Blargh Blog

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Prisons and abuse go together like ...

It may be something that you'd rather not think about, but you really should read this piece by psychologist Philip Zimbardo on situations that tend to breed awful abuse like what happened in Abu Ghraib, even when the abusers didn't seem like evil people before going into the situation. His argument becomes weak when he tries to turn it into a legal defense of the abusers, but it's much better at highlighting the systematic problems of military prisons and regular prisons within America that we should be facing. Consider this summary of his view on how we treat the prison system in America (and then go read the rest):

The bottom line is that nobody really cares what happens in prison. Nobody wants to know. Prisons are the default value of every society. We just want to dump convicts there, and let them come back and be good people. We only care about rapists and child molesters, so we want to keep track of them when they get out. For everybody else we don't want to know. We assume they go to prison, we'd like to believe they get rehabilitated, and when they come back they work in society. But from everything I know, most prisons are places that abuse prisoners, making them worse. They make them hate, make them want to get back at the injustice they've experienced.


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