Race and prison violence

Miles D. Harer, Darrell J. Steffensmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Data from 58 male institutions in the federal correctional system were used to test for racial differences in both violent and alcohol/drug misconduct, controlling for a large number of individual, prison environment, and community background variables. Because "structurally" the in-prison station of black and white inmates is essentially identical, the data provide a unique methodological opportunity to test deprivation versus importation models of prison adjustment as well as more encompassing structural versus cultural theories of violence. The major findings are that, net of controls, black inmates have significantly higher rates of violent behavior but lower rates of alcohol/drug misconduct than white inmates. These patterns parallel those of racial differences in the larger society. We interpret these findings as supporting the importation theory of prison adjustment and the subculture of violence thesis regarding high rates of black violence in the larger society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-355
Number of pages33
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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