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Tough But Not Too Tough: Penal Threats in Men’s Prisons, Prisoner Self-Presentation, and the Implications for Correctional Policy and Practice  

Author:  Katharina  Maier.; Rose  Ricciardelli.

Source: Volume 22, Number 04, Summer 2013 , pp.5-12(8)

Journal of Community Justice (formerly Journal of Community Corrections)

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Fear for personal safety is one the most pervasive features of imprisonment, as many prisoners grapple with threats of violence and victimization—physical, mental, and sexual. In this paper, we draw from interview data with more than 50 former male prisoners to discuss the link between prisoners’ self-presentations and their perceptions and experiences of threat and safety. Specifically, we analyze the ways in which male prisoners experience penal threats and try to create safety while incarcerated and the implications of their experiences and behaviors during their incarceration as well as post-release. We consider two broad categories of threat: (1) physical threats and (2) threats posed by the prison administration, as well as the ways in which these relate to each other. We hypothesize that prisoners’ self-presentations are decidedly influenced by perceived threat and the need to navigate multiple risks. We find that both self-presentation and threat are fluid and transformative constructions and that they are contingent on penal context. The implications for correctional policy and, specifically, for prisoners’ reentry into the community will be identified throughout the paper.

Keywords: Masculinity; self-protection; risk

Affiliations:  1: University of Toronto; 2: Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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