October 3rd, 2014
In both articles the authors’ aim is to generate knowledge about the culture of prison, and what one can take away from a carceral tour. In Piche and Walby’s article, the authors argue that carceral tours can be highly scripted and regulated in ways that obscure many of the central aspects of being in prison. In Wilson, Spina, and Canaan’s article, it is counter argued that with the proper carceral tour, evidence proves that visitors have an overall experience that changes their views on prisoners and life in prison. Piche and Walby base their arguments off of two main ideas, the staging of tours, and the use of a scripted tour guide that enables stereotypes to be built. Piche writes: “facility tours students participated in appeared to be carefully scripted, thereby preventing any deeper discussion about how imprisonment is actually experienced by either prisoners or staff.”1. This is proved by the frequency, the size, and the time when tours are scheduled at. These restrictions show that tours are not showing visitors the ‘back stage’ scenes when the prison could become slightly exposed but rather when the prison is composed and in order. Next it can be disputed that the tour guide can be seen as a narrator, because they speak only to the audience, and read off a script. It is argued, “these scripted portions of the tour not only contribute to dominant stereotypes of prisoners predatory animals in need of incapacitation, but, in underlining the theatrical nature of the tour event”2. Scripted tours give no allotted time for visitors to engage in conversation with the prisoners. Thus this makes it impossible for visitors to question any stereotypes formed about prisoners and prison.
Wilson responds to Piche and Walby’ by further explaining his research based on two themes, the student’s expectations regarding the inmates, and overall experienced change after the tour was complete. Wilson claims that the expectations of most students regarding the interactions and relationships with the prisoners were very much altered during their visit. One student wrote: “to my surprise on arrival into the canteen I felt as though I was in a community centre dining room, everyone was friendly, helpful and welcoming”3. Students were expecting a harsh and emotionless prison, but instead were introduced to a relaxed environment where authority was shadowed, yet always present. Wilson then argues that the overall experience has changed the students in regards to their thoughts and attitudes towards prions and the inmates. One student wrote, “I became a volunteer for victim support due to the prisoners explaining about the harm caused to their victims” 4. The evidence from the student’s essays prove how powerful communication with the inmates can become, and in some instances it can change their overall perception of imprisonment. In this response it will be proven through more in-depth examination why Piche and Walby’s orginal argument is accurate for prison tours. It will also point out the respected arguments and flaws in Wilson’s article, as his research is proven to be too narrow of a view; along with a detailed investigation of evidence proving how prison tours are highly scripted, and how the human rights of inmates are violated. Although Wilson’s argument is creditable, he only has research from a prison that gives an all too rare experience to the visitors. Wilson writes: “it is accepted that the students are touring a unique carceral environment which is unrepresentative of the penal system more generally, they nonetheless go behind the prison’s walls […] and gain an all-too-rare opportunity to interact with offenders"5. Wilson’s argument now can be questioned because although certain students may have the opportunity to this thorough and informational experience, most do not. The research given...
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