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Trusting the Untrustworthy: The Social Organization of Trust Among Incarcerated Women

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Dated: 2020
Date Published

Since knowing how individuals in prison establish relationships of trust with one another is crucial for understanding how individuals adjust to conditions of confinement, the current study used data from 133 incarcerated women in a Pennsylvania prison unit, adopting a network approach to examine the role of individual and structural determinants of trust, using exponential random graph models. 


Although the benefits of trust are well documented across a variety of settings, little empirical attention has been dedicated to trust in carceral settings, particularly among incarcerated women. Findings of the current study provide weak support for the claim that individual determinants (e.g. age, religious affiliation) shape whether women are more likely to trust someone to support them during an argument or a dispute. Instead, the findings indicate that structural determinants are the primary drivers of trust relationships. Trust is deeply entwined with friendship relations among women who get along with each other. The research approach used paves a new path for the examination of trust in correctional settings and other criminological contexts. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020