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Plurality of Total Institutions: Towards a Comparative Penology

NCJ Number
Crime, Law and Social Change Volume: 46 Issue: 3 Dated: 2006 Pages: 161-180
Anton Oleinik
Date Published
20 pages
This study compared and assessed prison social climates across five countries--Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Canada, and France--between 1996 and 2003.
The study findings indicated similarities in the social climates of prisons in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Canada. The Soviet and the French prison models represented two different types of social equilibrium: non-democratic and democratic. French and Ukrainian prisons scored significantly higher on the 10 key dimensions of prison life than did prisons in the 3 other countries. Ukraine, in particular, may be a model that is successful due to its combination of Soviet practices, such as strong hierarchical control, and Western practices, such as the transparency of the prison system. In Russia, Kazakhstan, and Canada problems within the prison climates could be caused by the organization of social control within the prison. In particular, the instability of Canadian prisons may result from the process of opening up the prison system to the outside world and strengthening “bottom-up” social control mechanisms. The prison instability in Russia, on the other hand, may be due to the lack of mechanisms of social control. Data were obtained from various sources. In Russia, 1,310 inmates from 43 prisons were randomly selected to complete a questionnaire conducted between Fall 1996 and Summer 2001. In Kazakhstan, 396 randomly selected inmates residing in 12 prisons completed the same questionnaire. Both prisoners (N=208) and prison staff members (N=23) from 5 prisons in Ukraine also completed the questionnaire. In Canada and France, interviews were conducted with 59 randomly selected inmates in 3 French prisons and with 120 inmates from 3 Canadian prisons. The prison social climates were compared through 10 key dimensions of prison life: respect, humanity, relationships, trust, fairness, order, safety, well-being, personal development, and family contact. Results should be considered preliminary until further research on a more representative sample is carried out. Tables, footnotes, references


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