Prison subculture and drug-related crimes in Iran

Anaraki, Nahid Rahimipour (2019) Prison subculture and drug-related crimes in Iran. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (5MB)


The present study seeks to investigate prison subcultures in the Iranian cultural context with regard to drug-related crimes. Following this vein, the main objective is to compare the subculture of prisons as governmental institutions with that of non-governmental treatment institutions. ‘National threat’, ‘danger’, and ‘criminal’, are the terms used to legitimize the mass incarceration of drug users since the ‘war on drugs’ began in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. This policy had a number of unintended consequences, including the way that incarceration of first time offenders may actually produce professional criminals as a result of exposure to prison environment. Therefore, the argument that drug-related offenders need to be medically cured instead of locked up was put forward and led Iranian authorities to introduce treatment regimes in the 1990s. Drug users have been re-categorized since that period from ‘criminals’ to ‘patients’ while their moral weakness was justified by a medical cause. The key research question of this thesis explores: how drug-related criminals and drug users experience and adapt to the context of prison and NGO Treatment Centers? I utilized Grounded Theory to examine this question, and extracted seven categories to explain the subculture of prisons: (1) unstable pyramid, (2) captives as a society, (3) battle zone, (4) hegemony of drug-related networks, (5) shifting identities, (6) instrumental relationships, and (7) two sides of the same coin. Moreover, four categories were extracted to explain the sub-culture of ‘Narcotic Anonymous’, including: 1) horizontal network; 2) restricted and exclusive trust; 3) constructing and reconstructing identity; and 4) gender-based reintegration. A key element in the lives of drug users both inside and outside the legal system, is their ‘contested identities’. The modern era produces contested identities almost everywhere. Individuals in the modern world struggle with these contested identities not only in prison but also in their treatment centers. A distinctive feature of drug addicts’ contested identities refers to their multiple exclusiveness.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13815
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 229-244).
Keywords: 'War On Drugs', Treatment Regimes, Contested Identity, Prisonization, Narcotic Anonymous, Prison Sub-culture
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Sociology
Date: January 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Prisons--Iran--Sociological aspects; Prisoners--Social life and customs--Iran; Drug control--Iran

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics