One 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.
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.”
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
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.