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The Social Life of Illegal Drug Users in Prison: A Comparative Perspective

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Different degrees of criminalization of illegal drug use influence the overall composition of prison populations across countries. Individuals convicted of illegal drug-related crimes represent a significant part of the prison population in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. These convicts are not a part of the traditional criminal milieu, but a product of the perception of certain acts as crimes in particular contexts (e.g., an increasing social distance, the state’s control over potentially dangerous groups, etc.). The experience of incarceration might cause important changes in their life after release. The idea that prison contributes to the interiorization of criminal norms rather than preventing deviant behavior in the future seems especially fruitful in regard to illegal drug users. Elements of prison subculture are described on the basis of an empirical research conducted in 1996-2003 in Russian prisons (N = 769 (49 of these were convicted in relation to illegal drugs) in 2000-2001; and N = 214 (24) in 2003). The social organization of everyday life of inmates convicted of drug-related offences in Russia, Kazakhstan (N = 396 (76) in 2001) and Ukraine (N = 208 (26) in 2003) is compared with that of other convicts to test the hypothesis about the lack of significant differences between the two groups.


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