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What Does This Video Tell Us About

What does this video tell us about the correctional system? Do you think this was an accurate portrayal of what really happens when people are incarcerated? Why or why not?

The Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment tell us about the correctional system displaying how social roles can influence the actors in jurisdiction’s prisons and citizens. Additionally, it demonstrates the impressionability and obedience of people when given with a legitimizing ideology, social, and institutional support. To put it into a psychological perspective, the experiment illustrates how most correctional system’s the cognitive dissonance theory, a person who contradictory beliefs, ideas or values, and seniority upon others. Prisoners and guards may experience unavoidable personalities. For example, prisoners often lack respect for law and order and guards being domineering and aggressive. I believe that this experiment accurately shows how the correctional system works. Within all institution, every prisoner is treated the same because they are directly identified as criminals. Thus, the institution experience deindividuation. The atmosphere that is portrayed in these prison systems became so immersed in the norms of the group that the guards will tend to lose their sense of humane, identity and personal responsibility.

Describe what happened with the guards. Why do you think they took on the roles they did?

All guards were given a specific uniform of khaki, a whistle around their neck and a Billy club. These guards wore special sunglasses to avoid any eye contact with the prisoners. With these glasses, it was a form of eliminating their humanity and morality in which enhanced their police mentality and behavioral actions. During the experiment, it came a time of where the police students were taunting and giving petty orders, they were giving pointless and tedious task to accomplish, and they were dehumanizing. An example from the film was that the guard would commonly impose the prison students to do push-ups. Even one of the student guards stepped on the student prisoners’ backs while preforming push-ups or made other student prisoners to sit on their fellow inmates’ backs during their push-ups. What sparked the guards dominate and dictator behaviorism is day two of the experiment. The student prisoners removed their hats, numeric name tags, and barricaded themselves inside their prison cells by using their beds. The student guards reacted by using a fire extinguisher that shot out cold carbon dioxide to gain control and dominance from the prisoners. The guards eventually break into each cell, strip the prisoners of their uniforms naked and took the beds out. Since then, the student guards began to harshly and terrorize the prisoners. As the prisoners became more dependent and submissive, the guards became more superior. I believe the men took on the roles they did because for one, the prisoners want to be in the experience of how a common inmate experience the vile treatment from those that claim to have higher standards over them. As the student prisoners are being educated by how the correctional system works in the eye of a prisoner, they gain a sense of the system not wanting to change them for the better for themselves, in other words rehabilitation. Thus, they lose a piece of who they were before they were imprisoned. The experiment in a way displayed the inner retribution acted upon the student prisoners. Outside of this experiment, it is proven that if an institution proceeds with a retribution mindset, recidivism would spike due to punishment inflicted on the prisoner as vengeance. Those that took on the role as guard simply wanting the privilege of authoritatively. Power became a drug that gave the student guards to obtain great pleasure. When these guards are experiencing this pleasure, they also lose a sense of themselves just like the prisoners. The student guards would enjoy the ride of not feeling any emotion towards another human being until at the end feeling guilt. Most of the guards found it surprising that they had an “evil” side to their personality.

Describe the reactions of the prisoners. Why do you think they behaved in the way they did?

The student prisoners during the interview could not believe how submissive, scared, and dependent they acted. On the first day of the experiment, the prisoners were adopting a prisoner’s attitude. As time went by, they started taking the prison rules very seriously. The student prisoners were so committed that whenever they introduced themselves to a priest in the video, they referred themselves by their prison number, instead of their first name. I believe that they behaved in the way they did because they were already committed into living in the lifestyle of being an inmate, it in a sense registered to them that they must put themselves in that setting to act passive. In the beginning of the film, the prisoners entered this experiment with stereotypes of how an average prisoner is treated and behaved.

Does this experiment have any policy implications today? Why or why not?

This experiment has a few policy implications today. Because the experiment lead to many prisoners becoming or developing signs to being harmful to one another or to themselves, the study changed the way US prisons are run. For example, juvenile detentions were accused of federal crimes because they housed adult prisoners, and this is a risk of violence for those that are 17 years and above. The Stanford Prison Experiment gained the attention of psychological associations, specifically the APA (American Psychological Association). With prisoner #8612, he was the first to be released because of his conditions. Because he was so committed into this experiment, it led to him acting abnormal, screaming, cursing, and going into rage. APA coincide with the ethical guidelines, making sure that the experiment is abiding the laws.

Why won’t this experiment be replicated in the future?

This experiment would not be replicated in the future because of how unpredictable it was. The study was purely based on observing the social effects of the prisoners versus the guards’ behavior. According to the film, the men who participated as prisoners did not receive consent to being “arrested” at home. In fact, it was planned to be last minute before the men who participated decided to go forth with the experiment. I believe that this was done just for a shock factor out of the men. Most importantly to why this experiment will not be repeated is because the men were not protected from the psychological harm and the humiliation that came with the experiment in a hazing manner.

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.