Behind the Walls
328 pages, 6 x 9
13 charts, 2 tables
Release Date:01 Jun 2017
Release Date:01 Oct 2016
Release Date:01 Nov 2016
Release Date:01 Nov 2016

Behind the Walls

Inmates and Correctional Officers on the State of Canadian Prisons

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

“The good [correctional officers] are sociable. They can joke around with you, talk to you as a human. But then there are other staff that think that you’re just ... an animal ... and they would prefer if you were just locked up and had nothing. I dread certain shifts coming on. I just, I despise them ... because it seems that they try their hardest to make hell for us in here.” – Sentenced inmate and ex-gang member

Despite falling crime rates, more rights for inmates, and better training for correctional officers, Canada’s prison population is on the rise, and outbreaks of prison violence continue to grab headlines. Applying Goffman’s frame theory and drawing on interviews with inmates and correctional officers in federal and provincial institutions, Michael Weinrath assesses whether improvements over the past twenty-five years have truly led to “better corrections.”

Behind the Walls offers an unprecedented look at life in contemporary prisons. Inmates and staff describe their transition to prison life and corrections work, and they explain how they frame or understand their role and how they relate to other inmates or correctional officers. They also provide commentaries on how a range of issues, developments, and institutional changes have affected their daily lives, including female correctional officers in male prisons, boundary violations by correctional officers, the introduction of behavioural programs, and the rise of prison gangs.

Weinrath’s balanced assessment reveals that although Canadian prisons have seen improvements over the last few decades, they continue to be plagued by problems that prevent inmates from forging positive relationships among themselves and with correctional officers.

This book will be of interest to policy makers, activists, correctional staff, researchers, and students of criminology and corrections.

RELATED TOPICS: Criminology, Law, Law & Society, Sociology
Behind the Walls brings to life issues facing the Canadian corrections system. Sure to spark critical debate, it is a must-read for scholars, policy makers, and correctional staff. Rick Ruddell, professor of justice studies and Law Foundation of Saskatchewan Chair in Police Studies, University of Regina

Michael Weinrath is a professor of criminal justice and director of the Justice Research Institute at the University of Winnipeg. Prior to earning a PhD, he spent fourteen years working in community and institutional corrections. He is co-author, with John Winterdyk, of Adult Corrections in Canada.


1 Canadian Prisons and Their Problems

2 The Prisons and the Interviews

3 How Inmates Understand Their Role

4 How Inmates Relate to Others

5 How Corrections Officers Understand Their Role

6 Relations between Inmates and Officers

7 The Effect of Policy, Architecture, and Technology

8 Boundary Violations by Correctional Officers

9 The Effect of Programs

10 The Rise of Prison Gangs


Appendix: Interview Guide


Glossary: Correctional Terms and Inmate Argot

References; Index

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