the criminology and criminal justice network
One major lesson of the famous Philip Zimbardo (he is 81!!!) Stanford Prison Experiment is that those who play guarding or prisoner role in a simulated prison act more influenced by the situation (the prison setting) than by the predispositional factors (personality traits or SES etc.).
This is not only a social psychological issue but also a major topic of penology.
Who is the prisoner in the prison? What influences the behavior of a prisoner in the prison, the prison roles (prison predators, prison gang leaders, prison rape victims, prison snitches etc.) or the personality (aggressive, submissive, vulnerable, manipulative, disruptive etc.)?
My experience - being a prison officer since 21 years - is that prison has a quite strong situational influence on behavior.
- the general closed, masculine (also in female prisons), aggressive, hierarchical and network-like social setting makes the prisoners: closed (introversion, keeping personal feelings in secret), masculine (more active, more dominant, not caring, not passive), aggressive (violent, intolerant, sometimes bestial, brutal, burned out, cynic etc.), dependent (hospitalized, hyper-vigilant, tranquilizer and body shape addict etc.) and builds up a gang identity and destroys the pre-incarceration identity.
- this happens also to prison officers
- the prison architecture facilitates this process
- prison regimes are also both results and causes of this phenomenon.
One more interesting issue of this situational behavior is the prison homosexuality. Sometimes homosexuality in prison is a device of survival. This is the only possibility to combat permanent extortions, exploitations, tortures, forcing, degrading, bullying and other type of brutal psychic and physical violence. Prisoners just give up their bodily integration to save their psychic integration.
In a Hungarian prison a famous prisoner was placed into pre-trial detention because of a huge fraud. He was a popular politician before the prosecution and the conviction. A huge media attention followed every steps of the prisoner. He gave also press conferences after the trials highlighting his complete innocence. He received six or seven years of imprisonment at the end. In first two-three months the media was also there. He said his family was extremely important for him, and he tried to use all possibilities to keep them in touch. His first cell mate was a brutal homosexual killer who tortured and and murdered two German gay-tourists in a motel room. He raped him several times. A third prisoner came into this unit of the prison. He was a former prison officer who killed his girlfriend. The ex-politician and the girlfriend-murderer ex-prison-officer turned into homosexuals in the prison.
The reason of this dramatic personality and behavior change can be explained by the above mentioned items.
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