August 10, 2009

New prison research

Beyond Supermax: The Mississippi experience

Having worked in a prison segregation housing unit, I can tell you that such housing units wreak havoc on the fragile psyches of mentally ill prisoners. In a new article, prison authority Terry Kupers (author of Prison Madness) and a group of 13 colleagues explore what happened when Mississippi was forced through class-action litigation to remove mentally ill prisoners from Parchman's "Unit 32" and to provide them with treatment. The result? Not surprisingly, the prison saw "large reductions in rates of misconduct, violence, and use of force."

The abstract of Beyond Supermax Administrative Segregation: Mississippi's Experience: Rethinking Prison Classification and Creating Alternative Mental Health Programs is available at Criminal Justice and Behavior's "online first" site.

Researching prisoner rape

As you may imagine, getting accurate information on the prevalence and features of sexual assault in prison is a difficult task. Among the many challenges are "working cooperatively with state agencies while maintaining independence, gaining access to prisons and prisoners, securing necessary institutional approvals, and collecting generalizable data on a highly sensitive topic." The federal Prison Rape elimination act (PRea) of 2003 increases opportunities for research, however, and a group of scholars tells us how it is done. Lead author Valerie Jenness of UC Irvine is a noted authority on hate crimes. In this article in Criminal Justice Policy Review, Accomplishing the Difficult but Not Impossible: Collecting Self-Report Data on Inmate-on-Inmate Sexual Assault in Prison, she and co-authors describe their research procedures, in the hopes of reversing the recent decline of in-prison research by encouraging other researchers to sally forth.

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