Beyond the Prison Paradigm

Katherine Wallace N00621910 April 25, 2011 Beyond The Prison Paradigm James Gilligan relays an enlightening message in his article, Beyond the Prison Paradigm: From Provoking Violence to Preventing It by Creating “Anti-Prisons”, about the history and sole purpose of jails. Gilligan dates his research about jails all the way back from the first civilization known to man, Sumerian, to the jails we see and know so well today. At the beginning of time jails literally meant “house of darkness” which when compared to any of today’s jails is very similar to our maximum security facilities with solitary confinement.

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Jails were first used as a place to house those citizens, who chose not follow the social norms of society, and used a very violent form of punishment to teach a lesson to any of those citizens who even had thoughts of straying away from the social norms and rules of society. Prison was metaphorically seen as hell and the prison guards the demons of hell whose role was to follow through with the punishment of the prisoners. Prisoners would be tortured physically and mentally and then either released or executed depending on the severity of his or her crimes.

These much older forms of prisons focused on the belief that strict and harsh physical punishment would teach the prisoner a lesson he or she would never want to face again, as well as scare the public so terribly that only a true criminal would want to face such torture. Prisons slowly shifted away from unthinkable physical abuse to solely emotional abuse. These new prisons called for complete solitude and no talking which in many cases lead to psychotic meltdowns and much more severe lifelong trauma.

Today’s prison psychologists focus their studies on finding the best way to punish prisoners as well as working to rehabilitate them. The past examples of prisons and jails have done great physical and emotional torture but did these methods truly change the morals and standards these prisoners have. Today’s jails are trying to focus on the rehabilitation of the prisoner, giving them an education and knowledge of right and wrong, as well as introducing them to different opportunities they will have if and when released back into society.

The public wants to be reassured that when these criminals are released back into society that they will be safe and have nothing to worry about. Many believe that by imprisoning very violent and disturbed criminals with those of less severe crimes will be detrimental to all inmates. I believe this to be very true, they say you are who you associate with, and if all one associates himself or herself with while incarcerated is rapists, murderers, and mentally disturbed people they are bound to have a profound effect on ones morals and thoughts.

Those criminals incarcerated for less severe crimes will eventually learn and pick up on the actions of those around them and more often than not gradually become a more violent person. The only way I feel that this will not happen is if rehabilitation and reintegration of the prisoners to society is the main concern for those working in the prison. Gilligan explains that the original concept of prisons was actually very counterproductive and caused more harm than it did help. He explains the concept of an “anti-prison”, an institute based solely on the concept of rehabilitation, education, and human development.

An “anti-prison” helps educate the uneducated about life and its ups and downs, and how to make goals for oneself. I believe Gilligan’s idea of an “anti-prison” is just what our society needs. Many people are not fortunate enough to grow up in safe and well organized environments, and therefore must find different options for safety and survival at a very young age. I feel that those born into criminal families know nothing other than crime and honestly don’t know any better. For people like this an “anti-prison” is perfect.

While incarcerated and away from the public they can be educated and taught what is right and wrong in society. The only issue I see with the concept of an “anti-prison” is that of the clinically disturbed criminals. How is anyone supposed to rehabilitate and educate someone who is mentally disturbed, such as a mass murderer or a serial killer? I believe the original concept of a jail or prison fits perfect for these types of people. Harsh punishment, solitary confinement, and execution should be placed on those who have such warped mindsets.

I believe all people are born with some sense of right and wrong and for someone to completely disregard this not only does not deserve rehabilitation but would never learn and progress with the rehabilitation process. Those who commit such horrible crimes and show no sign of remorse, guilt, pain, or sympathy for human suffering in my eyes are not humans. These feelings are part of being human and for those who feel nothing should receive nothing. I truly believe the message behind James Gilligan’s article, Beyond the Prison Paradigm: From Provoking Violence to Preventing It by Creating “Anti-Prisons” is ingenious.

If our criminal justice system looks further into this idea and follows through with it I know the world will be a much more knowledgeable and safer place to live in. I believe there will be less violence and criminal activity as well as more people with educated views on life and success. I also believe the concept on an “anti-prison” will prove to use less tax payers dollars and use them more effectively; that would allow everyone to sleep a little better at night.

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