Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Stanford Experiment

“The Experimentation of America’s Prisons”

In 1971 a team of researchers led by psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo, at Stanford University, conducted an experiment of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner and or prison guard. Twenty – four undergraduates were selected out of 75 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and become residents in a mock prison in the basement of the psychology building.
These roles were randomly assigned and the cast adapted to their roles well beyond that which were expected, so much so, that many of the characters playing guards became authoritarian in their demeanors, displaying draconian measures. Their action and conduct became so real, that a couple of participants quit the experiment quite early. Thus leading to the experiment being put on hold only after 6 days.
Many found themselves disturbed by the experiment and even held that it was too controversial to allow it to continue. The news media and all of America was outraged over the torture and abuse of prisoners al Abu Ghraib but surprisingly “ no one is outraged over the mistreatment and manufacturing of conduct reports, violation of constitutional rights, denial of parole of prisoners who are rehabilitated, and the continuous promoting of dehumanization of Americans locked behind these walls and gates.
In Zimbardo’s study, he was overheard telling the guards,” you can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can even create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they’ll have no privacy… We’re going to take away their individuality in various ways.”
This practice can be seen today where prisoners are forced to feel this sense of powerlessness.” That is, because of their incarceration, the guards and the administration has all the power and prisoners have none.”
Much like the study at Stanford University which grew out of hand, prisoners all over the country have suffered, and been forced to accept sadistic and humiliating treatment from guards.
Unfortunately the high level of stress and anxiety progressively has led from rebellion to inhibition and mental breakdown as men began showing severe emotional disturbances. My own experience in various institution segregation units I’ve seen men begin to smear feces all over their bodies. I have witness men begin to scream, to curse, to go into fits of rage having lost all sense of control. As a prisoner myself, I can only become angry and frustrated at the conditions which excascerbate these symptoms and cause these men to want death over life. Even here at Racine Correctional Institution, there are guards who use the knowledge of prisoner’s mental illness and another method to harass prisoners.
Sanitary conditions decline rapidly, made worse by some prisoners who are suffering from mental illness that urinate and defecate on the floors, beds, walls and doors of the cells. And as punishment guards punish these mentally ill prisoners by removing their mattress, leaving them to sleep on slabs of concrete, or rubber floor mats – Some are even forced to go nude for days and fed their meals off the floor as a method of degradation, as they are ordered to the back of the cell, directed to face the wall and to kneel down.
I have witnessed many new guards come in with some sense of humanity and after the probationary period grow increasingly cruel--- at least half of the prison guards exhibit genuine sadistic tendencies and racial predjudices for blacks and gay males.
The Stanford experiment ended on August 20, 1971, only six days after it began instead of the fourteen it was supposed to have lasted.
Professor Zimbardo, reported his findings in 1971 to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.
Many would probably argue that such a study as that which was held in 1971 would not be conducted today. However, the truth is these acts are carried out daily in prison all around the state, here in Wisconsin. All too often tyrannical leadership and arbitrariness amd capriciousness is a reality for men and women locked inside these Correctional Institutions.
And yet, Wisconsinites are not angered or outraged by the mistreatment and abuse that haunts many who already come from abusive backgrounds, mental illness, as well as alcohol and drug addictions

Juan Ward

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