Relationship strategies in a coercive institution: A study of dependence among prison guards

John Hepburn, Ann E. Crepin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Prison guards augment the limitations of their formal authority over prisoners by the informal control derived from an arrangement of reciprocity with prisoners. This well-documented dependence relationship generates a pattern of mutual accommodation between guards and prisoners to maintain order and stability within the prison. Contemporary analysts suggest, however, that guards are reacting to recent changes in US prisons by increased resistance to a dependence relationship and an attempt to assert their limited authority over prisoners by becoming less accommodative and more repressive. Survey data are examined to assess the relationship between level of institutional authority, dependence and the outcomes of accommodation or repression. The findings are discussed in terms of the need for dependence relationships in a coercive institution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-157
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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