Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Prison Informal Organization

Derek Kreager , Pennsylvania State University
Dana Haynie, The Ohio State University
David Schaefer, Arizona State University
Martin Bouchard, Simon Frasier University
Jacob Young, University of Washington, Seattle

Considerable research has examined the structure and correlates of school-based peer networks, but little is known about network structure and content in more coercive institutions, such as prisons, where peer ties may be viewed with considerable suspicion. This study investigates the informal social organization within prison using unique network data collected within a male unit and a female unit in two Pennsylvania prisons. Our network approach provides standardized metrics to test theoretically-driven hypotheses about the structure and role of prison peer relationships, and also enables comparisons across the two gendered social contexts. Here, we draw on past research to operationalize and test hypotheses for social organization in a women’s prison unit (n=131) and then compare and contrast these results to those from a study of a similar men’s prison unit (n=205). We are interested, in particular, in the roles of gender and race/ethnicity in shaping the observed peer network patterns.

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 Presented in Session 80. Flash Session: Innovation in Demographic Methods