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Peering into prison Prison peer effects and their policy implications

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Prince George''s
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $30,000)

This project aspires to determine whether cellmates generate prison peer effects on reoffending and to investigate whether those effects can be translated into correctional policies that reduce the amount and severity of reoffending. "Prison peers" are defined as individual cellmates and policy-relevant aggregates thereof. A defining feature of these particular peers is that prison policies, which assign inmates to cells, create them and the effects they generate. Therefore, housing policies implemented within prisons can, in principle, alter the types of peers assigned to an inmate, the makeup of that inmates proximal peer groups, and, most critically, the contextual effects generated by those peers.
This research project will substantially advance our understanding of the effect prison has on reoffending because it departs from the concepts and methods that typify prison studies. Unlike most incarceration and reoffending studies, this project attempts to understand the prison environment by examining contextual effects that contribute to the before-and-after prison effect. Unlike previous studies of contextual effects in prisons, this project exploits the controlled nature of the prison environment to bring the policy relevance of those contextual effects to the fore.
The unique constructs developed for this project connect criminological theory to crime policy through empirics. Definitions of a single, most influential prison peer and a prison peer group enable the most precise estimate of prison peer effects to date. But, this project does more than just detect effects: it applies them to create policy. The constructs developed for this project link the prison peer effect estimates to cell allocation policy recommendations that reduce reoffending without impacting prison security on operations. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 8, 2013