Institutional Aggression

PSYA3 - Explanations of Aggressive behaviour.

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The Importation model.

Irwin and Cressey: Inmates that enter a prison with particular characteristics are more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour than other inmates. Violence is because of the people in the institution.

Younger inmates inmates are thought to be more likely to experience confrontations with others as they find it harder to adjust to being in prison.

Research in the USA has found that Black inmates were more prone to violence than whites. Thought that black people usually come from more impoverished backgrounds and they bring with them (import) norms and values which say violence is ok. - Harer et al.

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Evaluation of Importation Model.

:) Strengths:

Supported by research: Keller and Wang (2005)- more violence in places where the most troublesome inmates are kept e.g. in maximun security prisons.

Poole and Regoli - among juvenile offenders in four different institutions, pre-institutional violence was the best predictor of inmate aggression, regardless of the features of said prison. This discredits the deprivation model and supports importation model.

:( Limitations:

McCorkle et al. ( 1995) - It doesn't explain how to deal with the violence, only that it is there.

Importation model claims that membership of a gang prior to confinement will increase chances of violence - however, Delisi et al. (2005) found no evidence that being in a gang before hand had any effect.

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The Deprivation Model.

It is the characteristics of the prison itself that accounts for prison violence, not the prison population. The prison experience causes inmates extreme stress and frustration, which leads to violence against others.

Sykes (1958) - the pains of imprisonment can be:

  • the loss of freedom.
  • loss of heterosexual relationships.
  • boredem.
  • discomfort.
  • loneliness.

Violence occurs in reaction to these 'pains'.

Violence in particularly common in crowded prisons as it adds to tensions. Due to overcrowding crisis in UK prisons, there has been increase in violnce, self harming and suicides.


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Evaluation of Deportation model.

:) Strengths

Some studies have provided support for the model.

:( Limitations

McCorkle (1995) failed to find any evidence that supported the models major assumptions such as overcrowding and living conditions. USA based study - culture bias.

McCorkle also said that stress in prisons is usually constant, yet serious outbreaks of violence such as prison riots are not.

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Institutional aggression in initiation rituals.

Initiation rituals are special rituals and requirements for new members of a group.

Used to create a sense of membership into a select group of people who have also done the same thing.

The rituals may be simple, such as drinking tonnes of alcohol, but they can also be very dangerous and violent such as beatings.

Winslow: "its about proving you can do it, and watching to make sure others can. You need to be able to trust those you are with are not weak" - quoting a man in Canadian Air Force.


A number of studies have found evidence that initiation rituals provide dominance and intergrate newcomers. McCorkle (1993) found that in prisons it was vital to maintaining status.:)

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