Feelings of safety among male inmates: The safety paradox

Nancy Wolff, Jing Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


"Safety paradox" refers to the paradoxical phenomenon in which prisoners feel safe in ostensibly unsafe places --prisons. A general model of feeling safe was used to better understand the role of individual and environmental factors on inmate perception of safety inside prison. We tested theoretically derived hypotheses of vulnerability, victimization, and social disorder, under the assumption of rationality. Using survey data from approximately 7,000 male inmates residing in 13 adult prisons within a single state correctional system, hierarchical linear models were estimated to predict probabilities of feeling safe from specific types of harm and perpetrators. Findings support hypotheses of differential impact and the seriality of victimization, interprison variation, and social disorder impact but not vulnerability hypotheses. Localized social relations and recent victimization experiences had the largest individual and collective impact on feeling safe against harms inside prison (n = 137).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-427
Number of pages24
JournalCriminal Justice Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


  • Inmate safety
  • Social disorder
  • Victimization
  • Vulnerability


Dive into the research topics of 'Feelings of safety among male inmates: The safety paradox'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this