Prison Violence

The United States judicial system continues to witness millions of people held behind bars for various offences. In fact, there were more than 1.7 million people by the end of 2014 incarcerated in the federal and state prisons in the US. Although prisons are supposed to be correction centers, these people are not any special and are prone to violence just like anyone else. The issue of prison violence has been a major source of concern to different stakeholders because it paints the integrity of the judicial system in bad light.  Prisoners are likely to commit crimes even behind the walls of prisons resulting in violence against fellow inmates and prison staff. There are different motivations and causes of violence in prison but none of the causes justifies the issue. Most prisoners have been involved in prison violence such as manslaughter, theft, aggravated assault and forcible rape during their time in prison (Edgar et al, 2013). Although the causes of prison violence are diverse and the types different, the crime remains highly practiced within US prisons.

One of the leading causes of violence within prisons is poor management and a lack of concern from the management. In most of the prisons, inmates collude with staff members allowing them to bring in drugs and illegal substances. The result is the formation of cartels within the prison that bully other prisoners and hurting those who do not conform. In some instances, the prisoners are allowed to sneak in cell phones thus aiding in their communication with outside suppliers. Other prisons have reported cases of contraband and illegal weapons being sneaked into the prisons and then used to orchestrate violence within the prisons. In some cases, prisoners have been murdered using crude weapons made from materials collected within the prison. Perhaps shanks or knives made illegal contraband, are the most common weapons and could be made from cutlery (Harer & Steffensmeier, 2006).

The most affected prisoners are those that report other prisoners to authority and are commonly referred to as snitches. Often times, criminal gangs within the prisons attack prisoners that they consider to be snitches resulting in stabbings and murders. Besides lack of proper management, other causes of prison violence are less preventable and result from personal behavior (Edgar et al, 2013). The idea of being locked up in a prison may have detrimental psychological effects on the prisoners and lead to criminal acts on their part. In this regard, prisoners with poor characters and personalities may easily be exposed to crime within the prison. It is prudent to keep prisoners that have a tendency towards illegal behavior in solitary cells in order to prevent other prisoners from harm. It is also possible for violence to erupt in prisons due to personal feuds resulting from different inclinations of individuals towards certain gangs. Ultimately, prison violence is a daily occurrence owing to the diversity of inmates and the different criminal backgrounds.



Edgar, K., O’Donnell, I., Martin, C., & Martin, C. (2013). Prison violence: The dynamics of conflict, fear and power. Cullompton: Willan.

Harer, M. D., & Steffensmeier, D. J. (2006). Race and prison violence. Criminology, 34(3), 323-355.



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