Total Institutions

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Total Institutions

In the year 1961, the author, Erving Goffman, published a book consisting of text and studies on mental patients and inmates, in what he has called "total institutions". There is a large focus on the life of mental patients, due to his year long study in an American institution. However, the center of my reading was based on the institutions and the lifestyles that are reached when placed in such establishments.

When describing these institutions the author referred to them as segregated communities. This is exactly what they are. One is cut off from the outside society, with little or no contact at all until the inmates stay is over. The character of these institutions is one that is an intimidating barrier to the outside world. One who's barriers could be as simple as a fence or a locked door, but as distinct and scary as the high walls, thick bars and razor wire topped, electrically protected fences of today's top penitentiaries. Every institution provides a new world to its members, in most successful cases, changing the perception and reality of the inmate.

Through the years of research conducted by the author, Goffman concluded that the total institutions in our societies breakdown into five rough groupings. There is room to expand on each one of these groupings as these findings are not precise, interpretation is the key when classifying the establishments. His first conclusion was to classify all institutions that were established to care for people who were incapable and harmless to themselves and one another. One may relate to these institutions as the may be part of our lives on a daily basis. This may be the nursing home where the elderly, widow/widowed grandmother/father is living out his last fine days on this earth. It could be one of the less than desirable child rearing homes, such as an orphanage. Or this category may also include where the unfortunate, the wanderer, and the vagrant all congregate, our...
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