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The prison gangs that emerged in the late 1960s have maintained their identity for more than a decade and they remain a major source of violence in... prisons. A quasi-military type of organization continues to provide the continuity that the old-style predatory alliances lacked and to allow transfer of power when gang leaders are killed or segregated. The tight organization and discipline of these groups enable them to dominate much larger groups of unorganized inmates. Inmates continue to be the primary victims of the gangs, whose activities are the largest source of assaults and deaths in the California system. A major development in recent years has been an escalation of gang activities in several...communities, and there have been more gang-related homicides outside of jails and prisons than inside.
The reasons having been established for why violence so frequently occurs in prison environments this work will now go on to discuss environmental contributors to violence in prison. One of the most striking, as our prisons stay the same size and the populations grow is overcrowding, creating bad conditions and more opportunity for inmates to interact with one another.
In Texas the rates of suicides, violent deaths, disciplinary incidents, and natural deaths for "elderly" (age 50 or more) inmates increased beyond statistical expectancies. The larger prisons in the Texas system (1600 average daily population) consistently demonstrated rates higher than the smaller (800 average daily population) prisons, a consistency that could not be readily explained by demographic characteristics of the populations, housing mode, or average amount of space per inmate. Data from Oklahoma on crowding and violent deaths corroborated the Texas data. The apparent explanation of this data is that sheer population size of an institution exerts a negative influence on its inmates, an influence that is seemingly independent of other factors.
Carter and Glaser 120)
It is clear that overcrouding has a positive correlation with prison violence and prison deaths. In many if not all prisons designated classes and systems are in place that isolate or segregate individuals who have been prone to violence, outside as reflected by the type of crime convicted of and also as a result of prison incidents, this also includes those who are suspected of suicidal tendencies.
Champion 11) One of the most important issues that must be addressed to reduce prison deaths is programs that identify high-risk prisoners and assist these prisoners to adjust to the prison system and environment.
5. While confined, inmates may be targeted for particular services and/or programs to meet their needs. Some inmates experience more adjustment problems compared with other inmates. Attempts to identify and track those inmates most likely to pose serious adjustment problems have been modestly successful (Wright, 1988). A survey of corrections directors in all states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, together with opinions obtained from fifty-three criminal justice scholars, has indicated strong nationwide support for at least three types of shared or concurrently operated prison facilities: (1) a medical/psychiatric facility that would be capable of handling the aged or developmentally disabled; (2) a high-security facility for inmates who are assaultive and/or high escape risks; and (3) a protective custody facility for certain inmates (Lawson, 1984). Some persons may require physical separation from other inmates. Former law enforcement officers convicted of crimes or witnesses who have testified against organized-crime figures in exchange for lesser sentences may be less at risk if confined separately from other prisoners who might otherwise endanger them.
Another more recent development in the research associated with prison violence is diet, as many prisons have been found to provide the inmates with a seriously lacking diet. Though there is a great deal of suspicion in the research and prison communities that the effect that diet can have on behavior is overblown to say the least, there are currently several ongoing studies that have had promising results with regard to diet improvement and the mandatory supplementation with vitamins. The promise of such studies has resulted in a vast change in diet in some institutions and results are significant, especially with regard to internal violence.
Carter, Robert Melvin, and Daniel Glaser, eds. Correctional Institutions. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1977.
Champion, Dean J. A Criminal Justice Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Park, James W.L. "19 the Organization of Prison Violence."…[continue]
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