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Racism, Sexism, and Ageism in the Prison Community

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1985) Pages: 10-22
A Goetting
Date Published
13 pages
Both formal and informal prison practices serve to discriminate against three minority groups: blacks, women, and the elderly.
Like blacks in the larger society, black inmates were until recently segregated from white prisoners. While such segregation is no longer an important issue, discrimination against blacks remains an important source of antagonism. Such discrimination by white guards and inmates appears most severe at the lowest level of formality where visibility and accountability are low. Women, like blacks, are objects of differential treatment in the prison setting. In the prison, paternalism has resulted in a formal dual system based on sex. While some components of this special treatment protect female inmates, others deprive them of effective and optimally productive educational, vocational, recreational, and industrial programs. While older prisoners appear to enjoy elevated prestige in the inmate community, the more formal organizational structure, geared toward the younger inmates, neglects the special needs and interests of the elderly inmate. The current emphasis on prisoners' rights is conducive to litigation on the part of these discriminated-against minorities. 88 references.