Toch's sophisticated research design attempts to gauge the impact of prison environments on an inmate population randomly...

READ REVIEW

LIVING IN PRISON: The Ecology of Survival

Toch's sophisticated research design attempts to gauge the impact of prison environments on an inmate population randomly selected from five New York State penal institutions: Attica, Auburn, Coxsackie, Elmira, and Green Haven. Though prison is necessarily an unpleasant place, Toch (Psychology, School of Criminal Justice, SUNY, Albany) believes that conditions of incarceration may be less or more noxious and stressful depending on the degree of privacy, structure, safety, activity, freedom, and ""emotional feedback"" available to the men. The catch is that needs vary, so that a ""good place to do time"" for inmate A may be a hellhole for inmate B. Administering a questionnaire called the Prison Preference Inventory (which deliberately compares apples and pears: ""I'd prefer: guards who are consistent or housing that keeps out noise""), Toch finds that older inmates value structure, predictability, and privacy more highly than younger offenders whose paramount concerns are freedom and safety. (The young are most susceptible to prison violence and victimization.) Black inmates show a very high concern with freedom and care less about keeping occupied. Other subgroups--the married, those with a history of drug use, former mental patients--all have special criteria to make life bearable. Toch's object is achieving a ""fit"" or ""match"" between a man and his particular prison environment, thereby minimizing gratuitous suffering and, not infrequently, misguided reforms. Prisoners do this informally by creating ""niches"" wherein they feel comfortable; Toch would have it done explicitly and systematically. It's a modest proposal, one which in practice might not go much beyond administrative reshuffling, but to the extent that it proposes meeting individual needs, a progressive one.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1977

ISBN: 1557981760

Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1977