Sociology Graduate Student Presents Research on Male Inmates Reporting Abuse at Graduate Scholars Forum

Posted on 4/9/2017 9:46:31 AM

Chelsea Clark presents research on male inmates reporting abuse in prisons at Graduate Scholars ForumOne of the biggest obstacles that prisons face in terms of abuse of male inmates is the fact few of the victims are willing to speak about their treatment. That was the basis for Chelsea Clark’s presentation on April 5 at the annual Graduate Scholars Forum at the Hadley Union Building.

Clark, of Indiana, gave her 15-minute presentation, “Exploring Perceptions of Male Victimization in Prison Settings” during the session on Special Populations and Predictive Analyses.

“(The victims are) unlikely to disclose victimization because of the perceptions of masculinity,” Clark said. “They’re not supposed to be a victim because of the expectations of being a male.”

Clark’s presentation was one of the more than 120 during the seventh annual one-day event, which allows IUP graduate students to present original research in a wide array of subjects. Additionally, there were nearly 100 graduate students participating in the poster presentation session. The 12th-annual undergraduate forum was held April 4, also at the HUB.

Roughly 300 students are involved in the two programs, held as part of Research Appreciation Week at IUP.

Clark’s work is in its infancy, as she plans to do her research in the coming year as part of her thesis as she pursues her master’s degree in sociology. She is working under the guidance of faculty members Melissa Swauger and Dana Hysock Witham, both of the Department of Sociology.

During her thesis work, Clark plans to conduct surveys with 15 to 20 correctional officers at Pennsylvania prisons to see their attitude toward physical and sexual abuse of inmates.

She said that research already done in other similar studies shows that a lot of factors go into why correctional officers abuse inmates, ranging from job pressure to personal stress to gender and age.

“If a correctional officer likes their job,” Clark said, “they’re more likely to have an open relationship with an inmate rather than see them as a deviant object. If not, they’re going to be angry and hostile, and they’re not going to see them as an individual. … They're going to treat them like they’re a nobody. They’re not going to view them as human at all.”

Clark cited previous studies done in three areas of the United States that show abuse of male inmates is a wide-ranging problem without an easy solution.

“What are the perceptions of correctional officers?” she asked. “I’m going to explore the background of correctional officers to see how that determines their beliefs about the inmates. I’m just at the start of the project.”

Clark earned her bachelor’s degree from IUP in sociology in 2015 and will graduate with her master’s in May 2018. She then plans to either pursue a doctoral degree or go to law school.