The terms “niches” and “mature coping” are connected to prisons and to the ways in which inmates of those prisons behave. The basic relationship between the two is that niches make mature coping more possible for the average inmate.
Mature coping is the process of dealing with the stresses of prison life in a way that is relatively constructive. This is very hard for most inmates to do. An inmate who is engaging in mature coping is able to deal with other people in the prison in a way that is responsible. This inmate does not engage in violence or deception. They treat other inmates and the guards as full human beings.
Mature coping is more likely to happen if there are niches for the inmate to inhabit. What this means is that there must be some context in which the inmate can feel valuable. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that people will want things like belonging and self-esteem (so long as they have the basics of life and they feel safe) in order to feel good about themselves. Niches are outlets that allow prisoners to get these things. These can be church groups or sports teams or academic classes. The presence of these niches make it more likely that prisoners will be able to engage in mature coping.