Suggests that aggression in prison is a result of the individual characteristics and social histories the prisoners bring into the institution. If the prisoner previously lived in a culture where aggression was valued and reinforced, they are likely to be aggressive when in prison.
Factors Increasing Likelihood of Aggression
Gang membership, alcohol/drug addictions, poor employment record, low level of education, criminal history. Demographic factors; race and age. Evidence from the US shows that non-white and younger inmates are more likely to be aggressive.
DeLisi et al (2004)
Studied prison violence records of 831 inmates and found that violent behaviour inside the prison was mostly caused by those prisoners who were violent outside of prisons.
Irwin and Cressey
Psychologists that developed the importation model.
In these models, aggression in prison arises from the prison environment itself. Includes the deprivation model and the management model.
Deprivation can lead to increased stress for the prisoners and this can lead to them acting aggressively towards each other both to reduce stress and obtain desired resourced. Aggression becomes a way that prisoners can get control over the conditions imposed on them in prison.
Lack of liberty, autonomy, goods and services, heterosexual relations, security, freedom.
Suggests that aggression in prisons is die to poor leadership, high staff turnover and a lack of discipline among staff. Prisoners are less likely to engage in aggressive behaviour when there is effective management and the prisoners believe in the efficacy of the education and treatment programmes on offer.
Zimbardo et al (1973)
Conducted Stanford Prison Experiment; psychologically well-adjusted college students when put into the role of guards became brutal and abusive towards prisoners, showing that it is the situation that leads to aggression.
McCorkle et al (1995)
Found no evidence to support a correlation between violence and aspects of the prison environment in a sample of 371 US prisons. Pointed out that while the deprivations of prison life are constant, serious outbreaks of violence are not. Suggested that violence was more to do with poor management etc. Suggests that the way the deprivations are managed is more important than the deprivations themselves.
The interaction between the importation and situational models has been widely accepted as providing the most convincing understanding of aggressive behaviour in prisons.
Jiang et al (2002)
Studied 431 male prison records in the USA, found that the deprivation model best explained inmate violence towards staff, with the prisons with the most restrictive regimes reporting the highest incidences of violence. Importation model best explained inmate to inmate violence, as aggressive gang cultures persisted inside prisons.
IDA – Gender Bias
There has been much less research on women prisoners so it is not possible to say that the theory is relevant for women and men in institutions. Kruttschnitt and Krmpotich found that aggressive behaviour is less common among female prison inmates than males.
IDA – Practical Applications
Abu Ghraib prison atrocities; Iraqi prisoners of war were subjected to dehumanising and degrading treatment. Zimbardo argues that the behaviour of the prison guards was the product of the situational forces of being in that environment rather than personal characteristics.