From the degradation, trauma, and culture shock that happens when a new inmate is imprisoned, there is absolutely nothing positive or exciting for them. However, the bigger problem lies in the fact that prison is meant to be an enclosed space for the housing and reformation of inmates while they are serving their sentence, undergoing appeal, or after being convicted of a crime, but the prison culture and traditions may allow for little positive change to happen.
When introduced to the prison, new inmates may often have to deal with intense
culture shock while working their way up the ladder by gaining respect and
conforming to the language, norms, and rules of their new territory. In the
case that such inmates get freed, they may leave the prison more dangerous or
worse than they came in. As most jobs also may refuse to employ ex-convicts (without
a sealed or expunged record), we see a trend where ex-convicts may resort to
their old vices just to get by or because it has become an ingrained part of
their personal lives.
matter where a prisoner is incarcerated in the world, new inmates can be
negatively affected by prison culture. In this article, you will find seven
ways in which prison culture can negatively affect new inmates, and they are:
1. Physical Violence And Abuse: Authority among inmates can include bullying and violence. There is always an “OG” or authority figure among the inmates who control the affairs of the inmates or has thought or fought his way to the top. Sometimes, a prisoner’s reputation from the outside precedes them and their status and respect are already established. Other times, a prisoner may beat their way to the top or step on the wrong toes and get beaten. With an increasing rate of shank fights and gang battles even within the prison walls, new inmates can quickly discover that they must stand up for themselves against any form of threat, or else they could end up cheated, assaulted, raped, or killed. One rule of the prison is to never snooze, and some inmates learn this the hard way. In the shower, cafeteria, restroom, and even the yard, inmates must always stay alert.
Image Source: Pixabay
2. Defiance: According to a 2012 research
into workplace violence in
correctional facilities in Australia, the rate of violence against authorities and
workers in male prisons covers about 44.4% of the whole data set. The offenses
range between rape, verbal assault, beatings, and stabbing of workers by the
prisoners, especially since some prisoners may believe they have nothing to
lose. New inmates may have a clash of values in adhering to rules between
inmates versus strict facility rules and eventually may feel the pressure to
conform to prison culture to survive, especially if the top man within the inmate
prison pyramid of power promises protection. New inmates (serving life
sentences) may quickly learn that once they control a certain amount of respect
within the facility, they can do as they wish and mostly get away with it;
after all, they may think: What would the authorities do asides from increasing
their sentence or placing them in solitary confinement? Absolutely nothing else
may cause them fear or concern. In the case that the inmate gets free, there can
be a rise in defiance and lack of heed to local laws or authorities.
3. Gang Affiliations: Even if new inmates get into
prison with good and positive societal morals and values and are initially
opposed to conforming to the inmate prison culture norms and rules, they may
easily get roped into the prison culture if they don’t know the prison Do’s and
Don’ts. An example is blindly or ignorantly accepting gifts or favors that can
place them in a vulnerable situation to owe a debt that they have to pay back,
and if they can’t, there may be negative consequences such as physical violence
and abuse. This is how some gangs may increase their circle. This means a new
inmate could risk becoming a member of a criminal cabal that extends past the
prison walls and eventually become hardened if he or she makes it out.
4. Loss of Personal Values: One thing that is almost
impossible to do in prison is to uphold religious beliefs that support
non-violence and not stealing, lying, or cheating. The cultural and established
norms and customs of many prisons do not support positive morals and values. Newly
incarcerated individuals often come in with nothing materialistic and only have
their solid words or character to show. Many new inmates quickly see that in
adapting to one’s environment, certain beliefs must be watered down or
abandoned. Fighting, sexual abuse, bullying, lying, and gaining and losing
respect, amongst others, can be the norms of a prison. Criminals with a known,
established, and unmistakable reputation, criminal history, or gang affiliation
may get better treatment, and new inmates may gain respect when they act more
rashly or violently.
5. Broken Homes: Going to prison, no matter
how short, already creates a stigma if an inmate gets freed, but when that
inmate begins to check all the stereotypical boxes, the result is usually
unpleasant. Broken homes can be created when an individual becomes incarcerated leaving an incarcerated individual's family to fend for themselves. Some new inmates have to learn how to fend for themselves in prison and
may respond to any form of confrontation with violence even better than they
fended for their family when they were on the outside. After all, new inmates must
often adapt to and survive in their smaller environment (until any release) by
building their level of respect, power, status, internal and external
affiliations, and lessons learned (which leave no room for risks), and all
these usually revolve around violence and becoming strategic and calculating to
survive. Irresponsibility and unaccountability are two common traits that a new
inmate can inherit even if they acted responsibly at home prior to incarceration due to the pressure to conform. This can have a negative impact on their mates, children, family, loved ones, and the incarcerated individual.
6. Sexual Abuse: Although rare, there are stories
and reports of same-sex rape happening in prisons all around the world. Any
sign of weakness can mark a new inmate as a target for rape by sexually
repressed convicts. Prison culture can include the hunt-or-be-hunted rule.
7. Impaired Social Skills: After a while of staying in
prison, new inmates can get accustomed to the prison language, and everything
gains a new meaning. If they eventually get free, their manners and language
can take some time to get back to normal. They can become triggered by the most
harmless gestures. This can impede their ability to interact with others in
their family, various social situations, and/or stay employed.
Image Source: Pixabay
The social and physical environments of
new inmates around the world possess great potential to influence them, and they should be
properly oriented and incentivized to remain true to whatever positive morals
and values they carry within themselves to not allow toxicity, dysfunction, and
any negative experiences to destroy their positive morals, values, and good
character. This may be difficult and easier said than done when faced with
decisions that can jeopardize their safety or threaten their day-to-day
However, it is important to know that one can pass through the prison and not absorb its culture by keeping a low profile and following the Do’s and Don’ts (literally being wary of trusting every inmate, avoiding confrontations or fights, “picking and choosing one’s battles”, staying out of trouble, and working on one’s physical and personal development and growth). It is imperative for new inmates to choose where their ultimate focus lies and acquire or build adequate social, survival, coping, and physical skills to stay healthy when they become incarcerated.
New inmates can do things such as focusing on respectfully working to de-escalate hostile situations that confront them, staying connected through family, friends, and others about what’s going on in the outside world, exercising, or spending time in the prison library to focus on learning about appeals for one to get released to return to and thrive in society. All incarcerated individuals can choose to positively free their minds (even if serving life) when dealing with the negative effects of prison culture.