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NCJ Number: 73264 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Second Life - A Cross-Cultural View of Peer Subcultures in Correctional Institutions in Poland and the United States (From Readings in Comparative Criminology, 1981, by Louise Shelley, see NCJ-76431)
Author(s): M Los; P Anderson
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 34
Sponsoring Agency: Southern Illinois University Press
Carbondale, IL 62901
US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Grant Number: 72-NI-99-1026
Sale Source: Southern Illinois University Press
Box 3697
Carbondale, IL 62901
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper presents some preliminary observations of informal inmate social structures within correctional institutions in Poland and the United States. The focus is on inmate roles in both prisons and in the juvenile corrections milieu.
Abstract: The influence of the macroculture in both countries on the modes of interaction are examined. The Polish prisons and juvenile corrections facilities are compared with two Oregon and California juvenile institutions and two Oregon maximum security prisons. The curses and rituals of the 'secret code' of Polish juvenile institutions are examined. In addition, the more complex subcultural divisions of the 'second life' of adult prisons are outlined. Although 'people' and 'slaves' are found in both adult and juvenile institutions, these polarized classes are more distinct in juvenile facilities and are far less observable in female penal populations than in either adult or juvenile male inmate groups. In contrast, U.S. inmate subcultures are more complex and highly stratified. While the Polish structures are more symbolic and connected with the valuation of the whole person in an attempt to gain personal control over a life defined by the institution, the U.S. inmate cultures seem to have a more pragmatic aspect in the role play among inmates. For example, in Poland, the passive partner in a homosexual relationship has very low prestige; in fact, he is considered nonhuman. In the U.S., an unwilling prisoner will often rationalize his homosexual role and even accept 'rewards' in order to make the best of such a difficult situation. Economic relationships and dependencies are probably much stronger in American institutions and may be considered the more important social dimension. Moreover, the relatively similar social and economic backgrounds of Polish offenders, together with the relatively undifferentiated Polish social structure which lacks ethnic minorities, is not conducive to building a highly stratified society within the institutional subculture. Especially among juvenile Polish offenders, the inmate subculture manifests an artificial symbolism dichotomized into the simplistic distinction between the strong over the weak. The American penal subculture shows more diversity and mobility between polar roles, reflecting the macroculture, which is characterized by a pragmatism relatively unknown in Polish society. Footnotes, 11 references, and 1 figure are provided.
Index Term(s): Attitudes toward authority; Correctional institutions (adult); Homosexuality; Juvenile correctional facilities; Poland; United States of America
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