Argot use in a therapeutic community

Amie L. Nielsen, Frank R. Scarpitti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Argot, or the language of subcultures, is derived from the larger society but reflects those elements most relevant to the cultures of the subgroups, including values, roles, and issues integral to the group. Prison argot, for example, reflects inmate perceptions and adaptations to the institution and its programs, with considerable variation existing between custodial and treatment‐oriented institutions. It is believed that argot may facilitate behavioral change in the latter type of institution. The present study analyzes the role argot plays in a therapeutic correctional milieu. In the facility studied, a therapeutic community work release center for men and women nearing release from prison, use of argot is a formal element of the treatment process. It reflects the therapeutic goals of the community and leads clients to attempt to change into recovering persons who can live outside of prison. The argot designates behavioral expectations while providing an alternative reality and identity for clients. Through a variety of program processes that are supported by the argot, thought patterns of clients begin to change, and they come to think and act in a manner consistent with the program’s goals and with the norms of conventional society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-267
Number of pages23
JournalDeviant Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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