Racial Tensions in Prisons

Archive Report

Racial Factors in Penitentiary Riots

Racism as Volatile Ingredient in Prisoner Unrest

The expletives “nigger” and “pig” were heard frequently by reporters at the Attica, N.Y., prison rebellion which ended Sept. 13 with a heavy loss of life. In many prisons, new inmates are inducted quickly either through pressure or preference into racially exclusive groups. Moreover, friction between guards and prisoners is often portrayed as having deep racist undercurrents. Dr. Norval Morris, director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago, has said: “You have gathered into prison some of the most acute race relations problems and the prison environment intensifies them.”1

Whether as a cause of prison upheavals or merely as an attendant disorder, racial tension is a highly visible and ...

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