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The deprivation model claims that it is the
characteristics of the prison itself rather than
the prison population that accounts for prison
Proponents of this model don’t deny the
possibility that inmates enter prison with
certain cultural norms that are more or less
permissive of violence.
They argue, however, that it is primarily
the experience of imprisonment that
causes inmates extreme stress and
frustration. Which in turn, leads to
violence or aggression against other
inmates and staff.
Harer and Steffensmeier (1996)
They describe how inmate behaviour is a response to the
‘problem of adjustment posed by the deprivation or pains
These ‘pains’ include:
Freedom of heterosexual relationships
Isolation from the free community
As imprisoned inmates experience these ‘pains’ they
engage interpersonal violence as a reaction to the hurt
Many studies have provided support for the deprivation model of
However one of the largest studies in this area (McCorkle et al
1995) failed to support its major assumptions.
McCorkle and colleagues also point out that levels of stress
associated with imprisonment are generally constant, whereas
serious outbreaks of violence such as found in prison riots are
not, claiming that serious violence is more a consequence of the
management of prisoners rather than the general deprivation that
all prisoners endure
The model is also challenged by the finding that among juvenile
offenders in 4 different institutions, pre-institutional violence was
the best predictor of inmate aggression, regardless of the
particular features of the institution (Poole and Ragoli 1983)
this supports the importation model.