Cheryl Lero Jonson
Over the past forty years, the United States has relied on mass incarceration as a means to control crime. This reliance on imprisonment, known as the “penal harm movement,” has advocated incapacitation and other get-tough policies to punish offenders. This “get tough” era has made imprisonment one of the main crime control strategies utilized in the United States to incapacitate offenders and deter current and future offenders. Prisons exist for this purpose; they house both serious and minor offenders. This article assesses the impact of imprisonment on the reoffending of individuals sentenced to non-custodial sanctions as opposed to those given custodial sanctions, sentenced to shorter versus longer sentences, and placed in harsher compared to less harsh prison conditions.
The literature on inmate “harm” and inmate victimization within prison settings is reviewed with emphasis on the prevalence, predictors, and consequences associated with inmate misconduct, physical victimization, and sexual victimization in prison. The degree of overlap between “offenders” and “victims” is also discussed. The relevance of considering both inmate and facility characteristics for a more comprehensive understanding of both violent and property victimization is underscored. The potential impact of victimization on inmates’ feelings of safety is also covered. Strategies for preventing victimization and their limitations (e.g., protective custody, administrative segregation, disciplinary custody, prison transfers) are reviewed. A dyadic model of harm is developed that draws on routine activities theory and rational choice theory, to more clearly and systematically predict the effects of harm- and victim-propensity attributes of incarcerated people and correctional facilities on levels of harm.