The role of music among inmates and prison officers

M. Bensimon, O. Edri

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Numerous studies indicate that music is significant in the life of the individual and may affect people emotionally, psychologically, biologically and socially. Thus far, no research has been conducted to examine the meaning of music in the prison environment. The current study examines qualitatively how music is experienced by prisoners individually, and how music contributes to varieties of interactions between prisoners and between inmates and prison Eurocrim 2015, Porto, Portugal 432 officers. Semi-structured open ended interviews were conducted with inmates and prison officers from different prisons in Israel with medium and maximum levels of security. Content analysis of the texts revealed three main themes. The first – how music functions for inmates at the individual level – showed that listening to preferred music genres allowed prisoners to feel a degree of detachment from prison routines. Music induced a sensation of mental "escape" beyond the prison walls with commensurate feelings of calmness, comfort, hope and relief from the "pains of imprisonment". Additionally, it was found that there were certain music genres that jeopardized inmates by increasing a desire for drug abuse. The second theme – music as a means of interpersonal communication between prisoners – showed that music played an important role in establishing relationships between inmates and a sense of unity with other prisoners on the one hand, while on the other, led to quarrels, arguments and violence between prisoners. The third theme – music as a means of communication between prisoners and officers – showed that music played a significant role in the dynamics between prisoners and officers. Most of this music is perceived as a negative factor leading to severe sanctions from the side of the officers because it was most often perceived by them as a diversion tactic by the prisoners to conceal unacceptable behaviour such as violence, drug abuse, digging tunnels and preparing weapons in the cells. That particular deployment of music is unique to the prison institution. Conclusions derived from the study will be presented to show their applicability to prisons.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2015
EventThe 15th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology - Porto, Portugal
Duration: 2 Sep 20155 Sep 2015


ConferenceThe 15th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of music among inmates and prison officers'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this