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Racial Desegregation and Violence in the Texas Prison System

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 27 Issue: 2 Dated: Autumn 2002 Pages: 233-255
Chad Trulson; James W. Marquart
Date Published
23 pages
This study examined the impact of desegregation on inmate-on-inmate violence in the Texas prison system following Lamar v. Coffield (1977), a class-action civil suit that forced the Texas prison system to racially integrate its double cells.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division (TDCJ-ID) provided data for inmate-on-inmate assaults for the years 1990-99. Assault data ranged from physical altercations to fatal assaults, including reported, discovered, and ultimately documented incidents. To assess the impact of the "Lamar" decision, data were analyzed according to intraracial and interracial prisoner-on-prisoner assaults overall in the prison system, with a focus on assaults that involved cell partners. The findings show that following desegregation, violence increased overall for approximately 1 year, but it declined over the long term. The rate of interracial cell partner assaults was not disproportionate to the rate of intraracial cell partner assaults. Desegregation per se cannot be blamed for the small increases in violence among integrated cell partners, since the same trend was found among inmates in nonracially desegregated cells. Any increase in violence was likely the result of problems with newly instituted classification procedures, substantial growth in the number of felony offenders, and related overcrowding. Decreases in the rate of violence over the long term likely resulted from proper classification, the increased use of administrative segregation for the most dangerous and violent inmates, growth in the prison system, and the reduction in overcrowding. 4 tables and 70 references