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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay discusses the evolution of the understanding of inmate subcultures in US prisons. It provides a selective description of historically and geographically specific “models” of inmate subcultures, both to highlight the range of social and subcultural arrangements in prisons and to explain why such variation exists and what questions should be asked of any descriptive account of the prisoner social world. Emphasis is placed on the heterogeneity of institutional forms and the subcultures that exist within them. How subcultures are shaped by broader institutional aims, conditions, and practices is discussed with comparisons of prisons in Great Britain and the United States. An alternative framework through which to think about inmate subcultures is needed, whose starting point is the way that any institution deals with the issues of power, order, and governance that are essential to all prisons and set the conditions for prisoners‘ adaptations and social practices.

Keywords: inmate subculture, prisoner social world, prisons in Great Britain, prison governance, prisoners’ adaptation

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