The mid-twentieth century witnessed a surge of American prison ethnographies focused on inmate society and the social structures that guide inmate life. Ironically, this literature virtually froze in the 1980s just as the country entered a period of unprecedented prison expansion, and has only recently begun to thaw. In this manuscript, we develop a rationale for returning inmate society to the forefront of criminological inquiry, and suggest that network science provides an ideal framework for achieving this end. In so doing, we show that a network perspective extends prison ethnographies by allowing quantitative assessment of prison culture and illuminating basic characteristics of prison social structure that are essential for improving inmate safety, health, and community reentry outcomes. We conclude by demonstrating the feasibility and promise of inmate network research with findings from a recent small-scale study of a maximum-security prison work unit.
- social networks
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine