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Reflections on a Young Offenders Institution: Communication--A Need, a Want, a Right

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 50 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2006 Pages: 218-231
Rachel Forrester-Jones
Date Published
May 2006
14 pages
This pilot study of a young offender’s institution in the United Kingdom drew on symbolic interaction theory to analyze how verbal communication among inmates was discouraged and the subsequent response of the inmates.
Overall, the results illustrate that while punishment for crimes is necessary, any type of punishment involving segregation and which discourages social interaction is at odds with wider institutional and normative behavior that has been working toward expanding communication between individuals and among social institutions. The author’s recommendations include the advice to not make social interaction a privilege and to offer opportunities for interaction within educational programs, drug treatment programs, and anger management classes. Main findings revealed that communication between inmates was hampered: (1) through the physical environment; (2) through the “prison regime” that deterred communication; and (3) through a punishment system that denied opportunities for prisoner communication. Prisoners responded by developing alternative forms of communication, such as communicating through the pipes and toilet systems. More specifically, aspects of the physical environment that hampered communication included overcrowding and no place for prisoners to eat together. To make matters worse, the prison regime considered dialog of any kind between prisoners suspicious and thus worked to deter communication. The findings suggest that current prison reform acts actually work to deter opportunities for young offenders to socialize in meaningful relationships. As such, the social lives of young offenders will be qualitatively different than their nonoffending peers, further contributing to the “outsider” status of juvenile delinquents. Research methodology included informal observations of prisoner activities and open-ended, unstructured interviews with a probation officer, three prison officials, and two prisoners. A modified version of grounded theory was used to analyze the data for emerging themes. References