Beyond the Prison Paradigm

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Katherine Wallace
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. 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...
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