Cover

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Half Title, Series Page, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I have many debts to acknowledge. First and foremost, I wish to thank my many collaborators, who generously shared their time and knowledge throughout the last thirteen years. In particular, my grandfathers, Richard Meyer and Richard Schmidt, and my uncle, Paul Meyer, gave me my love for storytellers and stories. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-14

In 2015, 2.3 million people were in prison in the United States.1 More than 11 million passed through United States jails. According to a 2011 report by the Pew Center on the States, total state spending for corrections is about $52 billion and has quadrupled in the last twenty years.2 The United States has, by far, the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world. ...

Part 1

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1. Families, Stories, and the Weight of an Invisible Occupational Culture

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pp. 17-35

Prisons and prison work shape families and communities, influencing the ways individuals and groups of individuals perceive and experience the world. Prison towns and prison work families have a different understanding of “normal” life and work from those who are protected from the prison system. The intense stress of prison work has a deep and lasting effect on workers and their families. ...

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2. Does Prison Make You Racist? Intimate Contact with Strangers and Expanding Worldview

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pp. 36-55

In the previous chapter I explored the way that correctional institutions shape the worldview of prison work families and prison towns. In this chapter I look more closely at the way individual prison workers’ understanding of the world is shaped through workplace interactions with inmates. Prisons bring together people who would never interact intimately under other circumstances; through my interviews ...

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3. Don’t Take Your Work Home with You

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pp. 56-78

Prison workers must negotiate between the wildly different worlds and worldviews of work and home. Nielsen observes correctional officers stepping in and out of official and private positions: ...

Part 2

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4. The Value of Humor: Self-awareness, Stress, and Boredom

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pp. 81-109

One of the central arguments of this book is that people who work in prisons depend on humor to do their job. Corrections workers could not perform their tasks as effectively or successfully if they did not make jokes, play pranks, and wisecrack at the same time. Thus, humor is an essential, though rarely credited, lubricant that keeps the American correctional system turning over smoothly, ...

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5. Transforming Outsiders into Insiders

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pp. 110-129

Humor is a multipurpose tool in the work and home lives of prison workers. Sometimes prison staff use humor to support and uphold correctional institutions and the more abstract American institutions of gender, sexuality, and family, and at other times prison staff use humor to undermine these same institutions, physical and otherwise. ...

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6. Humor and Inmate–Staff Relationships

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pp. 130-154

Institutions work because they are based on agreements between people. In prisons, correctional officers and other prison staff often determine the nature of the relationship between inmate and staff.1 Humor can be a powerful tool in building and maintaining relationships between individuals and groups,2 and working relationships between inmates and staff uphold and maintain correctional institutions. ...

Part 3

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7. Upholding and Undermining Social Institutions: Gay Jokes and Christmas in Prison

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pp. 157-177

Until now, I have been arguing that people who work in prison use humor to uphold and maintain the institutions they supervise. Now I want to argue that prison workers also use humor to resist, dismantle, and undermine prisons and other norming social institutions. Much of corrections humor questions and undermines dominant social norms and expectations. ...

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8. Playing the Fool: Resistance through Humor

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pp. 178-200

The central claim of this book is that humor allows prison workers to do their jobs, but humor also allows prison workers to not do their jobs. Prison workers use humorous expressive culture to defy the institutions they work for in order to maintain an identity that is separate from the job.1 Acting a fool draws appreciative laughter from one’s audience; ...

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9. Class, Scapegoats, Smoke, and Mirrors

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pp. 201-210

Throughout this book I have focused on the ways that prison staff use humor both at work and at home in order to live with the realities of their jobs. In this final chapter, I want to focus on things that are not funny at all. Prison workers are cast in the role of bad guy on television, in movies, in prison literature, and in the hearts and minds of many Americans. ...

Notes

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pp. 211-238

Bibliography

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pp. 239-262

Index

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pp. 263-270

Further Series Titles

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