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Transcript of Sol Con
Stanford Prison Experiment
Solitary Confinement has been the most enduring prison practice, bar the death penalty.
It was believed that the convicts, one left with a Bible and their conscience, would reflect on their sins and emerge reformed citizens, but quite the contrary seemed to come to light.
Justifications given by the states and governments for resorting to Solitary Confinement are:
In case of vulnerable individuals
National security and interests
Coercive interrogation techniques
Pre-charge and Pre-Trial Detention
Cell Size; The European Court of Human Rights in "Ramirez Sanchez v. France" ruled that a cell measuring 6.84 meter square is "large enough" for single occupancy
Lighting and Windows; Rule 11
Sanitary Fixtures; Rules 12 and 13
Reduction of Social Contact to a bear minimum
Prof. David Alexander suggests that the convicts must try and create a living space within the cell. If it's filthy, they should clean it although it isn't a clean job. It's important to retain the semblance of things as they were and hence, there should be a particular spot for sleeping, and another for urinating.
Cell Extraction - desire for human contact by any means.
Dispositional Hypothesis and Guard Syndrome.
On the contrary, it is argued that violence and brutality are commonplace inside the prison as the convicts lack a general respect for law and order.
Zimbardo established a "mock" prison, where the participants were commoners, who were physically restrained and psychologically made to believe in their incarceration.
Also, the participants were randomly assigned the roles of a guard, or a prisoner.
The guards were given minimal instructions as to how they should behave with the prisoners as it would optimize and reflect their genuine reaction in an experimental prison situation and not merely their ability to follow instructions.
It is important to mention that guards were given a military uniform, with silver chrome shades so that the prisoners could not establish eye contact.
Also, the participants who were assigned the role of guards later revealed that the mere possession of a uniform, and a stick gave them an authoritative identity that made them feel powerful.
In order to enhance group identity and reduce individual uniqueness, the prisoners were given loose fitting muslin clothes with a number on the front and back of the clothes and no underpants.
The prisoner's uniforms were designed not only to alienate them from their identity, but to give them a feeling of dependance and servility.
The Istanbul Statement on the Use and Effects on Solitary Confinement defines Solitary Confinement as "the physical isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day."
Convicts are given an hour out of their cells, but it is important to note that such social interactions are not freely chosen, and chiefly monotonous.
The presentation inclines towards the psychological aspect as in the play Justice by John Galsworthy.
The immense relevance of the mental anguish suffered by convicts renders this problem a psychosomatic nature.
Though several conditions have been laid, these are not always followed. At times, there is no bed, and no lavatory inside the cell. The break that they do get, is inside a concrete cell with a meshed roof.
Most convicts suffer from "isolation panic" and those who don't, yield to emotional depression and hopelessness. When released, an emotional numbness encompasses their lives, and they face difficulty socializing and trusting people.
The mind is a formidable jailer
After spending 4 years in prison, the Russian novelist Dostoevsky commented that he believed in the resiliency of mankind, because if men could withstand the prison regime, he would become a "creature who could withstand anything"
pelican bay state prison
Irony of Optimism
The harsh reality - Guard Syndrome
Social isolation; social well-being is considered by the WHO has health.
Reduced stimulation; boredom becomes a major enemy.
Uncertainty of time period; leads to hopelessness.
Self harm and mutilation arising from frustration and sudden anger.
Worst of all, the effects are numerous and mostly irreparable. The immense pressure considerably weakens the immunity of the convict and renders him susceptible to disease.
There is unequivocal evidence that Solitary Confinement has a profound impact on the health and well-being of a convict. The amount of damage varies, and depends on various factors such as individual factors(age, health) and other external factors(regimes).
The adverse effects have gained such notoriety so much so that a medical condition knows as "confinement psychosis" is now recognized. It can be defined as “psychotic reaction characterized frequently by hallucinations and delusions, produced by prolonged physical isolation and inactivity in completely segregated areas” (Scott & Gendreau, 1969:338).
According to some prisoner accounts, differentiating between reality and fantasy becomes a difficult task. Also, since reality seems harsh, and time is plenty, several convicts revel in their own fantasy world that pacifies them for the moment, but leads to irreparable damage.
Also, the prisoners develop a highly developed auditory sense and the most inconsequential sounds deeply trouble them, leading to migraines, frustration, and anxiety.
It is wise to note that hearing other prisoners break down is a stressful and depressing experience that renders the atmosphere gloomy.
Effects of Solitary Confinement
It is of prime importance to deliver a sentence of Solitary Confinement in the rarest of cases. Also, the following should be kept in mind:
no solitary confinement for juveniles
no solitary confinement for old and mentally unstable people
medical care should be available to all
visits from friends and family should be encouraged
lastly, no solitary confinements for those undergoing the death sentence or life imprisonment.
Solitary confinement as a form of retribution, which is the main purpose behind punishing a wrong doer, can be too harsh on a person. Agreed, solitary confinement has been a practice being followed for centuries now, but it is being gradually done away with or administered in rare cases because of its true effects coming into light.
For example, the U.N. Convention Against Torture defines torture as any state-sanctioned act “by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person” for information, punishment, intimidation, or for a reason based on discrimination. Solitary Confinement definitely falls within the ambit of this definition.
"No-one knows that you are there, so you are nothing. You are zero."
Although the concept of Rehabilitation has been implemented, research shows that excessively harsh incarceration develops hatred, in the mind of convicts, for law and order.
Prisoners are humiliated and tormented in the most ingenuous ways, even after they have reached the tipping point. The guards experience an adrenaline rush in ordering the prisoners around, and the situation is only worsened as the guards seldom have to answer to the authorities.The role that the guards perform is understood to be synonymous with toughness and arrogance. Those few guards who are sympathetic risk being described as "sissies" by others.
That being said, it would be unfair to note that there has been no progress whatsoever. Human Rights are considered vital and important then even before, more people are aware of their rights, and the governments cautious as their activities are carefully scrutinized by experts and the media. Hence, there's a better future waiting, but it would take immense effort from the society's end.