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Race and Economic Marginality in Explaining Prison Adjustment

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 26 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1989) Pages: 67-89
Date Published
23 pages
A literature review and data from inmates in correctional facilities in New York formed the basis of an analysis of whether black inmates and white inmates adjust to incarceration in similar ways.
Prison literature commonly suggests that blacks are more resilient to the pains of incarceration than are whites due to their experience in the modern urban ghetto. Ghetto life supposedly socializes the individual to engage in self-protection against the hostile social environment of the slum and the cold and unpredictable prison setting. Thus, Carroll describes black prisoners as tough, domineering, and aggressive, while Johnson suggests that they are strong, stoic, and unmoved by pressure. However, a review of the empirical research about race and adjustment reveals that, with the exception of self-inflicted injury, blacks and whites experience incarceration similarly. Outcome results were corroborated through a sample of 913 inmates. Analysis showed that blacks and whites have similar environmental needs and rate their prison settings similarly. Some support for the claim that a more economically marginal lifestyle before incarceration is related to successful adjustment was found, yet this was true independent of race. Findings indicate that racial distinctions are not universal and that the practices of suggesting that blacks and whites adapt in different ways leads to inappropriate conclusions about patterns of prison adjustment. Tables and 38 references. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1989