when they enter prison. In this study of intraprison HIV transmission, the theoretical models are tested in the context of behaviors that facilitate HIV transmission in prison, namely, sex, intravenous drug use, and tatooing. Support for prisonization and importation, however, is not uniformly distributed across all three high-risk behaviors. Prison sex appears to be largely the result of prisonization (deprivation of heterosexual relationships), whereas intravenous drug use seems to be largely a product of importation. While theoretical integration has its place in explaining the universe of inmate behavior and the prison subculture, wholesale integration may not be necessary when attempting to explain specific behaviors.