Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Patterns of Inmate Subculture: A Qualitative Study of Thai Inmates

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Patterns of Inmate Subculture: A Qualitative Study of Thai Inmates

Article excerpt

Introduction

It has long been acknowledged that there is a culture among citizens in the free world; a separate culture also exists behind prison walls. Several ideas regarding inmates and institution life have been studied since systematic theoretical and empirical work on prisons began in the mid twentieth century (Lutze & Murphy, 1999; Irwin, 1980; Sykes, 1958; Clemmer, 1940). However, a very well-known theme has been present since the beginning of this continually growing body of works in which inmates show some degree of adherence to an inmate code (Wooldredge, 1997; Irwin & Cressey, 1962; Sykes & Messinger, 1960). An inmate code is a normative order that expresses their more or less collective opposition to prison authorities. The various attitudinal and behavioral manifestations of adherence to the inmate code constitute a distinct inmate subculture. An inmate subculture is the culture of prison society and think by some to arise from the pains of imprisonment, while others believe it is imported to prison from the outside (Sykes, 1958; Clemmer, 1940).

Clemmer (1940) originally describes the term 'inmate subculture' as a direct outgrowth of the organizational and structural features of the prison. According to Clemmer (1940), deprivation of autonomy, lack of privacy and so forth are various features which represent a set of pressures that are unique to prisons. As a result, the inmate subculture is a distinctive adaptation to the pressures. Also, Sykes and Messinger (1960) labels inmate subculture, also known as inmate code, as that which controls both behaviors among inmate and inmate-staff relationship by emphasizing the general protection of inmate interests, the restriction of conflict between inmates, as well as respect for inmate strength and dignity, especially in the face of authority.

Essentially most of the English-language research on the inmate subculture study has been conducted in several countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, and New Zealand (Winfree et al, 2002; Hensley, 2000; Akers et al, 1977; Morris & Morris, 1962). Unfortunately, international inmate subculture literatures in non-U.S., non-U.K., or even non-commonwealth prisons do exist (Reisig & Lee, 2000; Cline & Wheeler, 1968) but are relatively rare, especially in Thailand. There is no existing standard research regarding inmate subculture in Thai correctional institutions. As a general assumption, different unique culture patterns generate based on differences in societies, people, attitudes and many particular correlated factors. Inmate subculture also corresponds to such assumption. Besides of how the inmate subcultures seem to be expanding worldwide; and many consequences from such a subculture system has been a cause for concern among persons involved in the management of prisons and the rehabilitation of prisoners. To the extent that the inmate subculture implies some sort of normative solidarity among inmates in conflict with the prison staffs. An understanding of the subculture is relevant to policy issues such as how prisons should be run, how treatment programs should be implemented within institutions as well as reintegrating offenders into the community after release. Therefore, it is very important to study inmate subcultures, different inmate groups as well as to continue to develop the understanding of inmate subculture concepts.

This study explores the pattern of inmate subculture among Thai inmates. Specifically, this paper seeks to address the issues of inmate subculture in Thailand by exploring inmates' perceptions and prison authorities' perceptions through a qualitative approach to the following questions: (a) what are the patterns of inmate subculture? (b) Why has such subculture system emerged within many prisons? (c) Why do inmates become so thoroughly integrated into this culture system? (d) How do inmate subculture systems differ from general inmate subculture in other countries? …

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