Prizonalization

These days, the problem of criminalization of society worries the entire world community. Penetration of crime into all spheres of social interaction led to the recognition of criminal threats as one of the most serious threats to the civilized existence of mankind. Many researchers express an opinion that prizonalization plays a great role in this process. Prizonalization is negative socialization of convicts. It is manifested in the adoption of manners, morals, customs, and the main culture of the penitentiary institution. A person placed in such facility perceives the views of the imprisoned on the prison and the life outside it. In such a way, they develop a sense of hostility toward prison staff and loyalty to other prisoners supporting their interests, which leads to the conflict with the administration. In turn, the process of prizonalization affects both prisoners and prison administration. Thus, prizonalization is a process in which the convicted person begins to adapt to the conditions of captivity. Prizonalization has many dangerous consequences for a convict as during imprisonment, a person experiences various psychological changes to survive in the prison environment. 

The term “prizonalization” in the criminological and penitentiary literature was first introduced by the American scientist Donald Clemmer (Garrison, 2011). He is considered a pioneer in the extensive research of the prison community and the social system. Prizonalization is an adaptation to the culture of prisoners. Hereby, it is the acquisition of the experience of imprisonment, further extended destruction of personality, as well as the adoption of new attitudes and behaviors. A vivid example of prizonalization is the utilization of a specific slang in communication between prisoners. Thus, a convict becomes accustomed to certain manners of behavior in jail. However, such views and manners are completely unsuitable for the life outside prison. Moreover, they often make it impossible for people to perform any normal social role. The convict can start to absorb the views on life and the demeanor of other prisoners. The forced habitation among a large number of strangers can cause conformism and secrecy (Latessa & Smith, 2011). To a certain extent, the convict assimilates all aspirations of the criminal community. In my opinion, prizonalization has many dangerous consequences for the convict. It relates especially to young people as it is extremely difficult for them to protect themselves from the negative effects of established behavior. 

There are several factors that contribute to the emergence of prizonalization, including the isolation of individuals that constitute the prison community, the balancing conditions of life in prison, and the conditions for physical intimacy. There are also certain factors that represent the process of prizonalization. The first factor is specific conditions of life in prison such as isolation and the limited choice of contacts due to objective characteristics. The second factor is the orientation of relations between staff and prisoners generated by severe disciplinary rules and the desire to achieve obedience of prisoners at any cost and in all situations. The next factor includes the need to adapt to prison conditions. It has the greatest deterrent effect on the individual. However, according to Donald Clemmer, “Even though prisoners are aware of the general tenets of the inmate code, some prisoners choose to participate in certain aspects of the culture while others elect not to become part of the prisoner culture at all” (Clark & MacCreaigh, 2006, p. 69). 

According to Donald Clemmer, the duration of the process of prizonalization is dependent on the age of the convict, previous prison experience, the duration of the sentence, relations with friends and family, the type of the crime, and other conditions (Del Carmen, 2000). The sentence length has a direct connection with the concept of prizonalization as the longer people are in jail the deeper they are stuck in the prison environment. Apparently, this process allows the prisoner to quickly adapt to the prison rules. Thus, this fact leads to a decrease in the number of violations of the established order. 

 

The author Wayne Gillespie (2002) identified the factors influencing the process of prizonalization related to prison leadership. They include criminality of the prison population, social factors of age and race, and the type of prison (Gillespie, 2002). The English criminologist Terence Morris defined prizonalization as the prolonged and systematic destruction of the personality as a result of the acquired experience of imprisonment and adoption of a new system of beliefs and principles of conduct that are not suitable in the normal life (Del Carmen, 2000). Offenders representing the greatest danger to society are usually easily involved in this process. Therefore, the adaptation to the prison rules and the absence of violations of internal regulations may be indicative of a greater or lesser degree of assimilation of prison habits rather than the correction of the offender. Gillespie (2002) noted that the new convict faces five basic sufferings in prisons such as deprivation or frustration regarding the social approval, material goods, heterosexual relationships, personal autonomy, and personal safety. The prisoner can respond to each of these factors either by alienation or connection with other prisoners.

Most of researchers criticize the phenomenon of prizonalization. In the book Corrections: Blueprints, it is stated that “Some concern over the negative effects that inmates have on one another” (Del Carmen, 2000, p. 132). Gordon Hawkins has criticized the concept of prizonalization based on three main provisions of the research (Del Carmen, 2000). The first one is based on the fact that the length of the sentence positively correlates with the degree of prizonalization (Del Carmen, 2000). The second provision is associated with the fact that the concept of prizonalization is wrong in the way that it does not allow for the possible effects of changes in the behavior of convict resulting from alternations in the organization of the institution (Del Carmen, 2000). An example might be a therapeutic community, which significantly changes the relationship between staff and prisoners. Another example is an experimental facility for juveniles named Highfields, which has revised the usual role of staff (Del Carmen, 2000). The result is a variety of friendly relations between the convicts. The next provision stated by Gordon Hawkins is associated with the fact that the behavior of the convicted person is generated by the prison culture and the culture of the convicted person (Del Carmen, 2000). However, many sociologists believe that the behavior of the convicted person is generated by the system (prison), and its function is to promote adaptation to the prison system.

There is an opinion that sending people to prison, most of them still preserve their disposition, language, and the way of life after release. However, there is also prizonalization in everyday life, culture, and language of the society. Prizonalization is closely related to the spread of culture and traditions of the prison environment. Prizonalization is essentially one of the mechanisms of the formation of prison as a special institution. Despite numerous disadvantages of prizonalization as a phenomenon, it has certain advantages. The main benefit is in the fact that offenders can support each other during imprisonment. In my opinion, another advantage of prizonalization is associated with the fact that many prisoners start to believe in the Lord in jail, which helps them survive their imprisonment. 

There are two ways of perceiving prizonalization, namely as a psychological phenomenon that occurs at the individual level and as a social phenomenon, which has a massive nature of reproduction. In a narrow sense, it is the process and the result of the socio-psychological adaptation of the person who is serving a sentence to the complex of organizational, management, domestic, and psychological conditions that exist in the colony. It has the effect of the formation of stable negative moral and psychological characteristics of the person in connection with the operation of restrictions caused by the mode, the content of punishment, violence, and the elements of the criminal subculture. Broadly speaking, prizonalization can be represented as a mass social phenomenon, which is expressed in the spread of adaptive penitentiary and criminal social practices among the convicts, prisoners, as well as in popular culture.

An analysis of court statistics shows the trend toward gradual formation of the general criminal environment, which is based on people sentenced to imprisonment, repeat offenders, and members of organized crime groups (Latessa & Smith, 2011). Apparently, these categories of offenders form a special prison subculture. In such a way, many criminologists and experts in the field of criminal law are of the opinion that imprisonment hardly performs socially useful functions other than temporary isolation of the offender from society when the condemned become victims of physical and mental sufferings. Therefore, all the above facts clearly testify to the problematic aspects of the criminological effectiveness of imprisonment as a kind of punishment and its place and role in the implementation of strategies for combating crime. Moreover, they describe a number of socially harmful and dangerous consequences of imprisonment. In such a way, to reduce the effects of prizonalization, it is better for some prisoners to replace imprisonment with other forms of punishment, including a fine, correctional labor, or house arrest. 

The tendency to unjustifiable imprisonment leads to jail overcrowding and considerable human and financial cost of their maintenance. It also greatly complicates the process of correcting the convicts and the possibility of further integration into society after discharge. In general, the goal of resocialization of an individual becomes almost impossible. It is extremely difficult for the offender to resocialize abandoning the environment. On the contrary, during the stay in prison, the convict is mostly desocialized. 

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May 15, 2019 in Communications
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