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Prisoners and Prison Workers Views on the Prison Subculture in Slovenia 1

Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo / Ljubljana 69 / 2018 / 4, Prisoners and Prison Workers Views on the Prison Subculture in Slovenia 1 Gorazd Meško 2, Rok Hacin 3 This paper addresses the
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Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo / Ljubljana 69 / 2018 / 4, Prisoners and Prison Workers Views on the Prison Subculture in Slovenia 1 Gorazd Meško 2, Rok Hacin 3 This paper addresses the hypothesized problem of prison subcultures in Slovenia. In 2015 and 2016, structured interviews were conducted with 193 prisoners and 151 prison staff in all Slovenian prisons and a correctional home. The analysis of interviews conducted documents the presence of a prison subculture in all prison settings studied. In general, exploitation, distrust, opportunistic friendships, hierarchy and social structure, secrecy, and antiauthoritarian stance are common characteristics of the prison subculture present in all Slovenian prison settings. The universal impact of deprivation factors (restriction/lack of safety, autonomy, freedom, heterosexual relations, goods and services, etc.) on prisoners adaptation to prison life and their commonplace choice to enter the prison subculture was confirmed. Several pre-prison characteristics of prisoners (criminal history, age, gender, etc.) were identified as influential factors on their adaptation to prison life and their decision to enter into the prison s informal society. However, it was also found that behavioural norms that constitute the prison subculture differ significantly across prisons, especially regarding the prison regime (openness of the prison). Furthermore, it was noteworthy that prison staff admitted that they allow the prison subculture to exist within reasonable limits. Informal prison leaders help the staff to maintain order in the prison setting. Implications of these findings for prison management practices are discussed in the paper s conclusion. Keywords: prison staff, prison code, prison subculture, prisoners, Slovenia UDC: 343.8(497.4) 1 Introduction Individuals in prison constitute a specific form of closed society, for which specific norms and traditions are characteristic. The presence of criminal traditions in prison is broadly considered to undermine prisoner rehabilitation or correction, and to threaten order and safety; in general, rebellion against accepted social and legal norms characterizes the criminal world (Shoham, 2010). However, maintaining peace in prisons is strongly dependent on maintaining the prisoner code (Symkovych, 2017). Norms constituting the prison code, and internal rules that are based on these norms, strongly influence prisoners everyday behaviour. Consequently, most prison staff embrace the prison code (permit the breach of formal rules to some extent) and recognize its practical if not 1 The study was conducted as part of the project Legitimacy and legality of policing, criminal justice and execution of penal sanction ( ) that was financially supported by the Slovenian Research Agency (grant No J5-5548). 2 Gorazd Meško, Ph.D., Professor of Criminology, Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia. 3 Rok Hacin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, University of Maribor, Slovenia. legal legitimacy. Embracing the prison subculture can be seen as an individual s desire to belong to the prison group; acceptance into the group requires that one act in defiance to some of the official rules of the total institution. Goffman (1961) defined the prison setting as a place of work and residence, where a great number of similarly situated people, who are isolated from the wider community for extended period of time, live formally organised life according to a mix of compliance with and defiance of many official rules known as the prison code. Slovenian prisons have for the most part avoided the effects of penal populism and increasing toughness of prison regimes, developments which have come to characterize most European countries. Flander and Meško (2016) described Slovenian prisons as an exceptional example of prisons in the post-socialist societies. Slovenian prisons operate in a setting within which imprisonment rates and the rehabilitation orientation are quite comparable to prisons in the Scandinavian countries (for example, the average number of prisoners in Slovenian prisons in 2017 was 1,067). Small prison facilities characterize the Slovenian prison system, which consists of six prisons operating in 14 different locations and a correctional home. The average capacity of these prisons is 94 prisoners, while the largest prison has the capacity to house 450 prisoners. Due to the specifics of the Slovenian prisons (small 333 Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo / Ljubljana 69 / 2018 / 4, facility size, rehabilitative orientation, openness of confinement regimes, small prison population, etc.), we assume that a specific form of the prison subculture was developed among the prisoner population. The aim of this paper is to explore the specific aspects of the prison subculture present in Slovenian prisons. Characteristics of the prison subcultures present in different prison regimes (open, semi-open and closed), different size prisons, and in different prisons in which adult prisoners, female prisoners, and juvenile offenders are held, are of particular interest. In the following sections, the process of a prisoner s adaptation to prison life will be presented. Moreover, the theoretical framework of the prison subculture and prison code will be highlighted. In the second part of the paper, results of the qualitative study of the prison subculture in Slovenian prisons will be presented, and in the final section of the paper the findings will be discussed with respect to implications for prison management practices. 2 Prisoner s Adaptation to Prison Life Regardless of the formal orientation of prisons with respect to rehabilitation, restitution, retribution, etc., the punishment of an offender for wrongdoing remains the main element of a prison sentence. During their imprisonment, prisoners are exposed to five distinct dimensions of punishment: 1) deprivation of safety (fear of fellow prisoners); 2) deprivation of autonomy; 3) deprivation of freedom (social isolation and restriction of contacts with individuals outside the prison); 4) deprivation of heterosexual relations; and 5) deprivation of goods and services (Bereswill, 2001; Meyer, 2001; Sykes, 1971). The effect of punishment in its various forms of deprivation invariably influence a prisoner s adaptation to life in prison. Adams (1992) identified three factors that tend to influence a prisoner s form of adaptation to prison life: 1) individual characteristics of a prisoner (demographic characteristics that affect the likelihood of suicide or self-injury, prison misbehaviour, criminal history, history of psychological illness, prisoner s personal problems, emotional disorders); 2) characteristics of the sentence (time already served, sentence length, type of the sentence); and 3) environmental factors (physical barriers and the level of safety, overcrowding, process of institutionalization, contacts with the external environment). Use of violence in prison, and prisoner misconduct generally, are seen as the consequences of unsuccessful adaptation of prisoners to life in prison and failure to internalize the basic elements of the prison subculture. Rocheleau (2015) argued that predictors of violence in prisons can be categorized into those found at: 1) prisoner level (Camp, Gaes, Langan, & Saylor, 2003; DeLisi, Berg, & Hochstetler 2004; Gaes, Wallace, Gilman, Klein-Saffran, & Suppa,. 2002; Steiner & Wooldredge 2008); 2) institutional level (Colvin, 1992; Useem, 1985; Wortley, 2002); and 3) situational level (Huebner, 2003; Reisig, 2002). Each prisoner must learn specific rules (formal and informal) of behaviour that are present in a prison during the process of adaptation (Weinrath, 2016). Moreover, he or she has to learn how to cope with prison stresses and problems that occur on a daily basis (Rocheleau, 2015; Toch, 1975). Individual characteristics of prisoners influence their rate and extent of adaptation to prison life and development of relationships with fellow prisoners and the prison staff. These personal characteristics are as follows: 1) ethnicity and race; 2) age; 3) gender; 4) education; 5) self-control; and 6) prior criminal record or previous experience with the criminal justice system (Casper, Tyler, & Fisher, 1988; Jiang & Winfree, 2006; Reisig & Meško, 2009; Tyler, 1990). Social support provided for prisoners by the prison staff has a positive impact on their adaptation to prison life; lack of social support either on the inside or outside of the prison leads to the misconduct of prisoners during their imprisonment and upon release from prison. Sentence characteristics, such as: 1) the length of the prison sentence; 2) time already served; 3) type of prison regime; and 4) the type of criminal offence for which the individual was convicted are important factors influencing a prisoner s adaptation to life in prison. Prisoners who are serving longer prison sentences are more likely to: 1) adapt to prison life, and 2) develop supportive relations with the prison staff. Regarding environmental factors that influence a prisoner s degree of adaptation to life in prisons, studies on prison social climate have revealed that relations among prisoners and with prison staff tend to be better in more liberal (socio-therapeutic orientated) prison regimes than in more punitive and restrictive settings (Brinc, 2011; Day, Casey, Vess, & Huisy, 2011; Schalast & Laan, 2017). Moreover, prisoners adapt more easily to prison life in more liberal prison regimes. Goffman (1974) wrote that time, place and events or situations have an impact on the learning and the dissemination of cultural frames. Regardless of prisoner s intention of internalising the norms of prison subculture, an understanding of the prison code and prison subculture is necessary for establishing the preferred primary frame in prison, a frame with which prisoners identified and learn to adapt to life in the prison setting. 2.1 Deprivation and Importation Models Consequences of deprivations in prison are seen in the unsuccessful adaptation of prisoners to prison life, and their escape into the prison subculture. Clemmer (1940) asserted that after entering the prison social setting, prisoners typically assimilate into a hostile, anti-conventional social subsystem, 334 Gorazd Meško, Rok Hacin: Prisoners and Prison Workers Views on the Prison Subculture in Slovenia one which is characterised by deviant behaviour, absence of manners, and disregard for social customs. This form of socialisation termed prisonisation refers to prisoners taking on of the folklore, morality, customs and general prison subculture common to incarcerated persons virtually everywhere. The deprivation model or deprivation theory assumes that there is a sense of deprivation shared among prisoners because of the nature of the prisoners oppressive social system (loss of freedom, interrupted contacts with family and friends, lack of heterosexual relations, etc.) which is a product of life being led behind bars (Lahm, 2009; Sykes, 1971). Moreover, the social environment present in prison, fairness or inequity witnessed in the procedures and practices of prison staff, and influences of various stressful situations experienced in prison are seen as factors that have an impact on the deprivation felt by prisoners and their adaptation to prison life (Morris, Carriaga, Diamond, Piquero, & Piquero, 2012; Reisig, 2001; Tasca, Griffin, & Rodriguez, 2010). Reisig and Meško (2009) highlighted their finding that prisoners who perceive prison staff s procedures toward them as being just were less likely to violate prison rules than those who viewed staff actions as unfair or arbitrary. Camp and his colleagues (2003) defined what they termed the situational model of prisoner s adaptation to prison life. This type of adaptation takes place when behavioural norms, including the prison code, come to guide the prisoners behaviour, leading to adjustment to the special nature of an individual prison. Irwin and Cressey (1962) have argued to the contrary, maintaining that the social system of prisoners derives in major part from the basic criminal subculture present in the wider social context far beyond prison walls. Prisoners are seen as importing cultural norms from the street into the prison setting. Supporters of the importation model (Bukstel & Kilmann, 1980; Drury & DeLisi, 2010; Sorenses & Cunningham, 2010; Tewksbury, Connor, & Denney, 2014; Trulson, DeLisi, & Marquart, 2011) tend to highlight the importance of pre-prison characteristics (e.g., criminal history, race, ethnicity, age, gender, etc.), as the most noteworthy determinants of assimilation into prison society and subsequent prisoner misconduct once incarcerated. As a result of prior experience, prisoners assume new social roles and tend to affiliate with deviant norms in ways done outside the prison setting (Jacobs, 1977; Reisig, 2001; Roebuck, 1963; Walters & Crawford, 2013). The importation model assumes that adaptation to life in prison is unique for each prisoner; his or her adaptation to life in prison depends on his or her specific needs, and the willingness of taking risks to meet these needs (Bukstel & Kilmann, 1980). Kigerl and Hamilton (2016) have presented a new theory on the matter of prisoner misconduct. Their so-called transfer theory posits that influences of misconduct can originate from a prior institution, following a transfer between prisons whereby deprivation-related characteristics (overcrowding and population instability) of the institution from which a prisoner was transferred and importation-related characteristics of a prisoner (mental health, employment status, criminal history) can influence prisoner adaptation to prison life and misconduct in the second institution. A prisoner s integration into a prison subculture is affected by his or her overall adaptation to prison life. If the pressure of deprivation on a prisoner is overwhelming or the influence of pre-prison characteristics is very strong, these experiences can cause his or her escape into the prison subculture. The levels of disorder and violence in prison tend to increase proportionally with worsening physical conditions of prisons (Morris et al., 2012) and with the severity of the prison regime (Reisig, 1998). Ricciardelli and Sit (2015) found that higher security prisons decreased prisoners feeling of safety and lead to increased violence, while the informal relations and mechanism in lower security prisons tend to deter aggression and encourage desirable behaviour. But not all prisoners break under the pressure of deprivations in the prison environment; prisoners compliance with the norms of prison subculture has a negative impact on peace and order in prisons, and likewise adversely affect recidivism. Prison staff generally attempt to establish good relations with prisoners who do not internalise the norms of prison subculture, relations that are based on fairness of treatment and sometimes informal relations not based on coercion. These relations provide the foundation for prisoners recognition of prison and the prison staff as a legitimate power-holder and authority in the prison environment. 3 The Prison Code and Prison Subculture Sykes (1971) highlighted the fact that prison staff do not possess total power within the prison setting. Consequently, in the areas where the near total power of the prison staff is greatly limited, social systems and norms observed among prisoners are created; these norms are the key elements of prison subcultures (Bottoms, 1999; Liebling & Price, 2001; McDermott & King, 1988). Goffman (1961) wrote convincingly that the institutional environment of the prison leads to the formation of the prison code that is, rules, norms and values that are developed by prisoners within the prison system, and which often run contrary to formal rules established by the prison staff and administrators. Kaminski (2003) argued that the prison subculture typically dictates prisoners behaviour in nearly all situations of everyday life in the prison setting. Symkovych (2017) wrote that the informal hierarchi- 335 Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo / Ljubljana 69 / 2018 / 4, cal power structure in prison (prison underworld ) is seen in the prisoners eyes as the only viable option to ensure peaceful coexistence among prisoners. For such a social structure, hierarchical class structure, machismo, domination, defiance, rebellion and open antagonism against the establishment and its representatives, and the situational use of violence, especially in cases of a physical threat to a prisoner or an attack on a prisoner s honour, are quite characteristic of most prison settings (Reisig & Meško, 2009; Shoham, 2010). Sykes and Messinger (1960) defined the following norms of the typical prison subculture: 1) do not inquire into the interests of fellow prisoners in a sense that prisoners do not inform on fellow prisoners, are not curious about fellow prisoners, and do not expose fellow prisoners and importantly there are no excuses for failing to comply with these, particularly keep your nose out of other people s business rules; 2) do not argue with fellow prisoners, be calm and tolerant and do your own time; 3) do not exploit fellow prisoners, honour any arrangements made, and always pay your debts; 4) do not show weakness and deal with frustration and threats without complaining be a man or risk being seen as a woman ; and 5) do not trust prison staff and do not be naive prison workers are always wrong, prisoners are always right in any conflict arising. In Table 1, a codified form of rules of the prison subculture are set forth relating to the status, appropriate behaviour and mutual respect established between prisoners (Weinrath, 2016). Table 1: The Prison Code (source: Weinrath, 2016: 25 26) Status Prisoners, who are smart and discreet in their dealings, are respected in the prison. Prisoners, who commit more serious violent crimes, enjoy higher status. Prisoners, who are new, have less status than those who have done more time. Informants rank near the bottom of the prisoner hierarchy, and should be beaten or killed if possible. Sex offenders are ranked at the bottom, and should be beaten or killed. Child molesters rank lowest of all. Appropriate behaviour Do not talk to staff unless you have to do so. Oppose administration, or do not be agreeable to rules. Do not inform on other inmates. Do your own time, and do not involve yourself in others problems. Stand up for yourself, be strong, and do not show weakness. Do not bring problems from the street into prison with you. Conflicts on the street must be forgotten once incarcerated with others. Mutual respect Do not stare at other prisoners. Do not ask other prisoners about their business. Do not look into another prisoner s cell. Do not steal from other prisoners. Do not insult other prisoners. All conflicts arising among prisoners are settled one-on-one. 336 Gorazd Meško, Rok Hacin: Prisoners and Prison Workers Views on the Prison Subculture in Slovenia The decision to join the group of prisoners that are under the influence of the prison subculture entails the rejection of the power and conventional values that prison staff exhibit. Hostility towards authority prevents prisoners from entering into relationships with the prison staff that would promote trust and cooperation between prisoners and prison staff, and approximation of prison staff values to the prisoners. Moreover, the perception of procedural justice is seriously compromised, as prisoners who are under the influence of the prison subculture often defy commands and do not comply with prison rules. Defying prison rules and commands leads to many conflicts between prisoners and the prison staff (Ritzer, 1996). Consequently, these pri
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