(p. xi) Preface
(p. xi) Preface
There is a dearth of scholarly books on institutional corrections that encompass theoretically grounded and critical discussions of the many issues facing both prisoners and prison organizations that interfere with the goals of incarceration and ultimately inflict harms on both groups. The rarity of these types of books is understandable, however, given the need to cover these issues from multiple perspectives (from the social and behavioral sciences) while offering thorough reviews of sometimes divergent literatures and making sense of emerging themes and lessons that can subsequently contribute to “best practices.”
Most of the existing books covering these issues are primarily “readers” or collected snippets of published research, each including a relatively small cross-section of extant research on only a small portion of the topics covered in this volume. On the other hand, “encyclopedias” of corrections and related areas such as sentencing cover a broad swathe of topics but without in-depth and critical discourses. The best original treatments of some of these topics have been provided in the Crime and Justice series, although most of the entries in related volumes include literature reviews that would now be considered outdated. The Oxford Handbook on Prisons and Imprisonment provides updated reviews on the more popular topics covered in these previous volumes including conditions of confinement and prisoner subcultures, and also provides reviews on topics that have taken or are destined to take greater priority in the field such as inmate victimization, special offender populations, prisoner re-entry, and privatization. Aside from being an important resource for both academics and practitioners, university students will also benefit from this collection of essays. Most criminal justice academic programs now offer junior/senior undergraduate courses as well as graduate seminars on institutional corrections, most often focusing on critical issues and future directions, and yet there is no contemporary original text that provides thorough discussions of the topics generally covered in a semester course.
The Oxford Handbook on Prisons and Imprisonment provides students, academics, and practitioners with a rich source of information on the current state of institutional corrections around the world, covering the most critical issues facing both inmates and prison staff and how these issues may impede the various goals of incarceration. It is the first original volume on prisons and prisoners to cover topics relevant to both the social and behavioral sciences with equal depth paid to each area. Focusing on the impact of these issues on the philosophies of incarceration (particularly with respect to retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation) is unique to a single volume, offering more scholarly treatments of these issues while also providing a larger picture of their implications and possible future directions for both policy and research.
The scarcity of related books is understandable after reviewing the history of penology and prison research. Extant studies began back in the 1940s, were conducted primarily in the United States and Great Britain and were focused mainly on inmate “subcultures” and (p. xii) sociological interpretations of inmate and prison guard adaptations to their environments, with ethnographic research methods being the norm. The academic focus on prisons was fairly narrow until the inmate rights “movement” in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s, when prisons became more open to public view and, hence, of greater interest to academics in both the United States and abroad. Not until the prison “boom” of the 1980s and 1990s in the United States, however, did research noticeably expand beyond adaptation to issues related to crowding, psychological well-being, inmate suicide, managing special types of offenders, risk assessment, and so on. Also, despite the growth in the role of psychology in related research, there has been no single-volume coverage of these topics that address both individual and cultural perspectives in necessary depth. As a consequence, the field remains bipolar in the treatment of these issues.
This volume constitutes a single source that bridges social and behavioral science perspectives, providing students with a more comprehensive understanding of these topics while offering academics a knowledge base that will more effectively inform their own research. For practitioners, particularly those in the treatment sector, the book provides an excellent overview of best program practices that are empirically based and research-driven.
Aside from offering a comprehensive understanding of major issues in the field of institutional corrections, the contributors to this volume provide theoretically informed and critical discussions of these issues that facilitate more objective and realistic assessments of problems and their possible solutions. These assessments are also facilitated with multiple perspectives on the same or similar issues provided by different authors. Within each topic area, these discussions can be integrated to provide a set of broader themes related to the parameters of the harms or benefits associated with particular issues. Across topic areas, these discourses can also be integrated to identify themes regarding the common sources of “harmful” versus “useful” corrections policies. As such, the handbook offers new ideas, critical treatments of substantive topics with both theoretical and policy implications, and comprehensive literature reviews that reflect cumulative knowledge on best and worse practices. Although each chapter can be read alone or in a “vacuum,” an appreciation for the broader themes will emerge from reading the entire volume.
The Handbook is divided into six sections, each corresponding to a topic area that we have identified as a focal point of discussion and research in the field of institutional corrections. All six parts have been the focus of discussions among both social and behavioral scientists, but one might consider the first three parts to be of greater interest to sociologists and social psychologists whereas the last three parts have more often occupied the interests of psychologists (but with important exceptions within each of these broader groups). Due to the overlap in these interests across disciplines, however, we refrained from collapsing these sections into broader groups reflecting different fields of study. We also did not combine these sections into larger groups because they are relatively distinct and do not easily lend themselves to broader themes when combined.
The era of mass incarceration beginning in the late 1970s and continuing through the mid-2000s in many industrialized countries, in conjunction with the “get tough” movement that spawned prison population growth, either generated or increased the magnitude of the most critical problems faced by prison officials today. For this reason, the Handbook begins with entries focusing on the origins of the inmate population boom, how it changed the composition of inmate populations and the conditions of their confinement, and cross-national differences in the use of imprisonment. The recent trend (p. xiii) in declining prison populations across the United States offers hope for lessening the impact of some of the problems generated by mass incarceration, although the size of these populations will remain a concern in the foreseeable future. This is because (a) the US prison population is still over five times larger than the population at the beginning of the prison boom, (b) the annual incarceration rate of the United States remains the highest of any other country in the world even when adjusting for population size, and (c) most states continue to operate prisons with populations exceeding design capacities. Even if the US prison population manages to drop to 1970 levels within a few years (an unlikely scenario), discussions of the causes and consequences of large prison populations are critical for informing policies to prevent repeating these mistakes. From this perspective, Section I provides an important collection of essays for understanding the sources and implications of mass incarceration. More specifically, trends in inmate population growth since the early 1980s are described in addition to the most prominent hypothesized influences on these trends, including the shift in emphases on rehabilitation to “getting tougher” with offenders, the “war on . . .” movements, a possible contagion of incarceration policies across states, more structured sentencing schemes at the state and federal levels, and how the boom in prison construction and renovation might have fed a demand for confinement. Also discussed are how these trends and their influences may have impacted changes in the composition of inmate populations across the United States based on legal factors (i.e., types of offenses and offenders) and demographic variables (i.e., race, ethnicity, age, and sex). Confinement conditions for inmates also changed during this time, and the reasons for these changes in addition to their psychological impact on inmate well-being are considered. Section I also includes a series of cross-national comparisons in the use of imprisonment and discussion of possible reasons for this variation (including social, political, and economic influences). The role of public opinion is explored, including similarities and differences in cultural attitudes regarding incarceration and capital punishment.
Section I provides a context for the topics of Section II, which focus on the impact of these changes and the nature of current prison environments on inmate subcultures, the expansion of prison gangs, sex differences in adaptation to confinement, and the consequences of mass incarceration for other populations including inmates’ families and the neighborhoods in which they reside as well as correctional officers. The evolution of our understanding of inmate subcultures since Clemmer’s work in Illinois prisons has been dramatic in that more current research underscores much greater heterogeneity in subcultures, a greater prevalence of street gangs in maximum security prisons for men, and some dramatic differences in adaptations to confinement between women and men. Over the past 40 years, there has also been a growing appreciation for the relevance of targeting and addressing inmate needs for psychological “well-being” during confinement. Related to this idea, Section II also provides an in-depth discussion of the unique or “disproportionate” problems faced by women in prisons today that can interfere with their adaptation to confinement (e.g., pregnancies, recent births, separation from children, histories of abuse, greater reliance on drugs as a coping mechanism, etc.). A review of “gender-responsive” programs and discussion of why some programs should not be used for both men and women are also provided. Finally, the impact of changing prison environments on correctional officers cannot be ignored. Treatment of how officers, in turn, influence prison climates is also important in addition to understanding their roles (p. xiv) in impeding or facilitating the goals of confinement and their impact on a climate supportive of offender change.
Given the priorities placed on inmate and staff safety by prison officials and state departments of correction, Section III turns to discussions of the ramifications of large inmate populations and inmate maladaptation for the safety of prisoners and staff and the effective and ineffective methods used by prison officials to deal with individual crimes in prison, drug use, and collective violence. This section covers the literature on best practices for predicting (and preventing) institutional misconduct as well as the empirical literature on a possible link between engaging in misconduct during confinement and post-release recidivism. Considering aggregate level misconduct, theories of prison riots are also presented and critiqued in terms of their applicability to the most serious riots in the past half-century. Turning to more specific types of prison crime, this section also covers drug use and both violent and property victimizations in prison. Specifically, the proliferation of drugs inside American prisons over the past 30 years and explanations for these trends are discussed, as well as changes in the incidence of sexual victimization, other violent victimizations, and property-related victimizations. The degree of overlap between “offenders” and “victims” is also discussed in addition to theories of inmate victimization. Attention is also paid to official responses to these events, including the detection and investigation of inmates’ crimes and other rule infractions, their apprehension, determination of guilt, and opportunities for appeal. Special attention is given to due process considerations and how these procedures have evolved since the inmate rights movement. Specific to the in-house sanctions for inmate offenses, given the debate over the extent to which some inmates should be isolated from others within prison, this section examines the impact of isolation on psychological well-being during confinement and the implications for super-max prisons with 23-hour lockdown. The need for administrative segregation and solitary confinement is also assessed in the context of improving the safety of individual inmates as well as preventing collective violence.
Sections IV and V place heavier emphases on psychological perspectives of incarceration due to the focus on prison programming and the psychological harms of confinement to special offender groups. Section IV provides comprehensive discussions of “best practices” in institutional programming and how we arrived at this juncture by learning from past mistakes. This focus includes effective treatment programming for general population inmates as well as for special populations (sex offenders and substance abusers), skills training for more effective integration back into communities upon release from prison, and the more effective reintegration strategies following release. The importance of using actuarial approaches to predicting the risk of both institutional misconduct and post-release offending is discussed, as well as the inclusion of static and dynamic factors in composite measures of offender risk and need. The history of the rehabilitative ideal in corrections is also reviewed along with the contributions of meta-analyses that have evaluated the effectiveness of prison treatment programs. “What works” for reducing post-release recidivism is described in conjunction with how the principles of effective intervention are applied to institutional settings. Given the unique needs of incarcerated sex offenders, the challenges associated with managing these offenders in prison are also identified, including the problems posed by other inmates and the low status of sex offenders in the general prison population. This section also covers the challenges associated with post-release supervision and service delivery, including the potentially deleterious effects of long prison sentences (p. xv) and certain prison environments, as well as the development, implementation, and evaluation of prisoner reentry programs. Finally, the challenges of transferring the “what works” literature from research into practice are presented.
Section V logically follows the discussions in Section IV with a focus on particular groups that are growing yet pose significant challenges to the goals of effective treatment and reintegration (mentally disordered offenders and juveniles bound over to the adult system). Inmates at high risk of attempting suicide and suicide prevention strategies are also described, including the use of screening and prevention programs. The relative contributions of environmental and operational factors to suicide risk are reviewed. Correctional mental health care is also considered in an historical and international context, and the unique challenges posed by mentally disordered offenders in terms of prison management and service delivery are discussed. Approaches for housing juvenile offenders in adult correctional facilities (i.e., straight adult incarceration, graduated incarceration, and segregated incarceration) are described in addition to the special considerations that must be made for prison management and service delivery.
Finally, Section VI is devoted to future directions of prison policy (program innovations, inmate management, recognizing the limits of confinement for achieving crime control the role of prison privatization, and lessons learned from “harmful” policies). The empirical evidence regarding the (in)effectiveness of prisons for reducing crime, specifically through deterrence and incapacitation, is reviewed. An overview of the current state of practice, policy, and research related to privately operated prisons in the United States is provided, and current knowledge regarding the limits of both private and public prisons is assessed. Section VI concludes with a synthesis of useful prison policies discussed throughout this volume. The sources of useful versus harmful policies in addition to the implications of the latter are discussed.
Instructors using this text in graduate seminars or upper level undergraduate courses might consider tying these issues back to the different philosophies or justifications for confinement (retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation). Useful discussions include how these issues might be manifestations of emphases on particular philosophies (e.g., mass incarceration during the 1980s from a heavier emphasis on retribution relative to rehabilitation) and how they might interfere with the pursuit of particular philosophies (e.g., inmate gangs and violence interfering with potentially effective treatment programs). The evolution and culmination of these philosophies over time have shaped many of the current issues, and so it is also important to discuss the relative priorities currently placed on retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation and how this ranking potentially impacts these various issues (e.g., how a heavier focus on incapacitation relative to rehabilitation impacts available treatment resources). These types of discussions might help students to appreciate the disjuncture between certain philosophies and the realities of imprisonment.
John Wooldredge and Paula Smith
February 2018 (p. xvi)