What Should be Done About the Conditions in Women’s Prisons? Final Letter

What Should be Done About the Conditions in Women’s Prisons? 

To Whom It May Concern,

I followed one strict topic of the treatment of women in prison throughout the entire project. My sources followed a very structured chronological pattern and one led directly to another. The entire project followed a problem solution pattern. The most important change in my thinking throughout this project was the realization that there is hope for reform and improvement as well as hope for slowing the rate of recidivism. Prior to the project I did not even have that thought in my mind that there is a possibility for positive change. Also, I had the insight that many prisons focus more on controlling as opposed to rehabilitation and improvement of those individuals incarcerated and the eventual improvement of the community and society as a whole.

The first book that had a major impact on me happened to be the first book I started my project with, From Privilege to Prison by Amy Wickes-Passmore. The book covers the personal changes the author goes through and the situations and injustices faced during her time in prison. One situation that happened early on in the book during her time in the county jail impacted me profoundly. A pregnant woman was in pain and needed serious medical attention, which she was asking for. Instead of helping her, the guards came in and tased her, and subsequently dragged her away. After reading about that situation, there was a major emotional affect on me as I had the desire to get out of bed and protest for better conditions in women’s prison. However instead of protesting I moved on to my next source, an article about the use of tasers in prison. This story also led me to ask the prison guard at the Highland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River if they use tasers. I found out that they have them and are allowed to use them, however the situation has not arisen yet in which they would be determined necessary to use. The situation with the pregnant women was always in the back of my mind throughout the project and definitely impacted my opinion that there should be better treatment of women in prison. While it is true that these people are criminals and they committed acts that would generally be considered immoral, they are still people and deserve humane treatment. It seems obvious to me throughout the project that the inhumane treatment of those women incarcerated is the problem component of this project.

Another source that outlines the problem and had a major emotional impact on me was the book by Victoria Law which recounts personal stories of women in prison along with powerful statistics. One chapter covers the topic of sexual abuse. There are institutions that ignore and dismiss sexual abuse by its employees, with Michigan having no laws criminalizing sexual activity between its prisoners and staff. Also, women in any prison system are subject to informal retaliation by other staff members, and for prisoners who report sexual misconduct in the Ohio Reformatory for Women, staff make their lives a “living hell”.  In Alaska, as told to me by the prison guard, the law protects the inmates with Alaska Statute 11.41.425 being sexual assault in the 3rd degree, a class C felony and 11.41.427 being sexual assault in the 4th degree, a class A misdemeanor.  The law covers all sexual contact and no act between prisoners and staff is considered “consensual.” The power that a prison official holds makes it impossible for prisoners to truly give consent.  For me, it is clear that there are changes that need to be made to make women feel safer and not have them abused and taken advantage of, as so often is the case. Regardless of the crime committed I strongly believe that everyone deserves to feel safe and deserves to be in an environment where they can grow to their full potential. This belief was a direct result of my research and time doing this project.

On the other hand, there are an abundance of programs out there to benefit the individual incarcerated and reduce the rate of recidivism. This is a reflection of the solution part of this project. Some of the programs include the Sustainability in Prisons Project, a statewide effort working with the goal of prison reform which includes all twelve prisons in Washington. Their vision is,”not only to save tax dollars and natural resources, but also to help offenders rebuild their lives for the benefit of all.” Programs and classes in Alaska include the classes the prison guard told me which are available at the HWCC for parenting, vocational programs, culinary, horticulture, college classes at the inmate’s expense, anger management, and GED. I was unaware initially that there was such an abundance of programs before starting this project, and it seems obvious to me that these programs are part of the solution to fix the problem of the treatment of women in prison. The issue here is not that these programs don’t exist, the issue is instead the apprehension of the majority of the population to assist those in prison. However, I strongly believe that the more these programs are used the larger the benefit. I found out throughout the project and by asking the prison guard, reducing the rate of recidivism will improve the community as a whole. Paying taxes for those who committed crimes is one common complaint by the majority. However, by taking advantage of these programs and improving the lives of prisoners and reducing the chances of them ending up back in prison, the prison system would become less of a burden for taxpayers because there would be less inmates to house.

In conclusion, my thinking has changed a lot throughout this project. While before the project I would have considered myself a compassionate person, the people who make mistakes and ended up in prison wouldn’t be those I would be sympathetic for. However, after doing this project and understanding the circumstances women in prison I would consider myself sympathetic for those incarcerated. The biggest thing I am taking away from this project is the idea that there is hope for those in prison in terms of reform which will lead to an eventual reduction of recidivism and improvement to society overall. Also, another big thing I am taking away from this project is that there is a problem with the prison system but due to the majority not being sympathetic to those in prison, it is harder than it needs to be to make those improvements.

What Should be Done About the Conditions in Women’s Prisons? 

Works Cited

Timeline FINAL PRODUCT

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Final Blog Post

Media covered:

  1. From Privledge to Prison- Book
  2. Stanford Prison Experiment- Website/Slideshow
  3. U.N.:Tasers are a form of torture- Article
  4. How Prisons Can Help Inmates Lead Meaningful Lives- TED Talk
  5. Sustainability In Prisons Project- Website
  6. Resistance Behind Bars- Book
  7. We Got to Get Outta This Place- TED Talk
  8. Discussion with prison guard at Highland Correctional Center- Experimental
  9. Worst Female Prisons in the World- Documentary
  10. Women in Prison -Photo Essay
  11. Pregnant In Prison– Essay
  12. Women in Prison episode 1&2- TV series
  13. Cellblock 6: Female Lockup- Documentary

One thing I noticed about the pattern is that I started with a personal story in the form of a book and ended with personal stories in the form of the final documentary. In between there was a mixture of personal stories, generalizations, and statistics. I started with one book I found interesting and followed it from there, focusing a lot on the wrongdoings of the prison system and the mistreatment of women in prison. There was some implications or mention of fixing the prison system and changing it for the better in everything I read or watched.


I started with a book which covers the changes Amy went through and the effects of her life decisions. There was one situation with a pregnant women being tased which effected me emotionally and made me think of the Stanford prison experiment and the force used in prisons. This led to one of the questions I asked the prison guard about the force they use there. I learned that there are tasers in the prison, but they have not been used yet. This also led to the flip side of the topic, in which it is argued that prisons can add to prisoners lives and improve them. This led me to the sustainability in prisons project and gave me the idea about reforming the prison system. This also led to questions for the prison guard about the GED programs and programs against recidivism, which led to the TED talk by piper kerman. I found the documentary about the correctional center in Baltimore just looking for something to watch, and found it especially interesting because it takes place close to where I lived before I moved to Alaska. The photo essay was just something I found while searching the internet for things relevant to my project, and just as Nora Ephron argues in her essay about the Boston photographs, I found the pictures to be a lot more impactful emotionally than the narrative and words in the things I covered before. During that same search of things to add to my project I came across the Pregnant in Prison essay. The topic of pregnant women in prison is one thing that was a recurring theme throughout my project. I think that and the specific medical attention women need is one interesting thing to think about throughout the project. My mom found the other documentary I watched on TV one day when she was flipping through channels and recorded it for me, knowing it was relevant to my project. One interesting connection between the first TED talk and the documentary my mom found and the one about Baltimore is that the documentaries placed high emphasis on the changes and programs in the prisons that are put in place to improve the inmates lives and prevent recidivism.


  • One thing I didn’t even consider before the project was the idea of hope, that it is possible to change the system and the behavior of those incarcerated and that there are many programs available to those willing to change. Programs range from rehab to GED classes to anger management classes and group therapy. In the documentary about Baltimore, there was one program that was a rehab halfway house for prostitutes, but the success of this program relies on the willingness of those involved. The Highland Correctional Center is very active in give back programs, not inherently focusing on improving those incarcerated but focusing more on improving the community. Every Christmas they make clothing such as hats and gloves and raise money for families or villages in need. In the past they have raised over $14000.00 for donations.
  • What I found shocking and heartbreaking at the same time was the statistics that USA has 25% of the worlds population, and those rates continue to climb. The population at the Highland Correctional Center has doubled in the past 15 years. One reason for this is because when inmates get out they leave to the same unhealthy environment and people who caused them to get incarcerated in the first place, causing the revolving door.
  • I also was surprised at the fact that a lot of prisons and jails focus more on controlling and containing prisoners in contrast to the rehab and improvement I believe should happen.
  • Another thing not specific to my project but more about my thinking is that I found the statistics to not effect me in the same way documentaries and photos did. I believe they are more personal and more impactful and I found that really compelling.

I am going to create a slideshow for the final project. I believe because my project follows a very chronological pattern and flows directly from one media to another. This will translate well into a slide show, where I can put slides summarizing the media, my thoughts, and how those thoughts led to the next.


Resistance Behind Bars(3rd Blog Post)

I picked up Resistance Behind Bars by Victoria Law over spring break, which highlights the issues facing women in prison as well as challenges the patriarchal ideology that women are passive and docile and that women do not organize in order to challenge readers to reconsider how they view women fighting for change.518xl+eenAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ The book is the result of eight years of research and is organized into 11 main parts, covering everything from sexual abuse to education to medical conditions. However, what I found especially powerful wasn’t something that had an entire chapter dedicated to it, it was something that was a recurring theme throughout the chapters.

What spoke to me the most and what I found the most powerful was not inherently the injustices women face while incarcerated, it was the tactics used in order to keep prisoners obedient and quiet about the injustices. Women who speak out about sexual abuse find their complaints often ignored as well as finding grievances denied. In more extreme cases and very frequently, when inappropriate sexual relationships between prisoners and guards take place, the inmates involved are targeted and harassed by staff members. In one case there was a relationship between corrections officer Phillip  Lewis and prisoner Lynch, who reported having a sexual relationship with authorities. She was targeted by staff members and was also told by a residential unit officer that, “Bitches like you get found in ditches.” A prisoner at the Ohio Reformatory for Women stated that staff make the lives of prisoners who report sexual misconduct a, “living hell.” This type of harassment is common and is one of the powerful motivators to keep a girl quiet about the many injustices that are found behind prison walls.

Another tactic used to keep prisoners controlled and silent is involved with prisoners organizing. Women sharing information and networking “undermines the operations of a system that seeks to foster an atmosphere of alienation and isolation”, therefore they are a threat to the system’s complete control over its prisoners and subsequently they risk repercussions. One prisoner at the Central California Women’s Facility who helped others with legal work were fired from her position as a law library clerk. Also at the CCFW, women who demanded medical attention for their fellow prisoners were faced with a team of guards who assembled in order to trash their cells. Essentially, anything that threatens the complete control and intimidation is met with many motivations to keep prisoners silent. One of the questions I gave to the guard at the women’s prison my mom knows asked about if the harassment and threat of room searches and threats of lack of privileges also took place in Alaska and I am very interested in hearing his response. There is also the high possibility of me being able to meet with a prisoner at the women’s prison here who is serving a life term sentence which I am looking forward to.

Education in prison is a very complex and intricate topic, because it is extremely beneficial to the prisoners but harmful for the system of the prisons. A 2003 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 42% of women in state prisons had neither a high school diploma or a GED, with only 36% of women had graduated high school. While there are many obstacles, such as prison environments and prison security measures hindering learning, the costs involved with providing education to prisoners,  and the resistance from those in charge. Many women in prison have not had the chance to get an education to to drug addictions, abusive relationships and they find themselves changed for life due to the newfound opportunities. Educational programs are credited by some with helping them develop the skills necessary to successfully stay out of prison as well as helping their self esteem and self image. I would argue that those at high risk for recidivism should have their educational pursuits supported as to hopefully prevent them becoming incarcerated again. Prisoners who appeared to be able to defend themselves intellectually found themselves less likely to become a target of prison injustices. Because of this, there is frequently resistance from those in charge about providing educational opportunities for prisoners. This is because educated prisoners challenge the complete control those in prison systems currently have.

In terms of Alaska, the prison’s population grown continues to grow and has a projected 11% increase in its state prison population by 2018. That same growth across the country is expected to rise only 3%. The recidivism rate in Alaska is staggering, with two out of three former prisoners returning to prison within the first three years of their release, mostly within the first six months. Over the last decade, Alaska has experienced a 66% growth rate in recidivism. Also, an estimated 80% of people under the Alaska’s Department of Corrections (ADOC)  jurisdiction suffer from an alcohol and or drug addiction. It is obvious that something must be done to decrease the recidivism rate and help past inmates re enter society productively and live lives that are safe and beneficial to the economy.The cScreen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.51.02 PMhoice Alaska faces now is to invest in proven cost-effective approaches today or to invest in a new costly prison tomorrow, at least $250 million, with poor public safety outcomes. The state can’t afford to continue on with its past criminal justice practices which were costly and produced such a high recidivism rate. As shown in the table, it is very costly to house prisoners and it is unrealistic with Alaska’s budget and bad for Alaska’s economic future. I am hoping to meet with an inmate and the prison guard to learn more of the personal view on the situation in Alaska and develop a stronger personal opinion of the situation.

The Influence of Online Presence [Final Media Editorial]

Have you ever googled yourself? You might be surprised by what comes up.

Historians will tell you assumptions about cultures and events based off of what evidence is left behind, such as cave paintings. This is what history is,”the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians”. The same thing is likely to happen in the future, with historians making assumptions based off the evidence left behind by our society. But instead of rocks and paintings, we will leave behind a new kind of evidence- technology. What we do with this technology now and how we interact using this technology will have a major impact on not only our society today, but how our society is perceived tomorrow.

It’s not just our whole society that needs to be taken into consideration. Social media has boomed in recent years, and today colleges and employers check social media and your digital footprint when going through their hiring and accepting process. Your digital footprint “is the body of data that exists as a result of actions and communications online that can in some way be traced back to an individual.” Scholarship providers who responded to a survey sent by the National Scholarship Providers Association reports that a quarter of scholarship providers in 2011 used social media to check out applications. They most commonly look for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, including underage drinking, illegal drug use, provocative pictures, racial slurs, as well as searching for verification of the information provided on the application.

Also, what you post online can also get you fired. Gilbert Gottfried, commonly known as the voice of the Aflac duck, made a joke at the expense of Japanese tsunami victims and found himself out of a job less than an hour after the joke was posted. Florida teacher Olivia Sprauer had her provocative modeling photos posted on Facebook and was asked to resign. Another teacher in Denver, Carly Mckinney had a questionable twitter in which she expressed her opinion about how much she liked to smoke weed as well as her opinion about her hot students. She was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired.

Unfortunately, organizations are unlikely to change their behavior regarding online presence. The change must be individual in which awareness and self consciousness is increased concerning the implications of online behavior. Important factors to consider when posting online are to stop comparing yourself to others, be authentic, and make sure that your online persona is aligned with your offline persona. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in person, you shouldn’t do so online. Your time and effort should not be spent trying to create this perfect image of yourself that doesn’t align with reality. There are in fact, respectable organizations who have taken their time and posted tips to creating the perfect online profile. The very concept of this is deceiving and dishonest. These tips include avoiding mentioning God, to post pictures outdoors if you’re a gay man, not to post about karaoke, and to learn how to surf. All of this is done in order to get more potential dates, but on false pretenses and dissimulation of your true self. In following these tips and using this in order to craft and shape this online persona which is loosely connected to you, you lose grasp of yourself and your individuality online. Also, when who you are online isn’t truly who you are offline, meeting in person and that first date will be awkward for all of those involved.

What’s the solution to all of this? Google yourself.

Whatever comes up is what employers, colleges, your peers, and scholarship providers can see and the online information you find is what is used to build their perception of you, including your personality and character. The relationship between online and offline behavior is often a complex and confusing situation.The best advice that I have been personally given in relation to how you should behave online is to simply think before you post. In the same way that historians make judgments based off the evidence left behind by old civilizations, organizations and individuals look at the evidence you leave behind digitally. That intoxicated and provocative selfie from spring break may lead to the termination of your employment, or that tweet you posted about how you hate your boss or that Instagram post showing illegal substance use. Another option is to post as you wish but to take precautions with online privacy settings. Because today we live in a more digital world where social media is more prevalent at times than face to face interaction, it is imperative that awareness is brought to online behavior.

Editorial in Process

Have you ever googled yourself? You might be surprised by what comes up.

Historians will tell you assumptions about cultures and events based off of what evidence is left behind, such as cave paintings. This is what history is,”the bodies of knowledge about the past produced by historians”. The same thing is likely to happen in the future, with historians making assumptions based off the evidence left behind by our society. But instead of rocks and paintings, we will leave behind a new kind of evidence- technology. What we do with this technology now and how we interact using this technology now will have major impact on not only our society today but how our society is perceived tomorrow.

But it’s not just our whole society that needs to be taken into consideration. Social media has boomed in the recent years and a study from the University of Michigan suggests that Facebook leads to being unhappy. Today colleges and employers check social media and your digital footprint when going through their hiring and accepting process. Your digital footprint “is the body of data that exists as a result of actions and communications online that can in some way be traced back to an individual.” Scholarship providers who responded to a survey sent by the National Scholarship Providers Association reports that a quarter of scholarship providers in 2011 used social media to check out applications. They most commonly look for behavior that could reflect badly on the scholarship provider, including underage drinking, illegal drug use, provocative pictures or racial slurs, as well as searching for verification of information on the application.

If you have a stable job now you should still be concerned because what you post online can also get you fired. Gilbert Gottfried, commonly known as the voice of the Aflac duck, made a joke at the expense of Japanese tsunami victims and found himself out of a job less than an hour after the joke was posted online. Florida teacher Olivia Sprauer had her provocative modeling photos posted on Facebook and was asked to resign. Another teacher in Denver, Carly Mckinney had a questionable twitter in which she expressed her opinion about how much she liked to smoke weed and her opinion about her hot students. She was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired. Another employee of Suisse was fired for being on Facebook when she had called in sick. Facebook has also led to inappropriate and illegal relationships between students and teachers and has also led to the termination of employment.

Organizations are unlikely to change their behavior regarding online presence. The change must be individual in which awareness and self consciousness is increased concerning the implications of online behavior. Important factors to consider when posting online are to stop comparing yourself to others, be authentic, and make sure that your online persona is aligned with your offline persona. Your time and effort should not be spent trying to create this perfect image of yourself that doesn’t align with reality. Social media for more social purposes should be discussed as well. On the other hand, there are respectable organizations who have taken their time and posted tips to creating the perfect online profile. The very concept of this is deceiving and dishonest. These tips include avoiding the mention of God, what sexuality and what gender should selfie and who should not, not to post about karaoke, and to learn how to surf. In following these tips and using this to craft and shape this perception of you, you lose grasp of yourself and your individuality online and your digital persona does not match up with your offline persona, making meeting in person and that first date awkward for all of those involved.

So I suggest you go google yourself.

Whatever comes up is what employers and colleges and scholarship providers can see and the online information you find is what information they use to make assumptions of your personality and character. The relationship between online and offline behavior is often a complex and confusing situation. The best advice that I have been personally given in relation to how you should behave online is simply to think before you post and think about how people will perceive you based off of what you post. In the same way that historians make judgments based off the evidence left behind by old civilizations, organizations look at the evidence you leave behind digitally and make judgments based off of that evidence. That intoxicated and provocative selfie from spring break may lead to the termination of your employment, along with that tweet you posted about how you hate your boss or that Instagram post showing illegal substance use. Some may argue that working so hard to make yourself appear perfect online and a match up between online and offline personality may also be as deceptive as learning to surf to get more dates on tinder. In that case, another option is to take precautions with online privacy settings. Your friends and online groups should be taken in consideration as well as what people post online about you.

Blog post two, Pacholke, SPP.

Pacholke, Dan. “How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives.” How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

Reflections;

I decided reform in the prison system should be the next step in my project which led me to Dan Palcholke. In his TED talk, Dan Palcholke presents the idea that prisons can be reformed in order to help improve the life of prisoners and communities overall. He begun his lecture with some powerful facts, such as that we incarcerate more people per capita in the united states than any other country in the world, as well as there are more black men in prison than there were in slavery in 1850. A quick google search also brings up the fact that the united states incarcerates more women than any other country as well. I also found this interesting cartoon which is very thought provoking about the fact that “of the entire world’s prison population, one in four is imprisoned in the land of the free”. I find it ironic that America seems to pride itself in freedom, and to what degree that holds true is arguable, but the fact that America is so prideful in its freedom, yet we incarnate more per capita than any country, and have more black men behind bars than there was during slavery is very ironic to me. I think that this is a very powerful concept and shows a different side and different reasoning as to why prison reform is necessary. It also makes me question to what degree the prison system is really effective.

land of free prisonPalcholke points out that agencies that govern prisons are called the department of corrections however their focus is on containing and controlling inmates, not correcting behavior. Palcholke believes that with the changing of environments and making prisons secure, safe, and humane, it can lead prisoners to contribute, participate, and lead meaningful lives. He supports this with his own personal evidence of spending more than three decades working in prisons. Palcholke has dedicated his entire career to the reform of prisons, even creating the Sustainability in Prisons Project, a state wide effort working towards reform which includes all twelve prisons in Washington. They claim that their vision is,”not only to save tax dollars and natural resources, but also to help offenders rebuild their lives for the benefit of all.”

The essential components of the SPP are outlined on their website as follows,

“Although each endeavor and corrections institution is unique, our experiences point to five Essential Components for every SPP program:

1. Partnerships and collaborations with multiple benefits

2. Bringing nature “inside”

3. Engagement and education

4. Safe and sustainable operations

5. Evaluation, dissemination, and tracking”

I agree with Palcholke and with the goals of the SPP, and the underlying pattern and theme here is that small changes can lead to huge differences, and all it takes is a few motivated individuals to make a big difference. I think that the SPP provides a solid framework in their essential components that other programs can follow and use as an example. Over the past six years, the changes made has saved the department of corrections in Washington millions of dollars. This saves taxpayers money and overall leads to a vast improvement of the environment and lives of those involved in the SPP. This has changed my understanding of prisons overall, and gives me hope that they can be reformed and changed. What I wonder is how this reform and change could happen and how it could be implemented in Alaska specifically. I think that prison reform is one thing I will want to talk about with when I get the chance to talk to the prison guard my mom is friends with. Its very important to note that the SPP only started as an idea with no budget, and they were motivated and worked with what they had and saved money for projects and rely heavily on donations but they are very successful. This makes me think of what was discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s essay and how face to face interaction and strong ties can lead to a huge change, not necessarily a long term revolution in this case. I think that the SPP provides an example of his claim as well as supports his argument so that’s an interesting connection to what we’re learning about in class and discussing in class now. So even though in the “land of the free” one in four people are behind bars, one way to combat that is with programs like the SPP. I’d like to research more the SPP and programs similar to it and find out why they’re effective and how they can be more widely implemented.

Blog Post One; tasers, SPE, Privilege to Prison.

Citations;

Book;

Wickes-Passmore, Amy, and Kristine Stevens. From Privilege to Prison: Finding Purpose in a Dark Place. Ed. Martin Yant. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 11 Dec. 2014. Web.

Article/Sildeshow/Website;

Zimbardo, Phillip G. “Stanford Prison Experiment.” The : A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment. Stanford Prison Experiment, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2015.

News Article;

Morgan, David. “U.N.: Tasers Are A Form Of Torture.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.

Reflections;

In her book, Amy Wickes-Passmore recounts her transition from the envied to the envier; from rich and advantaged, to her life in prison and the hardships and adversity she faced. Roman poet Horace once noted that,”Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents in which prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” This quote applies to Amy and her life. Without going to prison she would not have the purpose to become the advocate she is today, fighting for justice and providing a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, similar in that regard to MLK. The adversity she faced in prison brought out a strong sense of self worth and purpose and talent for helping people. Overall I found myself struggling to read her book, not because I didn’t understand or comprehend it, but because the topics she covered were heavy and emotional and hard to read through.

One situation in her book that really impacted me was one of the many stories about abuse. This happened in the county jail, not the prison. The county jail is not meant for long term housing; which is why they can get away with such poor living conditions, even by jail standards. One time early on there was a pregnant woman who began to have labor pains and was pounding on the door, begging the guards to take her to medical. The response she got was to get away from the door and shut the hell up. Being ignored and told to shut up by guards was a common response. More banging on the door and begging, and seven guards eventually came in. Instead of helping her, they hurt her, as she was yelling they tased the woman until she fell to the ground.

An article from CBS discusses the claim of the UN that tasers are a form of torture, and discusses some of the deaths that have taken place due to what 50,000 volts from a taser can cause. The article states,”A United Nations committee said…that use of Taser weapons can be a form of torture, in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture.” And while its still debated today and argued on today about wether or not tasers should be considered torture devices or how lethal they can be, this situation had a profound impact on me. It made me question, just focusing on guard to prisoner interaction, how humane is treatment in the prison systems? This question was one I asked myself a lot throughout my reading and research, and abuse was an underlying pattern throughout the book. Prison guards were also later described by Amy later on as being”taser-happy”, and laughing when inmates are in pain due to tasers, and saying that they deserved it. That doesn’t seem humane to me.

I also made a connection with this story about the pregnant women and the abuse in general to the Stanford Prison Experiment(SPE) in 1971, which I had watched documentaries about in the past and done my own research about previously. All male volunteers were chosen at random; by the flip of a coin, to be either guards or prisoners in a mock prison experiment created in the school to study the psychological effects of prison life. While I believe that the SPE is unethical and goes against the code of conduct set by the American Psychological Association, there is a lot that can be learned from this experiment that relates to life in actual prisons. The guards in the experiment were given no training on how to be guards, they were given completely free will to do whatever they saw appropriate. The prisoners were dehumanized from the start, stripped down and humiliated, chains on their feet, and being given a number, not a name. Guards also acted sadistically, demanding push ups from prisoners, which were often a form of punishment in Nazi concentration camps. The guards seemed to enjoy this. The prisoners ripped their caps off, as well as their numbers, and rebelled early on by barricading the doors with their beds. The guards fought fire with fire. They shot fire extinguishers are the door to move the prisoners back and broke into the cells, stripped the prisoners naked, harassed, intimidated, and humiliated the prisoners. Guards began to see the prisoners as true threats to their safety. Only 36 hours into the experiment, a prisoner had to leave because he began to suffer from mental disturbance; what they believed to be the onset of depression, and three prisoners shortly after had to leave due to mental problems. They were all pronounced stable and healthy not even 2 days before. The lead researcher himself got so caught up in the experiment he was thinking more like a prison superintendent than a psychologist.

While when I originally learned about the SPE I was shocked and appalled, but now after reading Amy’s book, I see the connection between those short 6 days, and some inmates entire lives. Which shocks me and appalls me even more. Being stripped down and dehumanized, yelled at and mentally and verbally abused; all these things happened in Amy’s book as well as in the SPE. Its not unique to Amy’s situation either, this kind of treatment in prison is global, and varies in degree; some are worse and some are better than others. I think it’s interesting I made this connection and that it helped me to better understand the book and life in prison in general. Also, I hadn’t really thought much about the psychological aspect of prison until now. This changed my mind overall a lot about prison, I always had the idea that it was such a horrible place; and in reality it is. I thought before,”oh its just a sort of scare tactic that we hear these horror stories about prison because our parents want to keep us out of them or whatever.” But while that most likely plays a role, its not the bigger picture, which is that prison can truly be a bad place.

After making these connections, I wonder what can be done about this treatment of inmates. If tasers are considered a form of torture, and the SPE showed how power can corrupt; what options are there to improve the conditions? All of this motivates me to get up from my bed right now and protest and fight for rights in prison. I think that next, reform and policies in prison will be where I will take my research.