Prison System Essay

1712 words - 7 pages

In the prison system most of the prisoners are labeled as either “mad” or bad”. The implication here is that “mad” implies that the prisoner is mentally ill and “bad” implies that they are purposely acting out. The main difference is if the person has the ability to choose to act a specific way they are “bad” or if they cannot control their actions then they are “mad”. In this paper I will describe how the prison workers distinguish between the prisoners as “mad” or “bad” as well as discuss how the ideas and social practices inform the prison guards’ judgment. Then I will discuss how being labeled as “mad” affects the prisoners and why some of them strive to be labeled as “mad”.
The prison workers are the ones who decided if a prisoner is “mad” or “bad”. This starts when they first come into the prison. They are brought in asked a few specific questions to decide if they will need mental help. If these workers decided that the prisoner is not mentally ill they get pushed along. “Given the limited capacity of the prison to provide help, the workers "…have no choice but to look… for the ‘seriously crazy… If they can talk, even if they are squirrely, they are moved on” (Rhodes, 2004, 102).
The ideas and social practices of the prison guards effect how they decide if the prisoners are “mad” or “bad”. Then the prison guards will ask themselves if the odd behavior of the prisoner is a sign of underlining disturbances or if they are willingly acting that way to resists their environment (Rhodes, 2004). A lot of the behavior in the control unit could be considered odd but the underlining issues and intentions are what they prison guard has to try to understand. The prison workers try to distinguish the “mad” and the “bad” by intention, which is not always agreed upon between the workers. To classify an inmate you should know about the prison, their treatment, their interaction with the guards, and how long they have been in the control unit (Rhodes, 2004). The problem here is that there is not a specific line of the “mad” and the “bad”. There is also no definition of the “bad”, so is one to assume that if they do not fit in the “mad” category then they are “bad”? Once the prisoner is sent to the mental health unit the workers there can use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This book has a specific description of what each mental illness is and what and how many symptoms the inmates must have to be diagnosed with a specific mental illness. With the specific requirement it is cut and dry if a prisoner has a mental illness or not. I have discussed how the prison workers decide if a prisoner is “mad” or “bad” and what social practices the guards use to decide. Now I am going to discuss the consequences of being labeled as “mad” and why some prisoners will try to be labeled as “mad”.
These prisoners are experiencing social defeat, “the demoralization and helplessness that is felt as a result of...

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