Perception of Crowding, Racial Antagonism, and Aggression in a Custodial Prison

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This research investigated the interrelationship of perception of crowding, racial antagonism, and aggression in a custodially oriented prison. Due to the black-white ratio in each dorm (2:1) and the forced, largely inescapable interaction in the open dorm housing arrangement, it appeared that race had an important effect upon the interpersonal dynamics of the prison. Perception of crowding was directly associated with the racial antagonism variables of stereotyping and social distance, especially for white inmates. Additionally, racial stereotyping and social distance were related to aggression, particularly interracial violence. Yet, at the zero-order level, aggression was virtually unrelated to perception of crowding. Thus, racial antagonism appeared to have had a far greater impact upon inmate attitudes and behavior than the effects of social density or the perception of being crowded. The finding that the most significant relationships among the variables in this study existed for the white inmate group is consistent with the hypothesis expressed herein-namely, that whites' excessive sensitivity to race may be due to the fact that they were accustomed to belonging to the majority racial group in society but in prison they constituted the minority racial group.