Severe conditions of imprisonment have contributed to a rise in the frequency and seriousness of unrest in Greek prisons over recent decades. Drawing on fieldwork material collected in the largest and most overcrowded prison for men in Greece, this article explores how prison authorities used the prospect of temporary release as a means of incentivizing conformist behavior among prisoners. It is argued that the effectiveness of this seemingly straightforward mechanism was complicated by practical restrictions on the granting of temporary release, thus leading to “behaviorist” efforts on the part of prison authorities to transfer the incentivizing properties of temporary release itself onto praise they extended to prisoners for observing institutional rules and regulations. The content of such praise entailed references to the ideal of a tamed masculinity embodied in the traditional Greek notion of philotimo, or honor, a finding that bolsters the limited body of research on the pacifying potential of masculine identities in carceral settings. While, and at least in part because, the gains made for order through this process have at best been transitory, the broader politico-economic functions of imprisonment have persisted.

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