14 Law & Soc'y Rev. 931 (1979-1980)
Race, Institutional Rule Breaking, and Disciplinary Response: A Study of Discretionary Decision Making in Prison

handle is hein.journals/lwsocrw14 and id is 933 raw text is: RACE, INSTITUTIONAL RULE BREAKING,
AND DISCIPLINARY RESPONSE: A
STUDY OF DISCRETIONARY
DECISION MAKING IN PRISON
ERIC D. POOLE
ROBERT M. REGOLI
This study attempted to construct and test a discretionary justice
model of disciplinary response to inmate rule breaking in a medium-
security prison for adult male felons (N = 182). We found, first, that
while black and white inmates were equally likely to engage in rule-
breaking activity, blacks were more likely to be officially reported for
rule infractions. Second, a prior record of official disciplinary action,
itself shown to be a product of discriminatory response, influenced
subsequent sanctioning decisions, thus amplifying the racial bias.
Third, analyses of separate models for black and white inmates
revealed the importance of prior record to be differentially imputed on
the basis of race. The study concludes with a discussion of the nature
and impact of stereotypic expectations and labeling processes in the
reaction of guards to inmate behavior.
An extensive literature focuses on the relationship
between an individual's physical (e.g., age) and social (e.g.,
demeanor) characteristics and the treatment received when
he/she comes in contact with the criminal justice system.
Generally, research has shown an operating bias on the part of
criminal justice officials toward those with certain social and
physical characteristics. Further, these people are seen as
constituting a categorical risk, and so are treated differentially
within the criminal justice system. As Hills (1971: 20) has
noted, the biases of a system of stratification are built into the
very structure and procedures of the whole law-enforcement,
judicial, and correctional system.
Although conflict theorists such as Hills believe that
differential treatment exists at all levels of the legal system, the
bulk of research on discretionary decision making has been
directed toward the police and courts (e.g., LaFave, 1965;
Skolnick, 1966; Bernstein et al., 1977; Lizotte, 1978). Yet Green
(1964) and Petersen and Friday (1975) suggest that differential
processing may be more common in those segments of the
LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW, Volume 14, Number 4 (Summer, 1980)

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