Wednesday, 13 May 2015

AFTER A GUILTY VERDICT - Imprisonment: What are the effects of prison life, and how effective are prison programs?


Zimbardo – Stanford Prison Experiment:

Aim: To investigate how readily people would conform to the roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. Is brutality due to sadistic personalities or is it due to the prison environment.

Procedure: Zimbardo used a lab experiment to study conformity. To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison. He advertised for students to play the roles of prisoners and guards for a fortnight. Participants were paid $15 per day to take part in the experiment.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. The prison simulation was kept as “real life” as possible. Prisoners were arrested at their own homes, without warning, and taken to the local police station.

Guards were also issued a khaki uniform, together with whistles, handcuffs and dark glasses, to make eye contact with prisoners impossible. No physical violence was permitted. Zimbardo observed the behaviour of the prisoners and guards.

When the prisoners arrived at the prison they were stripped naked, deloused, had all their personal possessions removed and locked away, and were given prison clothes and bedding. They were issued a uniform, and referred to by their number only. Their clothes comprised a smock with their number written on it, but no underclothes. They also had a tight nylon cap, and a chain around one ankle. There were 9 guards and 9 prisoners, 3 guards at a time took shifts of eight hours each.

Findings: Within a very short time both guards and prisoners were settling into their new roles, the guards adopting theirs quickly and easily. Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. They behaved in a brutal and sadistic manner, apparently enjoying it. 

Other guards joined in, and other prisoners were also tormented. The prisoners were taunted with insults and petty orders, they were given pointless and boring tasks to accomplish, and they were generally dehumanized. 

The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behaviour too.  They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, as though they were there for the prisoners’ benefit and infringement would spell disaster for all of them. 

As the prisoners became more dependent, the guards became more negative towards them. They held the prisoners in contempt and let the prisoners know it. As the guards’ contempt for them grew, the prisoners became more submissive. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. 

One prisoner had to be released after 36 hours because of uncontrollable bursts of screaming, crying and anger. Within the next few days three others also had to leave after showing signs of emotional disorder. 

Zimbardo (1973) had intended that the experiment should run for a fortnight, but on the sixth day he closed it down. There was real danger that someone might be physically or mentally damaged if it was allowed to run on. 

Conclusion: People will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play, especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped as those of the prison guards. The “prison” environment was an important factor in creating the guards’ brutal behaviour (none of the participants who acted as guards showed sadistic tendencies before the study). Therefore, the roles that people play can shape their behaviour and attitudes.


Gillis and Nafekh: The impact of community based employment on offender reintegration

Azjen’s cognitive model – This study believes that if we can change a prisoners belief about the value of their life on the outside and their confidence of controlling their life, they are more likely to have a positive intention to stay out of prison and therefore behave in a way that keeps them out of prison.
  • Giving prisoners employment based programs increases the chances of success outlined in Azjen’s model. 
  • Without a clear plan or goal, prisoners see prison as an easy option, people feed you, shelter you, make decisions for you.
  • If life on the outside seems worse its not surprising the offenders re offend. 
  • Educating prisoners, rehabilitating them and changing their outlooks on life may be suitable for some offenders.   

Aim: To investigate the effect on recidivism (re-offending rates) rates of a community based employment program. 

Sample: 23, 525 Offenders who were on conditional release e.g. offender is released but under conditions which prevent the offender from certain activities. 

Method: Content analysis of data from Canada's offender management system was used. A matched pairs design was used where offenders were divided into those employed prior to starting the program and those who were unemployed. They were also matched on gender, risk level release year, sentence length and other personal factors. 

The average time for the whole sample to get employment outside of prison was 6 months for men and 10 months for women. 

Those on employment programs prior to finishing their sentence were more likely to remain on conditional release and less likely to return with a new offence. 

At the end of the study period 70% of the employed group remained on conditional release compared to 55% of the unemployed group. 

Conclusions: The implications are that employment programs play an important role in the last few months of an offenders sentence, giving them some of the skills they need to help them integrate into the community. Planning the return of an offender to a community can mean that they are less likely to re-offend. Changing offenders skills and outlooks in life can help them to make a positive change. 


Dooley: Unnatural deaths in prison

Method: Content analysis of prison department personal papers. The groups getting a verdict of suicide were compared with those who were not. 

442 uunatural deaths were recorded in prisons in England and Wales. Of these 300 were suicde and 52 were consciously self-inflicted injury (intention to hurt themselves not kill, but have killed themselves in the process i.e. accidental suicide). The other 90 deaths were for other reasons e.g. murder, illness etc. 

Significantly more of the prisoners who had committed suicide were on remand (the majority of prisoners on remand have not been convicted of a criminal offence and are awaiting trial following a not guilty plea). More of the CSI group were female and the deaths occurred mostly at night. 

Crowding is a big issue. Institutions house more inmates than they were designed to hold, due to the fact that prison populations are on the increase. A relationship has been found between crowding and the psychological effects of imprisonment. In addition the increasing number of inmates significantly increases negative psychological effects, such as, stress, anxiety and depression. This is because the more inmates there are, the more interactions a prisoner has to judge and deal with. This can result in a great deal of uncertainty of other prisoners actions which can put the prisoner on edge constantly. This is both highly stressful and very demanding. 

Also, over crowding leads to reduced work and activity programs available for inmates or for shorter time periods. Therefore, this increases the amount of time that an inmate is left with nothing to do which generates a great deal of stress and boredom.
However, this study ignores individual differences – some prisoners adapt more easily than others. In addition, the experience of prison is not the same for everyone – type of institution, sentence length and previous experience of prison, all contribute to how the person copes psychologically.

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