"Make-Believe" Family Relationships exist among Female Texas Prisoners

A recent study in the Prison Journal found that 28% of a correctional sample of female inmates in two Texas prisons for women developed "Familial-like" intimate groups, otherwise known as "dyads" that offer their members emotional support, warmth, affections, and many times, sexual gratification. When informal estimates from correctional staff were taken into account, that number jumps to 60% involvement in such groups.

Dyads in prison date back to the middle 20th century, but were mainly known then as female prison subcultures. During the 1960s, closely-bonded intimate relationships began to form, which in many staff members' eyes were intended to provide homosexual gratification to a mostly homosexual membership base. Dyads still exist today, and misconceptions about their image within the prison environment may also remain.

They found that the traditional notion of such groups "causing trouble" for correctional staff is often misguided; correctional staff, who tend to "profile" these groups and monitor them more closely than their non-dyad counterparts, consider such members more trouble to deal with than nonmembers.

An actual disproportionate amount of disciplinary problems, however, were nevertheless evident, including disturbances caused by jealousy, members breaking apart, relationships being severed, and increased opportunity to engage in illicit activities, including homosexual contact. One inmate in the researchers' study declared that correctional staff often "instigate" dyad conflict by pitting members against each other. They also found a significant stigma attached to the dyad label by nonmembers, encouraging nonmembers to observe and report illegal activities by the dyad members. In addition, most of the noninvolved inmates mostly expressed the traditional sentiment that dyad-members were comprised of sexually-influential minorities who took unfair advantage of inexperienced White inmates.

references: Huggins, D, Loretta Capeheart, and Elizabeth Newman. "Deviants or Scapegoats: An Examination of Pseudofamily Groups and Dyads in Two Texas Prisons." The Prison Journal, Mar 2006; 86: 114 - 139.


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