Youth prison

In the PASSING manual, Dr. Wolfensberger and Susan Thomas write that one of the few human service practices that does not have a culturally valued analog (CVA) is a prison (p. 31). A recent article in the NY Times (14 February 2010) describes the prison system for youth in New York.

The article is a litany of social devaluation and wounding. Segregation and congregation. ‘Special education’ units in the prisons. Multiple transfers (physical and social discontinuity). Physical settings (barbed wire, bare rooms, no air conditioning for prisoners in cement cells, etc.) and practices (strip searches) which, despite whatever rationales lie behind them, communicate roles of animal and menace.

Even within the prison, some roles are even more devalued by prisoners and guards, such as snitch (someone who complains about the treatment). Guard and prisoner are complementary roles, and often invite mistreatment by guards and submission or rebellion by prisoners, as the Stanford Prison Experiment, Abu Ghraib, the book Newjack by Ted Conover about becoming a prison guard, and reports about super-max prisons reveal.

Violence in the prisons, both from prisoners and guards, is rampant. No wonder, given the setting, roles, expectations, lifewasting. From the article:

Violence was the greater threat, whether from other youths or the guards, who are known as youth counselors. The younger ones, he noticed, seemed to bring their personal problems to work. Any hint of insubordination could result in physical restraint, he said, despite the strict state rules limited the use of force. It was common to see youths covered in rug burns from being shoved against the ground.

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm by MTumeinski · Permalink
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