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PRISON

INSTITUTIONS
Inequalities in the Prison System

THE HISTORY
Discuss the history of your institution. How did it
emerge? How did it come into existence?
Up until before the American Revolution incarceration as
a type of punishment was not common in the United
States.
The construction of prison facilities emerged in the U.S. in
three stages.

STAGE 1: THE
JACKSONIAN ERA
By the 1800s eleven of the sixteen states that
comprised the United States has some form of prison
system.
During this stage imprisonment and rehabilitative
labor were the main source of punishment for the
majority of crimes committed in nearly all of the
states.
This stage was dominant until the American Civil
War.

STAGE 2: THE
PROGRESSIVE ERA
During the Reconstruction Era a group of prison
reformers emerged; this group began efforts to
make prisons more morally rehabilitative.
However real changes did not occur until after the
Civil War. It was during the Progressive Era that new
changes arose; these changes included
mechanisms like parole, probation and intermediate
sentencing.

STAGE 3: THE
MODERN ERA
During this era the dynamics of prison have
changed both at the federal and state level.
Since the 1970s, as the number of people
incarcerated increased, there has been an increase
in the construction of prisons.
In the 1980s as the demand for prisons increased,
private for-profit prisons arose.

THERES A THEORY TO
THIS
Functionalist Theory vs. Conflict Theory
Between the class lectures and the textbook
readings we have learned of many notable socialist
and their theories.
In the next two slides we will look at two of these
theories and how they apply to the institution that is
the prison system.

FUNCTIONALIST
THEORY
The functionalist theory, one of the major sociological
theories, that is based on the work of Emile Durkheim
focuses on how different parts of society come together
to contribute to society as a whole. This theory can be
applied to society on a micro and macro scale.
A functionalist theorist would view prisons as a necessity
to society. The complete a cycle; we have schools for
people to obtain knowledge and jobs for the application
of the obtained knowledge. As such, we have prisons,
they contribute to society by providing a place of
punishment for those that have broken laws.

CONFLICT
THEORY
The conflict theory, another one of the major sociological
theories, that is based on the work of Karl Marx, focuses
on the inequalities created in society by social and
economic resources.
A conflict theorist would argue that the inequalities in
society are the reason there is crime and the reason
prisons are needed. They would argue that the existence
of prisons are means of control by those with power as a
way to maintain the uneven distribution of resources.

WHAT SOCIETY SEES


How do members of society perceive your
institution?
Society views prisons as a form of punishment for
those that commit crime.
However, many believe that they fail to rehabilitate
and that they really dont serve a purpose as the
people that get sent there return to the habits that
originally sent them to prison in the first place.

WHAT THE INMATES SEE


How do members of the institution perceive itself (its own
institution)?
Inmates often see prison as an oppressive environment.
Many have said there is racial and sexual orientation
segregation.
However, just as some view prison as awful some view it
as means to get off the streets.

TIME CHANGES THINGS


How has the institution changed over time?
The first major change occurred in the 1820s with the
implementation of Auburn System in New York. Rather than the
use of large cells with multiple inmates; prisoners were held in
separate cells and were not permitted to speak to each other.
This style became widespread throughout the other states.
However, by the 1860s overcrowding, sentence lengths and
repeat offenders led to further changes.
By the 1960s minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines
were established. During this time changes to include
healthcare and humane treatment also occurred.

THE CATALYST WAS


What has caused various institutions to change?
The first wave of changes to the prison system arose
as by the 1820s prisoner shared large holding cells
and had become prone to riots and escape.
By the 1920s prisons began to employ psychiatrist
and psychologist in attempt to cure inmates; it was
during this time that probation was also introduced.

However, all was not good and by the 1950s a


series of riots triggered by deplorable conditions,
such as poor hygiene or medical care and brutality
new changes arose.
In the time since then, the court has recognized all
of those as rights.
As recent as 2011, after the case of Brown v. Plata
the state of California was forced to release
thousands of prisoners after the state was unable to
provide constitutionally mandated levels of
healthcare.

SOME THINGS NEVER


CHANGE
Discuss any stable features of the institution, that is,
features that have not changed.
One feature that has remained constant through the
centuries is prison overcrowding and violence.
To this day there are constant reports of inmate abuse,
poor hygiene and horrible food.

THERES ALWAYS ROOM


FOR IMPROVEMENT
As a way to better accommodate members of society,
how would you improve your institution?
The key to improving the prison system is to diminish the
repeat offenders by promoting education and job
training programs amongst the inmates.
The best way to improve social perception of prisons and
prisoners is to change the people that are coming out.
Perhaps required educational or trade courses as part of
their post-release would help improve they systems ability
to achieve reform.

THE MAJOR PLAYERS


Who are the major participants in the institution? What
are their roles and statuses?
The major players when it comes to the prison system are
the Judge, the Prosecutor and the Jury.
The Judge presides over the court, the Jury gives the
verdict. However, the greatest player is really the
Prosecutor, this is the individual that determines whether
charges will be pressed and the length of a prison
sentence that will be sought.

THERE IS ALWAYS A
FAVORITE
Does your institution work better for some members of
society (as opposed to others)?
Although the system is to be impartial and unbiased, that
is not the case.
Studies have shown that there is a large disparity
between black inmates and white inmates. Prosecutors
are twice as likely to file charges against black offenders
as opposed to white offenders.

Studies have also shown that there is a disparity


between sentence length. Black individuals are
more likely to receive 10% longer sentences than
white individuals detained for the same crime.
Studies have also found that educational and
economic status will also affect the length of prison
sentences.

*Note: Black is used in place of African-American as the studies researched


used this term.

REFERENCES
Gottschalk, Marie. The Prison and the Gallows: The Politics of Mass
Incarceration in America. New York: Cambridge UP, 2006. 1-2, 43-44. Print.
Bradshaw, Gilbert, Who's Black, Who's Brown, And Who Cares?: A Legal
Discussion Of Hernandez V. Texas. Bringham Young University Education
& Law Journal 2 (2007): 351-382. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Feb.
2015.
Mustard, David B., Racial, Ethnic, And Gender Disparities In Sentencing:
Evidence From The U.S. Federal Courts. Journal of Law and Economics
(2001): 285-314. The University of Chicago Press. Web 14 Feb. 2015.
Rehavi, M. Marit and Starr, Sonja B., Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal
Charging and Its Sentencing Consequences. (2012): U of Michigan Law
& Econ, Empirical Legal Studies. http://ssrn.com/abstract=1985377. Web
16 Feb. 2015.

REFERENCES
(CONT.)
Witt, Jon. SOC 2013. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill
Higher Education ;, 2012. Print.
Schlanger, Margo. "Plata v. Brown and Realignment:
Jails, Prisons, Courts, and Politics." 48.1 (2013): 165-215.
Print.
Brown v. Plata. Supreme Court of the United States. 23
May 2011. Print.