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.

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Semester Two Project Pitch

I decided this semester to stay with a similar topic and, like the first semester project, to look into another problem that is prominent and important but mostly ignored. I chose to look into the prison system, and life for women in prison specifically. Just doing a little research there’s a lot of aspects I can look into, including the dehumanization of inmates in prison, abuse, mental effects, social life, overcrowding, gangs, health, and opinions about what steps should be taken, if any. I am unsure about sticking with a specific topic, because all the aspects in prison all play a role in the bigger picture. I find this topic interesting because its a somewhat taboo subject, and I know people personally who believe and argue that because they are criminals they don’t deserve certain rights and treatment.

I am starting my project with a book, which seems inspirational, about how a woman went from modeling and being wealthy to cheating on her husband and abusing drugs and alcohol to prison and how that effected her life. I’ve read a little, and it’s interesting because overall it seems positive and her story about how she changed her life, but the book opens with,” When I was charged and placed in the God-awful, sick and abusive Franklin County Jail Workhouse in my hometown…”. The words God-awful, sick, and abusive have a very negative connotation to them which is conflicting when I think about how the book is supposed to be about how she improved her life. I am interested in seeing how that plays out. I think it might be about how in such a dark place she found her self and improved. The next source I have planned for this project, and cited, is a TED talk about how “Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives”. I am biased in thinking that prison is a negative place and I am looking forward to seeing his argument about how prisons are beneficial. Other than these, my mom has a friend who is a security guard at the all girl’s prison in Eagle River, and she is helping me with getting an interview with him, and possibly the inmates. I am hoping to save this for last, after I have a better knowledge and have better questions to ask. I am very excited about this and I think it will do a good job of getting personal stories from Alaska and tie up my project. If you have suggestions about articles to read or another book, I’d be glad to hear them!

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.

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.

Semester 1 Reflection

  1. What are your strengths in this class? What have you done well? What kind of material, reading and/or writing, do you feel most confident completing? What do you plan to do to sustain these strengths? I have done well with the more creative writing assignments and feel more comfortable with them. An example of this would be the satire, which had a structure to follow but it was a loose guideline and there was the opportunity to be creative, and humorous and have my voice come through. I think I did a good job on the semester project as well, in terms of being independent and researching and analyzing the information. I think to sustain these strengths I need to keep myself in check and make sure that I do not blow off the more creative assignments just because I know I do well with them. Also, I have surprised myself with the multiple choice passages we have worked with, every time I do better than I thought I did and I would consider those to be one of my strengths too.
  2. What are your weaknesses in this class, either academic or behaviorally, or both? What are your biggest challenges in this class? Contrary to my strength, my weakness in this class academically is following a strict structure in writing, such as the model Twain paragraph. Its harder for me to follow a strict pattern, and I find it challenging for my voice to come through in the writing. Going up and talking in front of the class, finding a group for assignments, answering questions in class, and not joining group discussions is something I struggle with. While some people would say that a behavior problem of theirs is talking to much, my problem would be not talking enough. Also, I struggle with pre-20th century pieces, and it is harder for me to understand.
  3. How do you plan to adjust your approach to this class to become more successful and to improve on your weaknesses? I plan on working more on the strict and structural writing we do so I can become better at those types of writing. I think if I pay attention to the fact I struggle in that area, I will be able to do better and improve. I will also talk more in class and be a better participant in class discussions. I think to understand the pre-20th century pieces, I will work on strengthening my vocabulary and possibly read a pre-20th century writing for the semester project.

Semester 2 Project; I have no idea what to start with for the semester two project. I think this weekend or sometime soon, I will look up books online or go to a bookstore or library and find something that interests me and go from there. Similarly to the semester one project, I would like to find a topic that is controversial and ignored, even though it is important.