Socialization has a long history in organizational research, providing a unique view of one of the processes through which people organize. A number of researchers have studied socialization in relation to several organizational communication variables such as identification (e.g., Bullis & Bach, 1989; Cheney, 1983) and structure and content of messages (e.g., Stohl, 1986). Closely tied to socialization (or assimilation) are social skills, which act as facilitators in the socialization process, at least in reference to peers.
This study examined this communication perspective within a unique context, the prison. Within this organization, the inmates are in an uncommon position as organizational members. They not only depend on the organization for their livelihood but for their daily existence, nutrition, housing, health, and relational needs. As these members enter the organization, they go through their own form of organizational assimilation. This study focused on the inmates' process of socialization, their feelings of powerlessness, and the social skills they used within their environment.
PRISONIZATION AND COMMUNICATION
An increasing volume of communication research has recently accumulated in the area of organizational socialization, focusing on traditional types of organizations such as business, education, and government (Bullis & Bach, 1989; Cheney, 1983; Jablin, 1985; Stohl, 1986). Van Maanen (1975, p. 67) described three stages of organizational socialization. The first stage, anticipatory socialization, includes the individual's educational background, previous work experience, cultural background, and so on. The second stage, encounter, occurs during the initial weeks or months of organizational life and describes the extent to which members' expectations are met or not met. The final stage Van Maanen calls metamorphosis. As a result of the previous stage, the new employee goes through a period of change by learning new behaviors or modifying existing ones.
Building on Van Maanen's theory, Jablin (1984) adopted the term assimilation to more specifically characterize the process of socialization within the organizational setting. Jablin's research has focused on a more traditional business setting; however, when applied to the prison as an organization, assimilation takes on a new and challenging role.
Early research in criminology and sociology, which preceded modern analyses of organizational assimilation, provided a unique addition to the research currently being conducted in the field of organizational communication. As early as 1940, Clemmer coined the term prisonization to refer to the assimilation process of inmates into the inmate subculture.
The conceptualization of prisonization has evolved since its inception in 1940 (Clemmer; Fox, 1982; Ramirez, 1984; Thomas, 1973; Zingraff, 1975). The definition used in this study was "a process of normative assimilation into the inmate subculture" (Thomas, 1973, p. 17). Operationalization of prisonization has also experienced radical shifts (Thomas, 1977). To understand how the term has been operationalized, a brief discussion of the two major theories that have dictated measurement of the concept is in order.
Early research on prisonization was formulated around the deprivation model. Viewing the prison setting as a closed system, this model limited analysis to events within the prison setting. Parisi (1982) offered the following definition: "The deprivation model focuses primarily on the prison environment itself as producing pressures on and responses by inmates. Imprisonment, according to this view, inherently deprives the inmate of basic needs, resulting in tension and particular ways of adaptation" (p. 9).
Under this model, the researcher examined prison-specific variables that potentially increased or decreased the degree of assimilation into the prison subculture. Perceptions of powerlessness, both within the prison setting itself and more generally within society, played an important role in the prisonization level of inmates. Zingraff (1975) measured the effects of opposition to the institution and priority of interpersonal contacts on prisonization and found prisonization related to attitudes that influence resocialization of prison inmates. Research indicated that the more coercive the structure of a correctional facility, the higher the level of structurally generated alienation, which leads to the greater possibility of higher prisonization (Thomas, Peterson, & Zingraff, 1978; Thomas & Zingraff, 1976). Thomas, Hyman, and Winfree (1983), in their analysis of the impact of confinement on juveniles, examined alienation, contextual powerlessness, and opposition to the institution and found that each was moderately correlated to prisonization. Lanza-Kaduce and Radosevich (1987) studied prisonization as it related to opposition to staff, adherence to the inmate code, and nonadherence to official norms and substance abuse. The study uncovered a relationship between the abuse of specific substances to negative attitudes and isolation. Finally, in perhaps the most comprehensive study of its kind, Bondeson (1989) found a positive correlation between prisonization and the amount of argot (prisoner jargon).
The second major paradigm in this area of research is the importation model, which views the prison as an open system. Parisi (1982) offered the following definition: "The importation theory, in contrast, emphasizes the character of inmates that precedes their institutionalization and external conditions. These pre- and extra-prison influences presumably shape the adjustment process in terms of both pressures and responses" (p. 9). Thomas (1973) found that inmates from a lower social class were more likely to exhibit a higher degree of prisonization than were those from a higher class. The same study also revealed that increased contact with individuals from the free society was correlated to a lower degree of prisonization. In addition, Thomas found that postprison expectations impacted on prisonization of inmates such that more positive expectations resulted in a lesser degree of prisonization. Postrelease expectations were directly related to degree of prisonization (Zingraff, 1975). External factors to the correctional facility have a direct effect on the prisonization of inmates (Thomas & Zingraff, 1976). Thomas et al. (1978, p. 389) emphasized the point that prisonization appeared most likely among those whose anticipation regarding their future life chances were negative. Second, the impact of alienation appeared to be mediated by extraprison variables.
The problem in research arises when only one of these models is …