Three external forces influence prison systems and directly affect the incentives and opportunities for corruption. One is the continuing trend to incarcerate criminals. This has led to unprecedented levels of crowding in state and federal prison systems. Second, career criminals are receiving longer sentences as the public sentiment toward punishment continues to harden (e.g., “three strikes and you’re out” laws), and these long­term offenders are making up a larger percentage of the inmate population. A third is that citizen attitudes toward the treatment of prisoners have led to a toughening of programs directed at prison inmates (e.g., chain gangs, the introduction of tobacco­free prisons, and the elimination of amenities such as college­level educational programs and recreation). These forces increase the deprivations associated with imprisonment and provide extra incentive to inmates to attempt to mitigate or neutralize the pains of imprisonment.

The opportunities for corruption arise from the tremendous amounts of dis­ cretionary authority allocated by the legislature to correctional officials. As Costikyan has noted, “Corruption is always where the discretionary power resides” (1974). In the prison, employees—particularly low­level ones (e.g., correction officers, counselors, and other line workers)—are responsible for monitoring and controlling virtually all inmate behavior. These officials con­ stantly make low­visibility discretionary decisions that reward positive behav­ ior and penalize negative behavior. These decisions directly affect the day­ to­day living conditions experienced by inmates in custody.

In a prison environment, staff members, armed with a limited arsenal of formal rewards and punishments, are given the task of controlling a reluc­ tant, resistant, and sometimes hostile inmate population. Special privileges in the form of extra television time, phone calls, job assignments, cell changes, conjugal visits, transfers, and furloughs may be used to reward positive behavior. Punishments, in the form of withdrawal of privileges, trans­

fers, or various forms of deprivation (from restriction of calls to solitary con­ finement and loss of good time), are used to control inmates.

The way that staff members apply these rewards and punishments has both short­term and long­term consequences for inmates and their experiences in the correctional system. Accordingly, when one considers the conditions of confinement, one recognizes the many incentives and pressures for inmates to attempt to corrupt staff as one means of improving their living conditions or for staff to exploit their power. Individuals sentenced to prison are subjected to various levels of deprivations, commonly referred to as “pains of imprisonment,” that affect both the physical and psychological stated of the individuals. Sykes defined these pains of imprisonment as the deprivation of liberty, goods and services, heterosexual relations, autonomy, and security (Sykes, 1958). In dealing with these “pains” associated with confinement, inmates make various adaptations to their immediate environment to help soften its psychological and physical impact. One of the techniques they use is the corruption of correctional employees as a means of neutralizing or improving their conditions of confinement (for example, through the smuggling of drugs, food, radios, or money, or the purchase of privileges).

In her journalistic study of an inmate incarcerated in a maximum­security prison, Sheehan made the following comment regarding the motivation of inmates in prison:

Most men in the prison are in prison precisely because they were not willing to go without on the street. They are no more willing to go without in prison, so they hustle to afford what they cannot afford to buy (1978:9).

Hustling usually brings the inmates and/or confederates into situations in which they need the cooperation of a staff member, either to overlook an infraction, perform a favor, or smuggle in some item. As such, the incentives or pressures for inmates to influence the reward and punishment structure through corruption are enormous. Gardiner and Lyman underscore this point when they state: “Corruption can only occur when officials have an opportunity to exercise their authority in ways which would lead others to want to pay for favorable treatment” (1978:141). When it comes to the prison, nowhere in society are deprivations found that exceed the harsh conditions of confinement found in the deep end of confinement facilities.

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