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Exposing 'Sex' Offenders: Precarity, Abjection and Violence in the Canadian Federal Prison System

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2014 Pages: 428-448
Rosemary Ricciardelli; Dale Spencer
Date Published
May 2014
21 pages
This study examined inmate and correctional officer attitudes toward men imprisoned for sex offenses, the anxiety among sex offenders in prison and efforts to conceal their sex offenses from other inmates and corrections officers, and the techniques used by inmates and officers to determine which inmates are sex offenders.
Interviews with inmates convicted of both sexual and non-sexual offenses indicate that sex offenders, more than any other inmates, are despised and abused physically and emotionally in prison by both inmates and guards. Sex offenders who successfully conceal the nature of their offenses have a reduced risk of victimization in the general inmate population, but live with anxiety and fear regarding exposure of their offenses. In most cases, secretive sex offenders are exposed. Persistent efforts by inmates and guards to identify sex offenders are fueled by adherence to normative masculinity that places sex offenders at the bottom of the prison social ladder. As such, they are despised, humiliated, and abused at the whims of inmates and guards. Consequently, sex offenders have no supportive relationships in prison and cannot depend on the protection of guards. Through staff education and training as well as precise rules for inmate conduct, prison managers must ensure that sex offenders are viewed as at high-risk of victimization while in prison and are provided protections commensurate with that risk for harm. The study consisted of interviews with 59 Canadian parolees, with attention to the methods sex offenders use to "pass" as non-sex offenders and the anxieties associated with awaiting their inevitable exposure. Methods used by staff and inmates to expose sex-related convictions were also discussed in the interviews. Twenty percent (n = 12) had sex-related convictions. 1 table and 61 references