Prison Violence: Types, Causes & Statistics

Prison Violence: Types, Causes & Statistics
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  • 0:01 Crime in Prisons
  • 0:53 Causes of Violent Crimes
  • 2:10 Statistics
  • 2:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco
Violence can occur within the prison system. There are several types of violence within a prison and various reasons why violence can take place. In this lesson, learn about types, causes, and statistics about violence within prisons.

Prison Violence

By the end of 2013, there were nearly 1.6 million people incarcerated in the US state and federal prisons. Even though these inmates are serving their time in these facilities, they are not immune to violence. Prisoners still commit crimes within the walls of a prison and there are several contributing causes for violence to occur among prisoners or between inmates and prison staff.

Types of prison violence include murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, theft, and aggravated assault. When a murder or aggravated assault happens in prison, it is usually done with shank. A shank is a knife made out of illegal contraband within the prison system; contraband are items that are not allowed within a prisoner's holding cell. Shanks can be made out of plastic silverware, items stolen from work areas of the prison, or even parts of the beds within the cell.

Causes of Violent Crimes

Poor prison management can be a contributing factor in many cases of prison violence. In prisons that are poorly managed, drugs may be brought in. Prisoners who gain access to illegal substances may abuse them, causing instances of violence due to drug deals gone wrong or a bad reaction to the substances. In rarer cases, contraband cell phones can allow for communication between inmates and individuals outside of the prison, some of which may wish to cause harm to other prisoners.

Causes for prison violence can include gang-related activity. Gangs are present within prisons and include groups and alliances that have developed both inside and outside of prison walls.

If a prisoner supplies guards with information about another prisoner, he or she is known as a snitch. In some cases, snitches can be assaulted or stabbed by other prisoners for their behavior, as it goes against 'prison code'.

Other causes of prison violence are less preventable, depending on the prisoner. A person's personality and characteristics can give them a predisposition to crime. A predisposition is when a person has an inherited or learned tendency towards a behavior or characteristic. Some violent prisoners are kept in solitary cells or largely away from other inmates.

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