Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Clarence Williamson


This study explored the issue of communication in prison systems in conjunction with an overextended utilization of isolation confinement methods. Using Sexton’s conceptualization of the penal subjective consciousness model as a guide, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to better understand the experiences of confined offenders related to their experiences regarding the perspectives of prison officials based on a variety of factors including criminal background, social status, and programming needs. Data from semi-structured interviews with 25 participants addressed the process of communication between prison personnel and inmates from the time of incarceration through placement in isolation confinement, and then reentry into society. All interview data were transcribed, then subjected to a modified Van Kaam reduction procedure for coding and analysis. Findings revealed that preestablished assessments by prison personnel and interpersonal communication difficulties between prison staff and inmates might have contributed to isolation confinement decisions based on erroneous or flawed considerations. Furthermore, inconsistencies in terminology and classification of offenses might have generated opportunities for subjective evaluations and lack of appropriate and consistent approaches to punishment. The subjective consciousness model provided an explanation for the elaboration of expectations of severity in punishment as the constant reality experienced by confined offenders. Social change implications include recommendations to prison administrators to improve standards of communication and training in order to address specific needs and achieve consistency of administrative specifications that contribute to improvements in the decision-making process.