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At this point, the hyena is obviously crossed out among others on the dorm and is held in even lower regard by other inmates as a coward who sidesteps his charge and allows others to “pay his lick,” so to speak. In some ways, this process of maintaining some semblance of decency and tangible respect for institutional authority is a means of redemption for the inmate and the dorm. In this regard, it is viewed that these men are capable of reform on at least a base level, contrasting with the typical say- ing that “there is no honor among thieves.” In essence, even the inmate subculture has standards that the hyena has failed to maintain. Thus, the lack of respect goes to the hyena, and, so long as the officer conducts his job in a firm but fair manner, the officer is afforded his due respect.

It is worth mentioning that Mr. Hilbun has been incarcerated for 18 and a half years in a variety of institutions, including Angola and Richwood Correctional Center.

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At this point, the hyena is obviously crossed out among others on the dorm and is held in even lower regard by other inmates as a coward who sidesteps his charge and allows others
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SOURCE: Jonathan Hilbun (personal interview, December 2, 2011). Used

with permission.

240 Introduction to Corrections



Chapter 10: Prison Subculture and Prison Gang Influence 241

However, one thing should be noted about snitches in the modern world of corrections; they are much more frequently encountered. Though there is a supposed code against snitching, the truth of the matter is that during the 1990s with the emergence of the War on Drugs, more and more inmates consented to being informants with law enforcement as a means of securing better sentencing deals. Further, the new breed of inmate that was observed during this time did not reflect behavior that was “honor bound” like the older inmates in prison. Though there continued to be verbal opposition to inmate snitching, wardens and other prison administrators noted the sharp increase in informants within their institutions during this time. It would appear that among modern-day inmates, the willingness to do one’s time with honor is a lower priority. Many veteran prison officials and older inmates (particularly inmates who are serving life sentences) contend that this is reflective of modern society where people are not as accustomed to being inconvenienced—a fast-food and instant coffee generation.


Sex offenders, particularly child molesters, are also afforded no respect in prison. In the early to mid-1900s, child molesters typically had a high mortality rate and were often abused by other inmates. However, these types of offenses are becoming more prevalent and are more often detected by the justice system. Thus, there are higher proportions of these types of offenders in most prison systems. Further still, many prison systems have developed therapeutic programs that separate these offenders from the general population. Though this may be true nowadays, many are not placed in a separate treatment program and instead can be found within the general population of the prison.

For those inmates who are sex offenders, many are singled out by prison gangs to be “turned out.” Turning out occurs when an inmate is forced to become a punk for the prison gang. The term punk is common prison vernacular for an inmate who engages in homosexual activity, but is a derogatory term that implies that the inmate is feminine, weak, and subservient to masculine inmates. In other words, the punk is considered a woman in prison and is often forced to engage in sexual acts for the pleasure of one or more inmates. Sex offenders in prison are disproportionately represented within this prison population and are considered to be at high risk for this type of victimization.


Other ideals within the prison subculture include the notion that inmates should maintain them- selves as men who show no emotion, free from fear, depression, and anxiety. Basically, the “strong silent type” is the ideal. Today’s young offenders may attempt to maintain this exterior image, but the effects of modern society (prevalence of mental health services, reliance on medications, and technological advances, as well as a fast-changing society) often preclude this stereotypical ver- sion of the convict from being reality for many inmates. Likewise, inmates are expected to refrain from arguments with other inmates. The general idea is that they must do their own time without becoming involved in the personal business of others. Getting involved in other people’s business is equated to being a gossip, and this also is considered more of a feminine behavior. Thus, to be manly in prison, inmates must mind their own business.

Inmates who stick to these two rules of behavior are generally seen as in control and not easily manipulated. Essentially, they are seen as psychologically strong of will and also fairly wise to the prison world. In some cases, these inmates may be referred to as a true convict rather than an inmate. In the modern prison culture, the title of convict refers to an inmate who is respected for being self-reliant and independent of other inmates or the system. Convicts are considered mature and strong, not weak and dependent on others for their survival. Convicts are considered superior to the typical inmate, and, while not necessarily leaders of other inmates (indeed, most do not care to lead others, but simply wish to do their own time), they are often respected by younger inmates who are themselves becoming acculturated into the prison environment.

Prison Tour Video Link 10.1 Watch an interview with two inmates.

Prison Tour Video Link 10.2 Watch two inmates discuss their relationships with other prisoners.



242 Introduction to Corrections

APPLIED THEORY 10.1 Labeling Theory as a Paradigm for the Etiology of Prison Rape: Implications for Understanding and Intervention

According to labeling theory, group reactions are the key determinant to events later considered antisocial in nature. Labeling theory essen- tially asks why some acts are labeled deviant when others are not (Akers, 2000). This theory asserts that social group reactions serve to make certain behaviors deviant, regardless of the individual context in which they occur (Vold, Bernard, & Snipes, 1998). This begs the question as to who creates the label associated with deviant behavior. The answer to this inquiry lies with those who hold the power within a given social structure. Some sociologists have asserted that the more powerful members of society create the standard for labels applied to individuals who are less socially prominent (Schur, 1973). From this perspective, this manuscript will serve to demonstrate the labeling processes involved in homosexual rape within prisons.

In order to understand labeling theory, one must also under- stand the underlying power structures within a given social order where the labeling process occurs. This is crucial because the pow- erful members of a society impose labels upon those who are less powerful (Schur, 1973). The label is determined by the standards of the affluent and upwardly mobile, with those at the lower echelons being nearly, though not entirely, powerless to “throw off the yoke” of the labeling process (Becker, 1963).

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