Prison buildup and disorder

Burt Useem, Anne M. Piehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


In contrast to the predictions of many, the prison buildup in the USA did not lead to dramatic increases in chaos behind bars. Instead, prison riots have become rarer, the homicide rate among inmates has declined dramatically and a smaller proportion of inmates are held in segregation and protective custody. Escapes are less common. What caused, then, the trend toward greater, rather than less, order? Neither demographics nor the development of supermax facilities are found to be responsible for much of the improvement. Rather, the data are consistent with the position that political and correctional leadership made prison institutions more effective. There may well be many negative social consequences of the prison buildup, but diminished prison order was not one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-115
Number of pages29
JournalPunishment and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


  • Disorder
  • Prison buildup
  • Prison programs


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