A survey by the NHS found over 84,000 cases of violence of aggression against staff in 2000/01 in British health institutes alone. Prisons have a similarly high level, with over 26,000 prisoner-prisoner assaults in US prisons in 2002, with 83 deaths resulting from these conflicts.
Explanations of institutional aggression
The importation model – Irwin and Cressey claim that prisoners bring their own personalities, traits and opinions into the prisons with them, and this effects how they act in the prison environment. So the prisoners might ‘import’ violence from outside into the prison with them.
Evaluation – Harrer and Steffensmeier found that in 58 US prisons black inmates had much higher rates of violent behaviour, but much lower rates of alcohol and drug-related issues than white inmates. These findings correlated with the outside world, suggesting that the prisoners imported these traits into the prison.
The deprivation model – This model, first proposed by Paterline and Peterson (1999) disagree with the view that people import aggressive behaviour into an institution. Instead they argued that the conditions of the institution, such as crowding, increased fear levels and frustration at the lack of freedom, lead to aggressive behaviour.
Evaluation – McCorkle et al found that ‘overcrowding, lack of privacy and the lack of meaningful activity’ all significantly influence peer violence. This supports the view of the deprivation model that it is the conditions of the institution that causes violence.
But not all research agrees; for example Nijman et al (1999) found that increased levels of personal space didn’t actually decrease the level of violent incidents, suggesting that it isn’t the conditions that cause aggression.