WHY IS RESPECT SO IMPORTANT IN PRISON CULTURE?
Respect is very important in prison and must be maintained. Disrespect in prison can lead to violent situations where prisoners may feel they have to prove they are not weak.
Sometimes prisoners feel they have to do things they don't want to do in order to survive in the prison environment.
Prison culture dictates that newcomers must establish who they are in the cultural hierarchy when they arrive at the correctional facility.
The hierarchy is based on what crime the prisoner has committed and how the prisoner interacts with others.
Violent crimes such as murder and big-time robbery are respected among prisoners. These prisoners are sometimes viewed as heroes.
In general, prisoners consider those found guilty of sexual crimes–rape, molestation, abuse–to be "lowest of the low." It is very hard for a prisoner to conceal that he/she is incarcerated for this type of crime. These prisoners are often in danger from other prisoners.
Prisoners who are considered weak, phony, or untrustworthy are not respected by the other prisoners.
A "punk" is a prisoner who shows fear. It is also used for prisoners who are homosexual. Punks are perceived as being weak. Once classified as a punk, a prisoner is much more susceptible to attack.
A "snitch" is a prisoner who goes to the authorities and claims to have knowledge about another prisoner’s crimes or something the prisoner is doing that is against prison rules. Whether the information is true or untrue, snitching is the highest form of disrespect within prison culture and may result in retaliation.
Prisoners do not respect a person they think is "phony." Because of this, someone who professes faith in Christ will be closely scrutinized by other prisoners. They will be judged to see if their walk matches their talk. Plus, some prisoners are watching to see if Christianity really works.
Phony Christianity is called "jailhouse religion" and is not respected at all.
Sometimes borrowing something from another prisoner can become an issue. If the debt is not repaid quickly, it is considered disrespectful and can lead to violence. This is a part of prison culture that doesn't always make sense. However, the reality is that most prisoners believe respect must be maintained at all costs.
HOW SHOULD VOLUNTEERS RESPOND?
Our job as Christian volunteers is to bring Kingdom culture within the prison walls. We must never condone violence but always seek to bring God's peace within the prison environment.