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Journal of Criminal Justice 34 2006 631 642 The correctional melting pot Race ethnicity citizenship and prison violence Mark T Berg a Matt DeLisi b a b Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice University of Missouri St Louis 839 Lucas Hall St Louis Missouri 63121 4499 United States Department of Sociology Iowa State University 203A East Hall Ames Iowa 50011 1070 United States Abstract The United States prison population is becoming more diverse and comprised of increasingly more violent inmates Although race has been cited as a risk factor for inmate violence most prior research had narrowly investigated White Black differences in inmate misconduct Using a sample of 1 005 inmates from the southwestern U S the current study explored racial ethnic and citizenship correlates among male and female prisoners Negative binomial regression models indicated that net of controls Hispanics and Native Americans were the most violent male prisoners while African Americans and Native Americans were the most violent female inmates The current study was admittedly modest in scope however the findings were couched within a broader imperative sociological framework that lamented the increasing interplay between communities and prison and the role of prison as a social institution 2006 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved Introduction The United States correctional population is viewed as a pressing societal problem with widespread sociological and social implications The most obvious concern centers on the magnitude of America s inmate population especially when compared to the correctional populations of peer nations At midyear 2003 the most recent point of data collection there were nearly 2 1 million people incarcerated in the United States Nearly 1 4 million inmates were housed in state and federal prisons and the remaining 691 301 defendants were held in local jails Harrison Karberg 2004 The result is an American imprisonment rate that has been estimated between six and twelve times the rate of other Western countries Garland 2001a Mauer 1997 Tonry Corresponding author Tel 1 515 294 8008 fax 1 515 294 2303 E mail address delisi iastate edu M DeLisi 0047 2352 see front matter 2006 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved doi 10 1016 j jcrimjus 2006 09 016 1999 As the correctional population grows so too does a literature that documents the increased place of imprisonment in American society to such a degree that punishment has become a veritable social institution e g Downes 2001 Garland 2001b Hagan Dinovitzer 1999 Irwin Austin 1997 Mauer 2001 Pattillo Weiman Western 2004 Pettit Western 2004 Uggen Manza 2002 Wacquant 2001 Sheer correctional numbers are only a part of the problem however Racial and ethnic minorities specifically African Americans and Hispanics have been bearing and continue to bear the brunt of increased incarceration The numbers are unsettling In 2003 the male imprisonment rate per 100 000 residents was 1 331 For White males the rate was half that or 681 per 100 000 Among Black males the rate was 4 834 per 100 000 and for Hispanic males 1 778 per 100 000 Similar disparity exists among women Overall the female imprisonment rate was 119 per 100 000 residents in 2003 For White 632 M T Berg M DeLisi Journal of Criminal Justice 34 2006 631 642 women the rate was 75 For Black and Hispanic women the rate was 352 and 148 per 100 000 respectively Harrison Karberg 2004 According to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report the number of Hispanics who had ever been imprisoned increased tenfold from 1974 to 2001 If current incarceration rates remain unchanged about one in three Black males one in six Hispanic males and one in seventeen White males are expected to go to prison during their lifetime Bonczar 2003 This is nothing short of calamitous given the collateral consequences of imprisonment For instance Black children are nine times and Hispanic children three times more likely than White children to have a parent in prison Mumola 2000 According to Pettit and Western 2004 p 164 imprisonment now rivals or overshadows the frequency of military service and college graduation for recent cohorts of African American men The enormity of the correctional population its growth and the racial and ethnic disparities that it conveys are distressing Another by product of the correctional boom is also problematic namely the sizeable proportion of inmates who are violent criminal offenders Paralleling the expansion in the inmate population the number of inmates incarcerated for violent offenses has also increased Between 1995 and 2002 the number of violent offenders sentenced to state prison accounted for 64 percent of total state prison growth among male inmates and 49 percent among female inmates Harrison Beck 2003 During the same time frame federal prisons also experienced a 41 percent increase in violent offenders and a 68 percent increase in the number of inmates who were sentenced for weaponsrelated offenses The influx of violent inmates has been unevenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups For example from 1995 to 2001 the number of inmates newly imprisoned for violent offenses increased 82 percent among Hispanics 57 percent for Blacks and 59 percent for Whites Harrison Beck 2003 In sum the American correctional population is large and growing diverse and disproportionately constituted by minority males and increasingly comprised of defendants who were convicted of the most serious forms of criminal violence Does the racial and ethnic composition of the correctional population influence prison violence Although a large literature has explored the relationships between race ethnicity and prison violence the preponderance of this work has been limited to White and Black inmates Using a more heterogeneous sample of inmates that varied by race ethnicity and citizenship the current study sought to empirically examine these correlates as they related to violent misconduct occurring within prison Theoretical and empirical background Deprivation importation and their integration Traditionally investigations of inmate violence have been framed along two theoretical models deprivation and importation According to the deprivation model inmate behavior including misconduct and violence was primarily a function of the oppressive structural features posed by the facility itself In this sense prison was a deadening coercive even criminogenic environment as depicted decades ago by Hayner and Ash 1940

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