Review Article

DOI :10.26650/JPLC2022-1093123   IUP :10.26650/JPLC2022-1093123    Full Text (PDF)

Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?

Efe Can KarabulutHüseyin Nergiz

Prison sentences are utilized as one of the most common punishment tools, but they also have a number of negative consequences that contradict the goals of punishment. Some common and well-known negative consequences of being in a penal institution is that convicts learn new crimes and criminal methods, meet other convicts and commit crimes together, join criminal organizations, or commit new crimes in the institution. Reasons for these situations exist, such as physical proximity, adopting the penal institution subculture, prisonization, and stigmatization. Differential association is one theory that explains why individuals turn to crime and also explains why convicts tend to commit new crimes in the penal institution. According to the theory of differential association, lawful and unlawful thoughts in a person’s mind are in constant conflict, and these thoughts are shaped according to the relationship they establish with their environment. Having the convict establish positive social relations while keeping existing ones and avoid negative relations and criminal thoughts is essential in order to protect convicts from the harmful effects of crime transference. To achieve this, various changes are needed in both the structure of penal institutions as well as the rehabilitation programs implemented in penal institutions.

DOI :10.26650/JPLC2022-1093123   IUP :10.26650/JPLC2022-1093123    Full Text (PDF)

Suç Aktarımı: Ceza İnfaz Kurumları Suç Üniversiteleri mi?

Efe Can KarabulutHüseyin Nergiz

Günümüzde en yaygın cezalandırma aracı olarak kullanılan hapis cezasının, cezalandırmanın amaçlarıyla çelişen birtakım sonuçları da bulunmaktadır. Hükümlünün ceza infaz kurumunda yeni suçlar ve suç yöntemleri öğrenmesi, başka hükümlülerle tanışıp birlikte suç eyleminde bulunma kararı alması, suç örgütlerine katılması veya kurumda yeni suçlar gerçekleştirmesi yaygın ve iyi bilinen olumsuz sonuçlardandır. Bu durumun fiziksel yakınlık, ceza infaz kurumu alt kültürünü benimseme ve mahkumlaşma, damgalama gibi nedenleri bulunmaktadır. Bu nedenlerin hükümlü üzerindeki etkisi ise infaz kurumunun türü, kurumda geçirilen süre, diğer hükümlüler ve hükümlünün sosyal çevresi ile ilişkileri gibi etkenlere göre değişmektedir. Ayırıcı Birliktelikler Kuramı, bireylerin neden suça yöneldiğini açıklayan kuramlardan biri olup, hükümlülerin ceza infaz kurumunda yeni suçlara neden yöneldiklerini de açıklar. Ayırıcı Birliktelikler Kuramı’na göre, kişinin zihninde yasaya uygun ve aykırı düşünceler sürekli bir çatışma halindedir ve bu düşünceler kişinin çevresiyle kurduğu ilişkilere göre şekillenmektedir. Bu nedenle hükümlüler arası suç aktarımını olabildiğince azaltmak için hükümlü cezasını infaz ederken olumlu toplumsal ilişkiler kurması, var olan olumlu ilişkilerini koruyup geliştirmesi, olumsuz ilişkilerden ve suç düşüncesinden uzak tutulması temel alınmalıdır. Bunu sağlamak için ise hem ceza infaz kurumlarının yapısında hem de kurumlarda uygulanan iyileştirme programlarında çeşitli değişiklikler yapılması gerekmektedir.


The attempt is being made these days to design and manage penal institutions as institutions that function to deter, rehabilitate, and prevent criminal behavior. Crime is a natural part of everyday life, especially for repeat offenders, and changing this pattern can be difficult for various reasons. Individuals adopt the social rules that are presented to them in the social environment in which they live; they behave similarly to the behaviors they see.

A prisoner joins a new social circle in prison, one that has a significant impact on their future behavior. From this point of view, this study will revise the theories and findings regarding the social causes of crime in terms of prison and will discussed what characteristics an institute should have that will not result in the convict learning new criminal behaviors or methods. Crime transference is the main subject of the study and refers to how a convict with no intention, knowledge, or opportunity to commit a crime is directed toward criminal behavior due to their criminal experiences. Regardless of what crime was committed to get sent to prison, convicts may also conduct various criminal behaviors within the institution. Due to a prison’s structural features, convicts are likely to learn new crimes in order to gain power, status, and money; they may even start and continue to commit these crimes after being released.

The first reason for crime transfer is physical proximity. After a convict enters prison, they meet prisoners who were convicted for many different crimes, and these convicts find the opportunity to meet and share their criminal experiences. Having individuals who’ve been convicted of different crimes stay together in crowded wards is a risk factor. In addition to physical proximity, how people spend their time at prison also becomes an important issue. As the time spent with other convicts during the day increases, so does crime transference among these convicts. Being away from emotionally important people (e.g., family, close friends) decreases positive social support factors that help prevent one from committing a crime and increases the likelihood of becoming close with criminals in jail. Society also needs to step in and take responsibility in addition to one’s family and friends. The type of prison is also another factor associated with crime transference. In open prisons, convicts have more opportunities to interact with different people and participate in events (e.g., trainings, workshops). Because of the greater security measures, these opportunities are quite limited in closed prisons, though sometimes convicts may have to contact more serious criminals. As the length of time in prison increases, the likelihood and severity of crime transference also increases. Day by day, prisoners lose their everyday skills (finding a job, avoiding criminals), and the likelihood of becoming a repeat offender also increases.

Completely eliminating crime transfer in penitentiary institutions is not a realistic goal. However, measures can be taken to minimize it. Which measures to take and which legal regulations and possible changes in the physical and administrative structures of penitentiary institutions undoubtedly are in conflict in terms of priority. Although the existence of crime transfer is a real thing, the majority of convicts in prisons do not commit these crimes, do not join a crime organization, and do not establish crime partnerships. Therefore, having individuals stay in non-crowded units housing 4-6 people at maximum and having them avoid individuals guilty of other crimes may reduce crime transfer that is a result of physical proximity. Employing detainees and convicts in a workshop for regular, 8-hour work periods while taking into account security measures will not only reduce the possibility of crime transfer in their free time but also ensure that the individual does not wander away from their normal life responsibilities and order. Expanding measures to maintain relations external to a prison (e.g., e-meetings, e-mail opportunities) will protect convicts from crime transference and prepare them for life after release. Improving reliable assessment tools for measuring recidivism risks and suitability for release will help isolate highand low-risk prisoners from each other. Proper and successful isolation procedures prevent crime transference in institutions.

While convicts are imprisoned, non-governmental organizations can support and become models in a variety of ways such as through correspondence, financial support, and role-playing projects. Carrying out projects in institutions can help rescue convicts from a passive and assisted position. Having prisoners adopt an effective attitude where they are responsible and a direct part of change, applying an approach that protects prisoners from crime transference, and preparing them for post-release are all very important.  

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Karabulut, E.C., & Nergiz, H. (2022). Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?. Journal of Penal Law and Criminology, 10(2), 459-490.


Karabulut E C, Nergiz H. Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?. Journal of Penal Law and Criminology. 2022;10(2):459-490.


Karabulut, E.C.; Nergiz, H. Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?. Journal of Penal Law and Criminology, [Publisher Location], v. 10, n. 2, p. 459-490, 2022.

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Karabulut, Efe Can, and Hüseyin Nergiz. 2022. “Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?.” Journal of Penal Law and Criminology 10, no. 2: 459-490.

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Karabulut, Efe Can, and Hüseyin Nergiz. Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?.” Journal of Penal Law and Criminology 10, no. 2 (Mar. 2024): 459-490.

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Karabulut EC, Nergiz H. Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?. Journal of Penal Law and Criminology [Internet]. 4 Mar. 2024 [cited 4 Mar. 2024];10(2):459-490. Available from: doi: 10.26650/JPLC2022-1093123


Karabulut, EfeCan - Nergiz, Hüseyin. Crime Transference: Are Prisons Universities of Crime?”. Journal of Penal Law and Criminology 10/2 (Mar. 2024): 459-490.


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