In this paper I am discussing the production of status and hierarchies in the context of formal and informal power in the Russian penal colonies based on the empirical material of 20 biographical interviews with men who have experience of imprisonment and 5 expert interviews with members of prison staff. This paper analyzes the ways prisoners adopt to the difference and exclusion structures in prison in the different types of colonies. The focus on gender allows us to identify the normative framework for the construction of dominant and subordinate masculinity under the double pressure of a formal (modal) and informal (thieves’) power in the situation of isolation and control.

Keywords: penal colony, prison hierarchy, masculinity, prisoners, Russia