Prison Violence: The Dynamics of Conflict, Fear and Power

Front Cover
Prisons are dangerous places. Assaults, threats, theft and verbal abuse are routine and fear is pervasive. Prison violence is sometimes described as an attribute of individual prisoners, but this approach leaves much to be explained. Why does violence arise in certain situations, and not in others? How does the prison culture influence rates of violence? How do prisoners interpret their situation to determine whether a violent response is required? This important new book brings an original approach to the problem of violence between prisoners. Building on their research in English prisons over five years, which included surveys of 2,000 prisoners and more than 300 in depth interviews, the authors pay particular attention to the patterns of decision-making that guide prisoners in handling their disputes, their interpretations of potentially dangerous situations, the role of reciprocal victimization, and the institutional norms that promote violence as a means of resolving conflicts. The book traces violent incidents back to the original conflicts between the parties, which are investigated in terms of the interests that divided them, the tactics employed, the purposes for which force was used, and the struggles for power that drove disputes towards violent outcomes. The authors argue that a conflict-centred approach provides a promising foundation for the design of safer prisons. This book is based on research conducted at the University of Oxford Centre for Criminological Research. Kimmett Edgar is Research Manager for the Prison Reform Trust. Ian O'Donnell is Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University College Dublin. Carol Martin has now retired from the field of criminology.

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About the author (2003)

Ian O'Donnell is Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University College Dublin.

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