U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Friend or Foe? Race, Age, and Inmate Perceptions of Inmate-staff Relations

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 28 Issue: 4 Dated: July-August 2000 Pages: 297-312
Craig Hemmens; James W. Marquart
Date Published
July 2000
16 pages
A survey of 775 recently released Texas inmates focused on the relationship between inmates’ age and race/ethnicity and their perceptions of inmate-staff relations.
Early studies of inmate adjustment patterns assumed that inmates were part of a monolithic whole. However, later research suggested that factors such as race, age, and socioeconomic status affect inmate adjustment to prison life. The present study gathered information through interviews conducted at the bus station in Huntsville, Tex., two blocks west of the Walls unit of the Texas Department of Corrections-Institutional Division. The released inmates amounted to 41 percent of the estimated 1,900 inmates who passed through the bus station during the study period. Race and age had a major impact on inmate perceptions of correctional staff. Younger former inmates reported having more problems with staff than did older inmates. The younger inmates were also more likely to believe that correctional staff treated them poorly. In addition, both black and Hispanic participants were more likely than white participants to feel that correctional staff treated inmates unfairly, poorly, or both, and that they used excessive force. Findings agreed with prior research that concluded that individual, extra-institutional variables such as race have a major role in inmate adjustment patterns. Tables and appended questionnaire and 78 references (Author abstract modified)