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Collective Action Behind Bars: Examining the Conditions Under Which Incarcerated Individuals Strike

Crutchfield, Candice Nicole

Dating back to the early prisoners’ rights movement in the 1970s, there has been a nearly cyclical occurrence of unrest behind bars alongside limited coverage by media organizations. From an academic standpoint, such unrest and other prison disturbances have slowly become the subject of scholarly study. Most research has fallen into the category of “social movements in prison,” investigating the reasoning behind the occurrence of riots, violent uprisings, and general disturbances, but few have included other forms of protests such as labor strikes, hunger strikes, and sit-ins. Utilizing LexisNexis to generate a database of coverage by five of the largest newspapers across the United States, this research examines the conditions under which incarcerated persons act collectively and when they do, what kind of collective action occurs. Rooted in data derived from newspaper coverage, this study ultimately finds hunger strikes, riots, and quests for improved conditions and higher wages as leading factors of prison unrest. The results of this research better explain collective resistance and social action within prisons. Considered generalizable on a larger scale, this thesis provides an updated analysis of collective action and makes a case in support of news media publications as a conduit to tangible change.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Reich, Adam Dalton
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 24, 2020