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Custodial Staff

Those staff members most directly involved in managing the inmate population.

Program Staff

Those staff members concerned with encouraging prisoners to participate in educational, vocational, and treatment programs.

Gain Time

Time taken off an inmate sentence for participating in certain positive activities such as going to school, learning a trade, and working in prison.

Structure Conflict

The tensions between prison staff members and inmates that arise out of the correctional setting.


The beliefs, values, behavior, and material objects shared by a particular group of people within a larger society.

Staff Subculture

The belief, values, and behavior of staff. They differ greatly from those of inmate subculture.

Correctional Officer Personalities

The distinctive personal characteristics of correctional officers, including behavioral, emotional, and social traits.

Block Officers

Those responsible for supervising inmates in housing areas.

Work Detail Supervisors

those who oversee the work of individual inmate work crew.


The normal patterns of behavior expected of those holding particular social positions.

Staff Roles

The patterns of behavior expected of correctional staff members in particular jobs.

Industrial shop and school officers

Those who ensure efficient use of training and educational resources withing the prison.

yard officers

Those who supervise inmates in the prison yard.

administrative officers

those who control keys and weapons and sometimes oversee visitation.

perimeter security officers

Those assigned to security(or gun) towers, wall posts, and perimeter patrols. these officers are charged with preventing escapes and detecting and preventing intrusions.

relief officers

experienced correctional officers who know and can perform almost any custody role within the institution, used to temporarily replace officers who are sick or on vacation or to meet staffing shortages.


Tension in a person's body or mind. resulting from physical, chemical, or emotional factors.

Total institution

A place where the same people work, play, eat, sleep, and recreate together on a continuous basis. The term was developed by sociologist Erving Goffman to describe prisons and other similar facilities.

inmate subculture/prisoner subculture

The habits, customs, mores, values, beliefs, or superstitions of the body of inmates incarcerated in correctional institutions; also the inmate social world.


The process by which inmates adapt to prison society; the taking on of the ways, mores, customs, and general culture of the penitentiary.

pains of imprisonment

Major problems that inmates face, such as loss of liberty and personal autonomy, lack of material possessions, loss of heterosexual relationships, and reduce personal security.

deprivation theory

The belief that inmate subcultures develop in response to the deprivations in prison life.

importation theory

The belief that inmate subculture are brought into prisons from the outside world.

integration model

A combination of importation theory and deprivation theory. The belief that, in childhood, some inmate acquired, usually from peers, values and support law violating behavior but that the norms and standards in prison also affect inmates.

prison code

a set of norms and values among prison inmates. It is generally antagonistic to the official administration and rehabilitation programs of the prison.

prison argot

The special language of the inmate subculture.

inmate roles

Prison lifestyles; also, forms of ongoing social accommodation to prison life.


family-like structures, common in women's prison, in which inmates assume roles similar to those of family members in free society.

coed prison

a prison housing both female and male offenders.


the incarceration and interaction of female and male offenders under a single institutional administration.

Prisoners' rights

Constitutional guarantees of free speech, religious practice, due process, and other private and personal rights as well as constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishments made applicable to prison inmates by federal courts.

constitutional rights

The personal and due process rights guaranteed to individuals by the U.S. constitution and its amendments, especially the first 10 amendments, known as the the Bill of Rights. Constitutional right are the basis of most inmate rights.

Hands-off doctrine

A historical policy of American courts not to intervene in prison management. Courts tended to follow the doctrine until the late 1960s.

institutional needs

Prison administration interests reorganize by courts as justifying some restrictions on the constitutional rights of prisoners. Those interests are maintenance of institutional order, maintenance of institutional security, safety of prison inmates and staff, and rehabilitation of inmates.

civil liability

A legal obligation to another person to do, or pay , or make good something.

writ of habeas corpus

An order that directs the person detaining a prisoner to bring him or her before a judge, who will determine the lawfulness of the imprisonment.


a civil wrong, a wrongful act, or a wrongful breach of duty, other than a breach of contract, whether intentional or accidental, from a which injury to another occurs.

nominal damages

small amounts of money a court may award when inmates have sustained no actual damages, but there is clear evidence that their rights have been violated.

compensatory damages

money a court may award as payment for actual losses suffered by a plaintiff, including out of pocket expenses incurred in filing the suit, other forms of monetary or material loss, and pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

punitive damages

money a court may award to punish a wrongdoer when a wrongful act was intentional and malicious or was done with reckless disregard for the rights of the victim.


A judicial order to do or refrain from doing a particular act.


the power, right, or authority of a court to interpret and apply the law.


a previous judicial decision that judges should consider in deciding future cases.

legitimate penological objectives

the realistic concerns that correctional officers and administrators have for the integrity and security of the correctional institution and the safety of staff and inmates.

balancing test

A method the U.S. Supreme Court uses to decide prisoners' rights cases, weighing the rights claimed by inmates against the legitimate needs of prisons.

cruel and unusual punishment

A penalty that is grossly disproportionate to the offense or that violates today's broad and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency(Estelle v. Gamble, 1976, and Hutto v. Finney, 1978) In the area of capital punishment, cruel and unusual punishments are those that involve torture, a lingering death, or unnecessary pain.

consent decree

A written compact, sanctioned by a court, between parties in civil case, specifying how disagreements between them are to be resolved.

deliberate indifference

Intentional and willful indifference. Within the field of correctional practice, the term refers calculated inattention to unconstitutional conditions of confinement.

totality of conditions

A standard to be used in evaluating whether prison conditions are cruel or unusual.

due process

A right guaranteed by the fifth,sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution and generally understood, in legal contexts, to mean the expected course of legal proceedings according to the rules and forms established for the protection of persons' rights.

frivolous lawsuits

lawsuits with no foundation in fact. They are generally bought for publicity, political, or other reasons not related to law.

Structured sentencing

A set of guidelines for determining an offender's sentence

exchange rates

An approach to sentencing that emphasizes interchangeability of punishments; for example, three days under house arrest might be considered equal to one day of incarceration.

security threat groups

the current term for prison gangs.


An altercation involving three or more inmates, resulting in official action beyond summary sanctions and for which there is an institutional record.


Any action by a group of inmates that constitutes a forcible attempt to gain control of a facility or area within a facility.

super-max housing

A freestanding facility, or distinct unit within a facility, that provides for management and secure control of inmates who have been officially designated as exhibiting violent or serious and disruptive behavior while incarcerated.

special master

A person appointed by court to act as its representative to oversee remedy of a violation and provide regular progress reports.

no frill prisons and jails

correctional institutions that take away prisoner amenities and privileges.


the identification or verification of human identity through measurable physiological and behavioral traits.

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