How Do American Prisons Handle Disorder? An Examination of the Relevance of Disorder Theories and a Comparison with Popular Media Portrayals

  • Rodger C. BenefielEmail author


Popular media portrayals of American prisons take a variety of forms. Ranging from hard-hitting documentaries addressing complex social issues to shows that purport to reveal what it really like inside to others that make no attempt to give a realistic view at all. In this chapter, we will take a look at a homicide that occurred inside a US Federal Penitentiary. We will see what actually happened in the incident from the inmate’s point of view, and we will go through how the staff responded to it. We will also show how this incident supports the importation, deprivation, and administrative control theories of disorder. We will then contrast what happened in this incident with popular American media portrayals. In the end, we will show that there are elements in documentaries that give a glimpse into the American prison, but at the same time, these shows do not capture the nuances of inmate experiences and do not reflect the day-to-day reality of managing an American prison.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bloomsburg University of PennsylvaniaBloomsburgUSA

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