Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
In developing this thesis I became quite discouraged because of the fact that the similarities between the "total institution" and the "closed system" seemed to be generated largely by the functional/operational aspects of these systems. For the longest time I related these similarities to the power of administrators over the lives of their captors, and the apparent lack of personal self control granted to inmates/residents. Having been personally involved with both of these systems for quite sometime, I began to realize that both systems were very contradictory to "normal" human nature, and thus, in some sense damaging many of the positive images generated by life within "free society." I asked myself, if prisons are supposed to "correct" individuals, and Community-Based Residential Centres (C.R.C. 's) are supposed to be more humane and of greater assistance to "rehabilitate" criminal tendencies, why then, has there been little, if any change, in the alarming recidivism of inmates? Rehabilitation presupposes that damage has been endured by an individual, whether it be of a physical or emotional nature. After having undergone personal damage of some form, the individual must be socialized into accepting this new status, and trained to respond positively to the expectations and norms alloted to this status. It became unclear to me during this study just what was being "corrected" within the prison realm, that required that the inmates be more humanly "rehabilitated" by C.R.C.'s. It soon became clearer that the problem was strongly rooted within the realm of the compulsive "socialization" process in both systems. Socialization per se, in the "normal" sense, was designed to teach people in a particular society the norms, values, roles, etc. of that society. If the society is free the process itself will be based upon the freedom of that Society. Using the theory of "closed" and "total" systems, I have explored the socialization of inmates incorporating Stanley M. Elkins theory of the closed system, of slavery in America, coupled with the extreme "closedness" of P.O.W. 's in concentration camps experienced by Bruno Bettelhim. These of course, are extreme examples of "closed" and "total" systems but, I believe, quite appropriate accounts, which help to illustrate my point adequately. In the more immediate context, by looking at such writers as Erving Goffman, Gresham M. Sykes, and other recent writers of penal reform in North America, the reality of the socialization process to which inmates are exposed tends not the differentiate radically from the accounts recorded by Elkins and Bettelheim. These, in fact are "abnormal" forms of the socialization process. Whether this abnormal process is explicit and unquestionable as those experienced in slavery and concentration camps, or implicit as in prisons or community-based resource centres, the effect, though varying in degree, is the same - negative socialization. Thus, if positive images are transmitted in the "normal" socialization process, it can be expected that negative images and low self-esteem will be fostered because of explosure to this abnormal process. In the case of prisoners who possibly come into these systems as the result of low self-esteem, etc. the total/closed system serves to reinforce and/or create a further or complete disintegration of the personality of the prisoners. Henceforth, a prisoner who is incarcerated with an already low self-esteem becomes even less equipped, once released, to cope within a "free" society. My data will show why socialization within a closed/total system produces negative images which are not conducive to survival in, or acceptance by the "outside" society.
Malott, Ronnie Alexander, "CRIMINALS: Slaves of the Twentieth Century" (1979). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2762.
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