Though the Eyes of a Convict Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2431 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … Eyes of a Convict a. There are several elements of the reading that surprised me. My background does not include any type of incarceration, so I know little beyond what I've seen in shows like "Oz" on television. One of the first things that surprised me was the leg irons. When seeing people in leg irons on television, for example, it does not seem that they are as uncomfortable and painful as described in the passage. I had to wince when reading about the red rings on Inmate's legs.

Another element in the reading that did not so much surprise me as made me see prison life in a new light is the almost immediate loss of the non-prison identity. From the start, Inmate's name was secondary to his status as prisoner and to his inmate number. Indeed, his very use of the word "Inmate" to ensure his anonymity for protection reasons appears symbolic of his loss of identity. Also, every occurrence since entering the prison appears to be focused on degrading and dehumanizing inmate.

Another surprising elements is the many tests the inmates are required to take. My former understanding, when I thought about it at all, was that inmates were sent to prison more or less at random, or according to the crimes they committed; not according to test scores. I was also not aware of the fact that psychiatric services are available for prisoners who appear to have mental problems. My former understanding was that everybody was more or less herded together, and that mental problems were handled like any other problems inmates might have - inadequately.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Though the Eyes of a Convict Assignment

Another surprising factor was the language issue, or "prison argot" as the Editor's Introduction terms it. While I was aware that there must be some sort of slang in prisons, I did not realize that these were accompanied by gestures. I also found it quite interesting that one of the prisoners spontaneously befriended Inmate and taught him how to handle himself in terms of language in the prison environment. This was not something I would expect in an environment where presumably every inmate lives and works only for his own benefit. I also find the idea of community and subcultures within the prison system surprising. Although this idea was brought home to me quite clearly via television shows, I believed that clearly structured and delineated subcultures were created only for the benefit of the entertainment level.

Another thing I did not realize about prison life is the fact that prisoners could earn their way down into lighter security areas. I thought the only thing they could earn was parole or maybe some cigarettes.

What particularly struck me in the reading was the terrible combination of desolation, fear and boredom that become a routine part of life once the prisoner enters incarceration for the first time. These sensations are unimaginable to me. It seems that the words "He's one of ours now" seems to perfectly summarize the sense of powerlessness that becomes part of the prisoner's life. It is little wonder then that violence is so rampant within prison walls. The authorities create an environment of absolute dehumanization and weakness for prisoners. It is therefore understandable that the author would have developed such deep hatred for the system and everyone in it. The system is designed to remove all self-respect in a man. The only option left to reclaim some power is to become part of the culture of violence that prisons have come to be known for.

b. Anonymous N. Inmate uses several adaptation strategies in order to cope with prison life. The first thing he appears to do is accept whatever happens to him. He is at first infused with a sense of fear and powerlessness. The shackles and chains he describes appear to be symbolic of how his spirit was also absolutely imprisoned from the beginning. The way in which he is treated has the same effect. The officer who is in charge of Inmate's initial entry appears to take pleasure in the degrading process. Inmate, believing that he has no choice in the matter, simply accepts whatever is done to him. It is little wonder that Inmate feels so destroyed that he doubts his ability to remember his prison number. He continues to just sign everything he is given and to do everything he is told. His first strategy to adjusting to his new situation is thus acceptance.

A second strategy is adapting himself to what the situation appears to require. When he is for example bewildered by the language issue, Inmate eagerly listens to prisoner who takes him under his wing. His strategy is to join those who appear accessible and to learn from them whatever he needs to know to survive prison life.

A further adaptation strategy is hostility. In the reading, it was interesting to read about the way in which the inmates handled the tests they were required to write. It appears that they were somewhat rebellious toward the test and the professional required to supervise the inmates taking the test. Before writing, they asked a number of questions, and it was only with great difficulty that they remained silent for long enough to actually be able to take the test. And even then they were not quiet for long, with the room filled with whispers.

This is an interesting episode, as it indicates that prisoners appear to unite in rebellion against officials, but not towards each other. One indication of this is Inmate's assertion that it was a "good" thing for him not to say anything when he saw the prisoner next to him cheating. In fact, the rampant cheating on the test was another interesting issue to read about. It appears that the official taking the test had little interest whether the test was written honestly or not. This is interesting in terms of the differences between prison life and life outside. The attitude of the officials overseeing the test appears to be that prisoners are not expected to be honest in anything, including something as simple as a test.

From their side, the prisoners appear to oblige the officials by doing what is expected. It is possible that the dehumanizing effect of the prison itself is responsible for an attitude of not caring about things that are important for the outside world. This is part of forming a new identity when entering the prison world.

Identity destruction and reconstruction is another strategy used by inmates to adapt to their new world. In Inmate's experience, the removal of his belongings and his clothing represents the loss of identity he experienced when entering prison life. Everything that made up his world from the past, including his childhood hopes and dreams, friends, family, and other connections such as work and colleagues, was lost and left behind when he entered the prison building. He was required to build a new identity that would involve using a different currency and adjusting to a set of rules that had nothing to do with justice or accountability. He had to adjust to a situation where officials were part of everyday life and took every opportunity to remind the inmates of their inhumanity and unimportance in the world at large.

Finally, another adjustment strategy is violence and subculture leadership. As mentioned above, the only options left for power within the prison system is to enter a paradigm of violence, or to take leadership of an inter-prison subculture. This paradigm perpetuates the cycle of violence and crime that brought the inmates to prison in the first place. Indeed, the cultures and subcultures within the prison system also tends to perpetuate crime. In this way, prisoners are far from reformed once they reenter society. The statistics to the effect that most prisoners on parole are soon behind bars again, are therefore unsurprising.

c. It is clear from the reading that inmates are robbed of all respect, hope and safety from the beginning of their contact with the prison system. The author continually asserts that he was afraid and insecure. He had no idea what to expect, and nobody did anything to reassure him. The small reassuring gesture offered by the official that gave Inmate his prison number appears hugely out of proportion in the unfriendly environment.

Everything in the prison system is designed to instill a sense of fear in prisoners. Indeed, even the systems created by the prisoners themselves operate on the basis of fear and violence. In this way, the adjustment strategies used by prisoners perpetuate the sense of fear a prisoner experiences when entering the prison environment. This is also substantiated by Inmate's reaction to the language issue. He experiences the language issue as something completely alien. It is as if he has entered a foreign society without the benefit of communicating in a language he understands. This contributes to his basic sense of insecurity that began when he entered the prison system for the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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