Considerable research has been carried out on both varieties of the prisonization theory. Generally, studies into the theoretical links between prisonization and the various pre- and post-imprisonment factors have found weak and inconsistent relationships (Bowker, 1977, Hawkins, 1976, Thomas, 1977, Zingraff, 1980, cited in Zamble & Porporino, 1988). Other findings have also cast doubts on the prisonization theory. Although prisonization has been consistently related, at least theoretically, with decreased likelihood of post-release success, several studies have indicated the opposite. Inmates who subscribed to the inmate code and adjusted poorly to the prison structure were found less likely to be recidivists than the less prisonized inmates (Kassebaum, Ward & Wilner, 1971, cited in Zamble & Porporino, 1988). Other studies showed that rebellious inmates were less handicapped during the initial stages of transition into the community (Goodstein, 1979, cited in Zamble & Porporino, 1988).

More recently, studies are increasingly indicating that the prisonization model has not clarified why and how inmates adapt in particular ways during confinement. The concept of prisonization focuses on explaining uniformity of behaviour rather than the individual variation. Incarceration affects individuals in different ways and while some inmates may exhibit similar "prisonized" behaviour, they may still adapt quite differently in other ways. Recent studies into prisonization have suggested that in order to understand varying reactions to imprisonment, a much finer analysis is needed than has been provided by the prisonization theory. Some researchers maintain it may be more useful to view prisonization as an attitudinal factor which combines with other variables to affect adaptation to incarceration rather than as a primary method of inmate adaptation that could be predicted (Zamble & Porporino, 1988).

The Coping Theory

Generally speaking, it makes little sense to search for the psychological effects of incarceration without acknowledging that these effects may vary widely among individuals. This fact is recognized by proponents of the coping theory who examine individual differences in how inmates adapt to their environment. Their research is unlike most studies into the effects of incarceration, which are focussed primarily on finding a general, uniform set of psychological effects upon which to base predictions about long term inmate behaviour. Operating on the premise that how individuals cope with problems is more important than the frequency and severity of the problems experienced, the coping theory focusses on the interaction of the personal and environmental factors involved as inmates adapt to a life of incarceration.


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