Collective action in prisons: Protests, disturbances, and riots

Bert Useem, Michael D. Reisig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


This study assesses competing explanations of inmate collective action using data from a nationwide sample of 317 adult maximum-and medium-security state prisons. Most previous studies have relied on data from only those prisons that have experienced riots. Hence, the conditions thought to cause collective outbursts may be equally present in prisons that did not experience such action. The current design allows for a comparison of riot and nonriot prisons. Additionally, this study examines the forces that generate other forms of collective action in prison, such as minor disturbances and inmate work stoppages. The results show that the variables under the administrative-control theory heading, but not the inmate-balance theory heading, help account for these events. Some consideration is given to the possibility that these two theories are complementary explanations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-760
Number of pages26
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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