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8: Managing Culturally Diverse and Specific Populations in Correctional Settings

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    Chapter 8 – Managing Culturally Diverse and Specific Populations in Correctional Settings


    Key Learning Objectives:

    • Be able to explain the history of the American correctional system and the theories of incarceration and rehabilitation.
    • Explain the theories on incarceration: Deterrence, Retribution, Rehabilitation & Restoration
    • Explain why it is important to be culturally competent when working in the correctional setting.
    • How to appropriately deal with diverse issues and situations in the correctional settings.
    • Be able to identify the myths and stereotypes of inmates in correctional facilities.

    History and Purpose of the American Correctional System39

    The history of the American Correctional system has grown and evolved over the centuries to its current state. When the country began, we relied heavily on our British roots to guide our systems, and corrections is no different. Colonial America didn’t begin with prison or incarceration. Because the populations of early colonies were so small and communities close knit, punishment for the violation of laws and social norms were handled swiftly. Violators were punished by being placed in stocks or pillory, wearing a scarlet letter and similar public shaming methods. Strangers to the community would be banished or physical punishments imposed.

    However as American began to grow, this type of punishment would no longer work. After the Revolution, the founding fathers borrowed many of the English ways, but adapt it to their new-found ideals of freedom, their concept of criminal justice was no different. Perhaps because of its history of aversion to the harshness of the English Criminal code and its recent victory in the Revolutionary War, America was also particularly receptive to emerging Enlightenment thought challenging the premises of the old social order. So America sought to design a more unique penal system. One which focused on correcting behavior of the offenders. America began to build prisons which they intended to house offenders to protect the community but also correct their behavior. The Walnut Street Prison was one of the earliest examples of this new thought on prison. They sought to provide prisons a place where they could reflect on their actions and feel “penance” for their actions. Whereby we derived our word “penitentiary.”

    Image result for penitentiary

    Figure 8.1 Eastern State Penitentiary. Image is used under a CC BY 2.0.

    In order to understand prisons, we must look at the reasons we punish offenders and what are our goals. There are five common types of punishment: Retribution, restoration incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. Retribution and restoration both center on the victim and society. Retribution is probably one of the oldest forms of punishment and most commonly known as “an eye for an eye.” Historically, when wronged the victim would expect retribution or some payment proportionate to the loss he or she incurred. This punishment is also compared to vengeance. Restoration is a similar concept in which a debt is owed to the victim or society because of the offender’s criminal actions. The offender and victim must meet to allow the victim to be heard and the offender make amends and receive forgiveness. This is most often used with juvenile offenders.


    Incapacitation is just as it sounds, incarcerate offenders (incapacitate) so they can not harm society. Of course, this is one of the most expensive means of corrections. According to the Bureau of Prisons the average cost of incarceration for Federal Inmates is $36,299.25 per year for 2017. Deterrence is another concept whereby society “deters” crime through punishment. First, it assumes specific deterrence which means a person thinks through a crime and doesn’t act because the consequence (punishment) is not worth it. The other type of deterrence is general deterrence where society sees another one receives punishment for an act, and they do not want to suffer the same punishment so don’t act. Both of these concepts require swift punishment to occur to be effective.


    The main purpose of deterrence it to prevent future crime by deterring offenders and the public from committing a crime due to fear of punishment. There two main types of deterrence, specific and general. Specific deterrence is the prevention of committing new crimes by one specific offender. An example of specific deterrence is when an individual is caught for a crime and is punished, either incarceration, probation, fine or condition of sentence. This punishment needs to be severe enough to prevent future crime. The punishment must fit the crime. The other form of deterrence is general deterrence. This is where a person sees the criminal get punished and therefore does not commit a crime because they do not want to receive the same punishment. In order for these theories to work effectively, punishment must certain and timely. However, deterrence may not work in all cases because offenders think they can get away with the crime and avoid apprehension and punishment.


    Retribution is the theory that when someone commits a crime, the person harmed (the victim) deserves reprisal or “pay back” for the loss they received. Another common understanding of this concept is “an eye for an eye” which dates back centuries where the victim was able to exact revenge when they were harmed or wronged by another person. Today retribution does not just pertain to an individual, but more often society as a whole. For example, the use of illegal drugs does not have a specific victim. However, the harm done to society through other actions and crimes is why drug use is considered illegal.


    Rehabilitation has been a reoccurring theme in American corrections throughout the centuries. The first prison built in America sought to correct offender behavior. Rehabilitation focuses on correcting offender behavior, often in a confined setting (prison) or in the community under supervision (probation or parole) to guiding the offender to overcome barriers that contributed to the commission of the crime. Often considered the “medical” model of punishment because it sought to treat the offender rather than strictly punish. This model was used extensively through the 1970’s until a study indicated rehabilitation didn’t work. Though this study was later invalidated, it changed the prison for many decades. A shift occurred in the 2000’s and more institutions are returning to rehabilitation as a form of reducing prison population and curbing recidivism.


    Restoration is a concept of justice where the offender and the victim (either a person or society) work together to resolve the issue. The offender must make amends to the victim but also has a say in the process. Restoration is a more collaborative approach to resolving crimes and is often used in crimes involving juveniles. This process allows the offender to express remorse for committing the criminal act and be forgiven. This is a relatively new way of viewing crime and punishment and as a result there has been a focus on developing restorative justice programs across the United States.

    Return to the Rehabilitative Philosophy40

    Since the first prisons were built in American, many changes have occurred. Not all for the better. The United States penal system is currently faced with serious problems, many prisons are underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded. An increase in the crime rate and changes to sentencing laws in the 1990’s led to an increase in incarceration rates. Mandatory minimum and Three Strikes laws has contributed to the growth of prisons population and overcrowding. Another contributing factor to prison overcrowding is recidivism. Recidivism is when an offender is returned to custody for a violation of supervised release or commit a new offense while under supervision.

    So, we have a dilemma, prisons are very expensive and ineffective when so many offenders are returned to custody. This shows we have not rehabilitated offenders or deterred crime and more importantly we have also failed to protect the community. At the same time, no one thinks it’s a good idea to open the prison doors and let offenders free. So how do we deal with this epidemic? Some states have been forced to make corrections. In California for example, this led to Supreme Court involvement:

    “California's prisons are currently designed to house approximately 85,000 inmates. At the time of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Brown v. Plata, the California prison system housed nearly twice that many (approximately 156,000 inmates). The Supreme Court held that California's prison system violated inmates' Eighth Amendment rights. The Court upheld a three-judge panel's order to decrease the population of California's prisons by an estimated 46,000 inmates. They determined that overcrowding was the primary cause of the inmates' inadequate medical and mental health care. As a result, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has been working to redistribute inmates and parolees safely and decrease the overall population to the mandated levels.”

    Image result for california prisons

    Figure 8.2 Prison Overcrowding. Image is in the public domain.

    This created a situation where California had to make significant changes to the way it managed offenders and incarceration. Their answer to this problem was called Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109) or “2011 Public Safety Realignment,” and changed the seriousness of offenses in the penal code and provided new sentencing requirements for a majority of crimes. It reduced many crimes such and drug use and theft to misdemeanors. Additionally, other crimes previously punishable by prison, were no longer prison eligible. They transferred the responsibility for the incarceration of those offenders back to the counties they were committed. Previously, county jails were only used to incarcerate offenders for short terms (usually a maximum of one year). After the passage of AB 109, offenders could be jailed for up to decades depending on the number of charges.

    Another considerable change that came with this bill was the way community supervision was managed. Prior to AB 109, there was two types of supervision, probation (community supervision in lieu of prison) or parole (community supervision after a term in prison was served). After AB 109, the state shifted a significant number of offenders to county supervision and created two additional forms of supervision. Mandatory Supervision was created to supervise offenders who no longer qualified for prison and jailed locally. And Post-Release Community Supervision (PRCS) where offenders identified by CDCR as “non-violent” and could be supervised by county probation officers. This significantly increased the number of offenders the county probation departments were required to supervise.

    The idea behind this “realignment” was to focus on rehabilitation and allow offenders to stay locally (either in jail or under supervision) where the community and stake holders could provide better services and reduce recidivism. County funding from the state actually depends on the recidivism rates and rates of prison sentences from each county. Counties receive more money from the state if they can show a reduction in recidivism and a reduction of prison commitments. Counties were required to create committees with community stakeholders to provide evidence-based treatment programs for offenders and demonstrate effectiveness for maximum funding.

    Under California penal code section 1230, the Community Correction Partnership (CCP) was created. It required the executive committee be comprised of the following:

    • Chief Probation Officer
    • Chief of Police
    • Sheriff
    • District Attorney
    • Public Defender
    • Presiding Judge of the Superior Court (or his/her designee)
    • A representative from either the County Department of Social Services, Mental Health, or Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs, as appointed by County Board of Supervisors.

    The goal of the committee is to ensure the county is doing its best to provide the best offender treatment services. This CCP look for ways to effectively manage services and funding provided by the states. The emphasis is on measurable outcomes and the ability to deliver evidence-based treatment to the offenders. As a result, many probation departments changed practices, reduced caseloads and focused treatment on high risk offenders.

    California is not unlike other states. Many are looking for ways to reduce their prison populations. A shift towards a rehabilitative correction system has been a growing movement among many states. More emphasis has been placed on programs offered to offenders while incarcerated, transitional programming for prisoners as they near release and supportive supervision in the community to ensure a better transition. All of these efforts are geared to reducing recidivism and improving the safety of the community through a reduction of crime.

    However, for treatment to be effective, correctional professionals – prison guards, correctional counselors and community supervision officers need to be aware of cultural, racial and gender issues that could affect the delivery of treatment and the offenders continued commitment to treatment. In this section we explore multiculturalism in treatment of offenders. This information was initially geared toward the therapeutic professional but can be easily adapted to fit the correctional professional. Despite the dual roles correctional professionals must balance, this information is valuable for developing rapport with offenders and improving outcomes.

    What it means to be Culturally Competent41

    The development of culturally responsive clinical skills is vital to the effectiveness of behavioral health services. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cultural competence “refers to the ability to honor and respect the beliefs, languages, interpersonal styles, and behaviors of individuals and families receiving services, as well as staff members who are providing such services. Cultural competence is a dynamic, ongoing developmental process that requires a long-term commitment and is achieved over time” (HHS 2003a, p. 12). It has also been called “a set of behaviors, attitudes, and policies that . . . enable a system, agency, or group of professionals to work effectively in cross- cultural situations” (Cross et al. 1989, p. 13).

    This section targets specific racial, ethnic, and cultural considerations along with the core elements of cultural competence highlighted in the model. These core elements include cultural awareness, general cultural knowledge, cultural knowledge of behavioral health, and cultural skill development.

    Introduction to Cultural Competence

    Why is the development of cultural competence and culturally responsive services important in the behavioral health field? Culturally responsive skills can improve offender engagement in services, therapeutic relationships between offender and providers, and treatment retention and outcomes. Cultural competence is an essential ingredient in decreasing disparities in behavioral health.

    The development of cultural competence can have far-reaching effects not only for offender, but also for providers and communities. Cultural competence improves an organization’s sustainability by reinforcing the value of diversity, flexibility, and responsiveness in addressing the current and changing needs of offender, communities, and the healthcare environment. Culturally responsive organizational strategies and clinical services can help mitigate organizational risk and provide cost-effective treatment, in part by matching services to offender needs more appropriately from the outset. So too, culturally responsive organizational policies and procedures support staff engagement in culturally responsive care by establishing access to training, supervision, and congruent policies and procedures that enable staff to respond in a culturally appropriate manner to offender’ psychological, linguistic, and physical needs.

    What is the process of becoming culturally competent as a correctional professional or culturally responsive as an institution?

    Cultural competence is not acquired in a limited time frame or by learning a set of facts about specific populations; cultures are diverse and continuously evolving. Developing cultural competence is an ongoing process that begins with cultural awareness and a commitment to understanding the role that culture plays in behavioral health services. For correctional professionals, the first step is to understand their own cultures as a basis for understanding others. Next, they must cultivate the willingness and ability to acquire knowledge of their offender’ cultures. This involves learning about and respecting offender worldviews, beliefs, values, and attitudes toward mental health, help-seeking behavior, substance use, and behavioral health services. Correctional professionals should incorporate culturally appropriate knowledge, understanding, and attitudes into their actions (e.g., communication style, verbal messages, treatment policies, services offered), thereby conveying their cultural competence and their institutions’ cultural responsiveness during assessment, treatment planning, and the treatment process.

    What is culture?

    Culture is the conceptual system developed by a community or society to structure the way people view the world. It involves a particular set of beliefs, norms, and values that influence ideas about relationships, how people live their lives, and the way people organize their world. Culture is not a definable entity to which people belong or do not belong. Within a nation, race, or community, people belong to multiple cultural groups and negotiate multiple cultural expectations on a daily basis. These expectations, or cultural norms, are the spoken or unspoken rules or standards for a given group that indicate whether a certain social event or behavior is appropriate or inappropriate. The word “culture” is sometimes applied to groups formed on the basis of age, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, recovery status, common interest, or proximity. Correctional professionals and administrators should understand that each offender embraces his or her culture(s) in a unique way and that there is considerable diversity within and across races, ethnicities, and culture heritages. Other cultures and subcultures often exist within larger cultures.

    What are race and ethnicity?

    Race is often referred to as a biological category based on genetic traits like skin color (HHS 2001), but there are no reliable means of identifying race through biological criteria. Despite its limitations, the concept of race is important to discussions of cultural competence. Race— when defined as a social construct to describe people with shared physical characteristics— can have tremendous social significance. The term ethnicity is often used interchangeably with race, although by definition, ethnicity— unlike race—implies a certain sense of belonging. It is generally based on shared values, beliefs, and origins rather than shared physical characteristics. With the exception of its final chapter, which examines drug cultures, this TIP focuses on the major racial and ethnic groups identified by the U. S. Census Bureau within the United States: African and Black Americans, Asian Americans (including Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders), Hispanics and Latinos, Native Americans, and White Americans.

    What constitutes cultural identity?

    Cultural identity, in the simplest terms, involves an affiliation or identification with a particular group or groups. An individual’s cultural identity reflects the values, norms, and worldview of the larger culture, but it is de- fined by more than these factors. Cultural identity includes individual traits and attributes shaped by race, ethnicity, language, life experiences, historical events, acculturation, geographic and other environmental influences, and other forces. Thus, no two individuals will possess exactly the same cultural identity even if they identify with the same cultural group(s). Cultural identities are not static; they develop, evolve, and change across the life cycle.

    Female inmates42

    The difference between female and male prison populations are significant in many ways. A majority of female inmate commit a violent offense at a far less rate than male Inmates. Female inmates are more likely to have been convicted of a crime involving property crimes, alcohol abuse, or drugs. Poverty has always been a better indicator for the propensity to commit property crimes which are economically driven, often motivated by the abuse/addiction of alcohol and other drugs.

    Image result for female inmates

    Figure 8.3 Female inmates inside their maximum-security prison. Image is used under a Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

    A study conducted in California showed that 71.9% of females had been convicted on a drug or property charge versus 49.7% of males. Males also commit nearly twice the violent crimes that females commit. Female inmates tend to participate in prison programs, however female inmates have less opportunity to participate in programs than male prisoners do.

    Female inmates tend to come from a lower socioeconomic status, have a lower education, possess limited skills, are single parents, and are predominately women of color. In California prisons, over half of the women are Black Americans (35%) and Hispanic (16.6%). One-third were Caucasian and (13%) were made up of other minorities. A study indicated those who had jobs prior to criminal conviction, only 37% were working at a legitimate job. Twenty-two percent were receiving a form of welfare, 16% were drug dealing and 15% were involved in other illegal activities.

    Statistics clearly show there are issues of economic status and race are factors in the criminal justice system. Prior to being ruled unconstitutional the state of Minnesota had a law that stipulated first-time users of crack cocaine would receive a mandatory four-year sentence, however first-time users of powder cocaine would receive probation. According to statistics 92% of those arrested for possession of crack were Black Americans and 85% of those arrested for possession of powdered cocaine were White Americans. On face value the law was clear representation of institutional racism. A judicial system which incorporates racial and economic factors in determining who will be imprisoned is a criminal justice system that lacks justice.

    Two-thirds of female inmates have children who are minors. Many feel guilty about being away from their children and are concerned they might lose custody of their children after incarceration. Female inmates utilize prison psychological services at a rate which exceeds male inmates. This is due to guild issues surrounding children, as well as unresolved pre-incarceration issues such as abuse.

    Many females who are in the correctional system are either addicted to, or abuse drugs, alcohol or both. In a study done in the Las Colinas Detention Facility in California, 37% of the Females interviewed indicated alcohol was their drug of choice, 21% said heroin, 24% crystal meth, and 18% cocaine. Unfortunately, drugs are readily available in prisons being smuggled in by friends, family, trustees and sometimes by prison employees.

    Many females in prison also report a history of physical and sexual abuse. In California prisons, nearly 80% have experienced some form of abuse. Twenty-nine percent report being physically abused as children, and 60% as adults, usually by their partners. Thirty one percent experienced sexual abuse as a child and 23% as adults; and 40% reported emotional abuse as a child and 48% as an adult.

    Females also report abuse within the correctional system. An ongoing investigation by the Human Rights Watch Women's Rights Project documented custodial misconduct in many forms including verbal degradation, rape, sexual assault, unwarranted visual supervision, denying goods and privileges, and use or threat of force. “Male correctional officers and staff contribute to a custodial environment in state prisons for women which is often highly sexual and excessively hostile”.

    Homosexual and Transgender Inmates43

    What unique challenges do lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender, (LBGT) inmates pose for jail operations? What do jail and prison leaders and staff need to know in order to appropriately manage these people with safety and respect?

    Accurate language and terminology, physical and gender identity factors, and an understanding of medical facts provide a basis for sound practice. Jails need to be prepared on many dimensions, such as medical care, data systems, security, housing options, and clothing choices.

    In 2007 the Center for Innovative Public Policy began to delineate the scope of the correctional facilities responsibility and options for appropriate response. In Discussion focused on identifying issues associated with managing this group of offenders in the nation’s jails and prisons, with an emphasis on personal safety. Beyond our profession, awareness has continued to emerge within the LGBT community about how correctional facilities manage, supervise, and house people from these populations. A number of national and regional organizations represent the interests of these individuals in social, legal, and political contexts. Cases being heard in courts all over the country are addressing aspects such as the provision of hormonal medications to transgender offenders, the continuation of transgender-specific medical procedures, and the development of gender awareness in areas such as housing and searches.

    The government’s obligation upon incarcerating a citizen is to provide for a reasonable protection of that person, as derived from the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Correctional facilities have a duty to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates from assault, suicide, fires and other facility dangers, and preventable illness. Correctional facility managers are charged with preventing assault and excessive use of force as well as suicide and self-harm. They must also respond to serious medical and mental health needs, as well as avoiding unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

    Correctional facilities have adopted the position that any sexual behavior in the facility is a rule violation. Sex between any persons in a correctional setting is forbidden, period. Whether that behavior is homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual is of no consequence. Our focus is on the potential for victimization, regardless of sexual orientation. Most correctional facilities have clearly defined policies on the housing, supervision, and management of heterosexual, homosexual, and lesbian offenders, but what about transgender offenders?

    Housing heterosexual inmates is straightforward, all other classification factors being equal. For homosexual and lesbian inmates, many correctional facilities do not have a blanket policy of segregation. A decision to segregate homosexual or lesbian inmates is usually based upon an articulated risk, derived from current or previous institutional behavior where the need for segregation has been identified, or a request for protective custody. Protective custody may be offered with a waiver option, which the majority of our homosexual and lesbian offenders prefer to do. Inmates who can function in the general population are permitted to remain there, unless a situation arises requiring a change in status (victimizing or being victimized, consensual sexual activity, behavioral problems, etc.). Similarly, with bisexual inmates, protective custody housing typically is offered, with the inmate having the opportunity to waive out to the general population.

    Transgender people typically are placed directly into protective custody with little opportunity to waive out. Some transgender persons are in the process of changing their physiognomy via sexual re-assignment when they reach our jails. The process involves counseling, lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy, and ultimately surgical procedures to either implant or remove breasts and to reconstruct the genitalia.

    During the process of sexual re-assignment, many live as a member of the sex they plan to be. This raises questions for correctional facility managers in several spheres of our operations.

    Medical care

    • What different medical and mental health services must we provide to transgender offenders?
    • Is there a need for a greater level of service and support for the sexual reassignment process than the jail now provides?
    • What is the potential psychological impact of impeding the sexual reassignment process while the person is in jail?
    • Does this impact rise to the level of a “serious medical need”?
    • Who is qualified to make the determination of “serious medical need”—a general practitioner, or a specialist in sexual reassignment surgery?

    There is some case law that recognizes that a person undergoing sex reassignment process has a “serious medical need” for continuation of hormone treatments. For example, see Wolfe v. Horn, (2001), which states that “…transsexualism [transgenderism] has been characterized as a “serious medical need…” and Kosilek v. Maloney, 2002). But little has been said thus far concerning the continuation of the surgical procedures. Advocates of the LGBT community would argue for continuation based upon the negative psychological and physical impact of stopping the process. For those jails holding inmates for periods of a year or less, this may be considered to have minimal impact. But some jails can house inmates for 5 years or more. What, then, are their responsibilities?

    Security Questions

    • Should Facilities conduct searches differently with transgender inmates based on their gender identity?
    • Should Facilities match the sex of the officer conducting the search to the gender identity of the offender?
    • Is it intrusive if a search of a transgender offender is conducted by a member of the opposite sex?
    • Is there a perception of being violated similar to that which could be experienced by a person with female anatomy and female gender identity if searched by a male officer?
    • Is there an issue of intrusiveness when a male with a female gender identity is searched by only a male officer?
    • If an inmate with a female gender identity is more comfortable being pat searched by a female officer, do we comply?
    • On a strip search, should there be a policy that searches of transgender inmates are conducted by a “mixed” team of one male and one female officer?
    • How should we approach searches of intersex inmates?

    We all acknowledge the legal requirement that strip searches are conducted by a member of the same sex (except in exigent circumstances), and we accept the legal implications of violating this caveat.

    Housing Questions

    • Should Facilities house inmates differently based on transgender status and gender identity?
    • Should Facilities disregard physiognomy in making housing decisions?
    • Should Facilities place a trans-woman in a female housing unit even though she still possesses male genitalia?
    • And what about housing a person with a female physiognomy but a male gender identity with males?

    Clothing Questions

    • If facilities provide women with bras, do we provide trans-women with bras as well?
    • Female inmates often have access to the same clothing as males, but in a jail where women wear different clothing than men, what accommodations will be made for transgender persons or those with a different gender identity?
    • What about curlers and other accouterments associated with female behavior and dress—should facilities allow trans-women with male “plumbing” to have them also?

    Society is changing, and correctional facilities will have to alter the way we do business to reflect these changes. Consider how the civil rights movement brought about significant changes in corrections practice. LGBT groups are pushing an agenda that could have a similar impact. Correctional facilities will be better prepared to navigate these changes if they proactively address them rather than waiting until external forces bring the issue to the forefront.

    Religious Inmates44

    In the United States religious persons and religious institutions have been associated with correctional practice since the formation of the Republic. This influence began prior to the creation of the prison system and expanded with a correctional philosophy aimed at rehabilitation. In recent times the religious institutions and legal services have assist inmates who try to practice their faith while incarcerated. Prison clergy serve as the main avenue through which incarcerated persons have access to religion. Correctional facilities hire clergy as well as other faith representatives to serve a variety of faith-based functions. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows, for the practice one’s religion, even for those who are incarcerated. Federal court decisions, as well as state and federal laws support this right, however, this right must not interfere with the security of the institution. Within correctional institutions religious practice is in the form of many faiths, with the most prevalent being the Judeo-Christian faith.

    It is challenging to determine why an inmate becomes involved with religion. Some believe it is for seeking redemption, or a sincere attempt to better their life. A belief held by many, including by some who work in correctional facilities, is that inmates “find religion” for manipulative reasons. This might be the case in some instances, but there is evidence some inmates have been changed for the better due to their incarceration and participation in religious practice. In all probability it is for a variety of personal and practical reasons.

    With the growth of the American correctional system, and the continuing ethnic and cultural diversification of society, the face of religion in prison may soon change. As prisons become more crowded, correctional officers and other staff will in all probability turn to religious leaders and volunteers to help them deal with the psychological stress which take place in a correctional setting and to accomplish some tasks. Recently there have been more secure prisons built, culminating with the super-maximum prisons where inmates are isolated from other inmates and staff up to 23 hours a day. Such environments are not conducive to social interaction, meaning the reduction of group religious practices. This will result in the need for a change in practice for religious ministries and may cause an increase in individual forms of “spirituality” and religious reflection.

    The United States is a multi-cultural society and requires a level of sensitivity towards diversity of faiths. Clergy representatives will may be asked to develop and implement programs designed to reduce racial, religious or cultural conflict. This is significant to faith representatives who will need to be well-versed in a variety of faiths and cultural perspectives. As the prison population grows, more inmates will eventually be released back into society. This means programs with the goal of successful reintegration of inmates back into the community will need the help of religious personnel to promote positive family relationships, maybe even assistance with finding housing and employment. Whatever changes take place in society, it is probable that religious programs and practices in correctional settings will continue to be an active part of prison life.

    Myths and Stereotypes of Inmates and the Prison System45

    What will it take to undo the mass incarceration (and over-criminalization) policies and practices that have taken root in our public policy while recognizing the need for sound policy to prevent and control crime? In the last four decades, U.S. policies and practices have emphasized incarceration as the only legitimate punishment. This has created an insatiable appetite— resulting in the policies and practices of mass incarceration. The costs of administering incarceration policies have affected nearly all aspects of our society. Look at the numbers: The U.S. has an incarceration rate of 756 per 100,000 (the largest in the world) and holds 23% of the people incarcerated around the world (see; Walmsley, 2007). In addition, 1 in 23 Americans aged 18 to 65 is involved in the justice system; 1in 28 children have a parent incarcerated, and 1 in 5 American adults have a criminal record (Glaze, 2009; Glaze & Maruschak, 2009; O’Brien & Darrow, 2007). Current policies and practices affect the ability of people to resume full citizenship and become contributing members of society. That is, these practices present “brick walls.” If we intend to “undo” the consequences while protecting public safety, we have to begin by addressing some common misconceptions. Only then can we forge a pathway toward effective policy that protects public safety and justice while reducing costs and offending behaviors.

    Myth #1:

    Once an offender, always an offender. Involvement with the justice system essentially labels a person an “offender.” This label affects an individual’s ability to retain status as a productive member of the community by, for example, limiting housing and employment options so severely that many cannot live or work successfully. Additionally, felon offenders lose (sometimes permanently) the ability to vote and participate in our democracy, which in turn stigmatizes and hinders productive societal participation. These collateral consequences build on the premise that once a person is an offender, a person will always be an offender. Despite the prominence of this thinking, data reveals that 42% individuals in jail, 20% in prison, and 50% under probation and parole supervision are first time offenders. Anywhere from 12 to 20% of those involved in the justice system can be considered persistent offenders.

    The impression that all offenders are persistent emerges from the difficulties in measuring outcomes. The widely cited 70% recidivism refers to felons in 15 states (see Langan & Levin, 2002) and does not recognize that there are patterns in reoffending. Recidivism is the general concept that these references, but recidivism can consist of: arrest for a new crime, conviction for a new crime, reincarceration for a new crime, or various outcomes for violating the conditions of release (on probation or parole supervision). The tendency is to treat recidivism as a “terminal” or final condition (it happened, or it did not). However, this does not take into account that involvement in the justice system—which is like many physical and mental health disorders—has reoccurring phases. It does not recognize that there may be significant breaks in offending behavior (remission) and that reoccurrences may be due to situational or opportunity factors. Nor does it recognize that younger (18-28) and males are more likely to recidivate as are those who started their involvement in criminal behavior at an earlier age. Thus, not all criminally involved individuals will live a life of recycling through the justice system, in fact, most will not.

    Myth #2:

    Mass incarceration reduces crime. For the last 20 years, the crime rate in the U.S. has been falling. As a result of the “war on drugs”, the crime rate hit a high in the early 1990s. Since that time, it has fallen to record lows (see the Uniform Crime Reports at Despite a decreasing crime rate, the number of people involved in the justice system during that time ballooned by 293% (Bonczar 2003; Bureau of Justice Statistics Correctional Surveys, 2009). Today, nearly 8 million American adults and 650,000 youth are involved with the justice system (see Pew Foundation, 2009; Taxman, Perdoni, & Harrison, 2007). Some attribute the decline in the crime rate to the rising use of jail and prison. Others report that jail and prison overcrowding is due to policies that have increased lengths of stay in prison/jail. These policies include mandatory minimums, increased incarceration periods, increased conditions attached to probation and parole, increased technical violations and the failure of parole boards to release offenders. While the incarceration of persistent offenders has probably affected the crime rate, the same policies for drug and misdemeanor offenders has only served to expand the incarceration population and intensify problems associated with offenders resuming life in their communities.

    Myth #3:

    Severe sentences produce the best outcomes. Punishment as a means of providing hard treatment to convey disapproval for wrongdoing is driven by four primary goals: incapacitation, retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation. The last 30+ years in the U.S. de-emphasized rehabilitative goals, favoring prison/jail as the only real punishment capable of incapacitating, deterring and imposing “just desserts” on offenders. However, there is growing evidence to show that the swiftness and certainty of punishment provides a greater deterrent effect to many crimes than the severity of sanction. In fact, fear-provoking sanctions may yield unintended consequences that decrease, not increase, the sense of control citizens have over their lives (Braithwaite & Pettit 1990) provoking recidivism. Yet, U.S. sentence lengths are virtually unmatched. For example, comparing 1994 U.S. with 1995 U.K sentences reveals startling disparities. The U.S. incarcerates approximately 4 years longer for rape and robbery, 3 years longer for murder and assault, 2 years for burglary and 1 year for motor vehicle theft. Yet, recidivism in the UK is significantly less than in the U.S. The average sentence in the US is an average of six months longer than in 1988. Together with the steep increase in the number of people going to prison, this has resulted in policies of mass incarceration. This brings up an important query: Can informal sanctions serve as an alternative form of punishment that satisfies key punitive goals while keeping undesired and/or criminal conduct to a manageable level?

    To this end, Petersilia & Deschenes’ (1994) study (among others) of inmates and correctional staff views of penal severity compared with community sanctions finds that roughly one year in prison is considered the punitive equal to three years of intensive supervision probation (ISP). In a similar study, researchers found that one-third of prisoners preferred prison to community supervision because of the conditions attached to supervision. Considering the social, psychological and resource cost-savings provided by ISP over prison, community sanctions might provide a viable avenue for “undoing” mass incarceration while maintaining swift and certain sanctions. Additionally, decreased reliance on prison as the primary—and in many cases first and only—source of punishment will also help eliminate some of the glaring inequality present when offender characteristics (e.g., race, gender, employment history) are valued differently by discretionary systems and actors within pre-prison justice processes.

    Myth #4:

    Community sanctions do not work. Essentially the U.S. does not have a system of community punishments (sanctions). There is very little available between standard probation (reporting) and incarceration (prisons or jail). Instead, we have a probation system designed to trap people into a life of involvement with the justice system. The current system does not incorporate existing science (evidence-based practices) about effective treatments or punishments that reduce recidivism. Rather, it builds on the premise that real punishment emerges from incarceration. The failure to use existing science in crime policy contributes to the continued use of expensive (incarceration) means to punish people. Although nearly 70% of those involved in the justice system are on probation or parole, the probation and parole in the U.S. is underfunded and undervalued (Taxman, Perdoni, & Harrison, 2007). The average daily cost to keep an individual on probation is $3.82 a day versus $78.95 for imprisonment (Pew Foundation, 2009). Instead of using probation as a legitimate sanction, probation has become a feeding ground for further involvement in the justice system through conditions that do not serve to address dynamic patterns that are likely to be criminogenic (result in further involvement in criminal behavior). Increased and irrelevant (not related to preventing or addressing criminal behavior) conditions mean more opportunities to fail probation and parole and exacerbate the problem. Probation supervision that uses the principles of behavioral management (an evidence based practice) instead of mere law enforcement can reduce recidivism and technical violations, yet few probation agencies use this type of supervision. Overall, evidence-based practices are available but underutilized in correctional settings.

    Further, while we know that 80% of offenders have substance use disorders, the existing system provides treatment for less than 10 % of the offenders who need these services (Taxman, Perdoni, & Harrison, 2007). Even more troubling is that the available programs insufficiently meet participants’ needs. To be effective, we need to expand the use of drug treatment courts (offering treatment for one year), cognitive behavioral therapy, use of motivational enhancement techniques, and employment programs that focus on social supports. We need resources to integrate evidence-based practices into community punishments. Building a community capacity to address crime problems encourage implementation of more cost-effective strategies.

    Myth #5:

    Incarceration only affects offenders. When an individual is involved in the criminal justice system, families and communities are also involved. One in 28 youth have a parent in prison or jail, which means that the children are separated from their families during critical developmental periods. It also means that youth experience the criminal justice system via visiting a parent in jail/prison, going to court, or dealing with the loss of the individual in their daily life. Since over 90% of inmates are male, this means that many youths may only develop relationship with a key male role model within the confines of the justice system. Incarceration affects life prospects including reduced hourly wages for men by approximately 11%, reduced annual employment by 9 weeks, and reduced annual earnings by 40%. By age 48, the typical former inmate will have earned $179,000 less than individuals not involved in the justice system (Western & Pettit, 2010).

    Recent attention focuses on the concentration of people involved in the justice system in certain communities. In New York City, neighborhoods that are home to 18% of the city’s adult population account for more than 50% of prison admissions each year. A similar trend appears in Wichita, Kansas where one-quarter of all people on probation or parole live in only 8% of the city’s neighborhoods. In Austin, Texas, three neighborhoods are home to only 3.5% of the city’s adult population, but they grapple with over 17% of people returning from prison each year. *(See for more information).

    Incarceration policies particularly affect communities where the return of individuals is concentrated with increased STDs, pregnancy rates, and lack of male role models.

    Incarceration-only policies have many costs attached to them, including disengaging people from productive citizenship, desensitizing the population to the adverse effects of incarceration and a criminal lifestyle, and stripping communities of potentially valuable, tax-paying members. Regrouping from this 30-year emphasis on incarceration will require dealing with these myths and recognizing that the criminal justice system and society at-large can benefit from seeking community-based punishments that prevent and address societal problems. To that end, we need to “undo” our focus on incarceration by pursuing a range of punishments that address the underlying cause of criminal behavior.

    Think about it . . . "Women’s Treatment in Prison”

    According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons their mission are core values are as folows

    Our Mission is to:

    • Protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and secure.
    • Provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens.

    Core Values guide everything we do:

    • Correctional Excellence – we are correctional workers first, committed to the highest level of performance.
    • Respect – we embrace diversity and recognize the value and dignity of staff, inmates, and the general public.
    • Integrity – we demonstrate uncompromising ethical conduct in all our actions.

    In this chapter, we explored corrections and specific needs of the unique populations in the prison setting. If prisons the goal and mission to provide offenders rehabilitation, they must address each offender specifically. We cannot treat all offenders the same. Go to the activity below to better understand the needs of women in prison.

    Act It Out! Understands Women’s Special Needs in Prison

    In this exercise we are going to look at women and their special needs in order to become law-abiding citizens. The Bureau of Prison program below addresses women and the relationships they created.

    “Women’s Relationships Gender-responsive program at FPC Bryan Female inmates at the Federal Prison Camp, Bryan, Texas, have a unique opportunity to address the challenges of incarceration and to address some of the issues that led to their involvement in the criminal justice system. To date approximately 100 women have participated in the structured intervention program entitled “Women’s Relationships.” This program assists female inmates in understanding and maintaining healthy connections within and outside prison. A recent graduate of the program, Dora Arreguy, noted that many of the women at Bryan have relationship issues or hurdles to overcome, and she believes the class helped each one in a different way: “It helped me realize that I need to do what is best for my relationship with myself before I can expect to move forward to better relationships with others.” Marne Boyle, Warden at Bryan and leader of the treatment group, emphasized the need for individual engagement with the inmates: “You can read about women all day, but you really get to know them as people and understand their struggles when you lead them in programs.” Women’s Relationships is an important program for female inmates in the Bureau of Prisons, many of whom cite unhealthy relationships as their pathway to prison”.

    In groups, discuss the following issues and prepare a report to present to the class:

    1. Explain why men and women go to prison, what crimes they commit, how are they similar and how are they different?
    2. Why is it important for correctional professionals to understand and address these issues?
    3. What impact to you feel specialized programs such as the one discussed above on rehabilitation? Why or why not? Support your answer with information from the readings.
    4. How does the program align with the mission and core values of the Bureau of Prisons?
    5. Present your findings to the class.
    6. Provide feedback to fellow student’s presentations. What did you agree with? How did your finding differ?

    This page titled 8: Managing Culturally Diverse and Specific Populations in Correctional Settings is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Dave Wymore & Tabitha Raber.

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