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Black Rage in the American Prison System

NCJ Number
Rosevelt L. Noble
Date Published
315 pages
Using institution-level data from the Census of State and Federal Adult Correctional Facilities, this study developed a theory of Black rage to explain the observed interracial pattern in prison assaults.
The study concluded that Black males entering prison with well-established anger toward the larger system of White oppression produced adverse consequences for both White prison staff and White inmates. Prison administrators' awareness of this Black rage should influence management decisions about increasing the proportion of Black prison staff and training all staff to be aware of racial tensions and how they could be addressed in inmate-inmate and inmate-staff interactions. Findings on incidents of prison inmate-staff assaults for Midwest correctional facilities provided the strongest support for the proposed theory of Black rage, which holds that knowledge of and feelings about the history of White oppression of Blacks in America and its ongoing effects increase the tendency of Black males to displace aggression onto innocent Whites. In the cross-sectional analysis, the Midwest was the only region where the percentage of Black inmates significantly increased the staff assault rate across each year studied. In addition, an increase in the percentage of Black staff produced noticeable reductions in the staff assault rate in the Midwest; however, the effect reached statistical significance only in 1990. The Southeast had the highest concentration of Black inmates, followed by the Midwest, but the concentration of Black staff in the Midwest was significantly lower than in the Southeast. This suggests that the racial demographics of the staff and inmate populations in the Midwest reflected the ideal setting for manifestations of Black rage in Black-on-White inmate-staff assaults. Also, there was a higher concentration of poverty among Blacks in the Midwest compared with other regions of the country. Extensive tabular data, 558 references, and a subject index