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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Imprisoning the Mind

Harlow Research
The Impact of Harry Harlow’s Research:

While many experts derided the importance of parental love and affection, Harlow’s experiments offered irrefutable proof that love is vital for normal childhood development. Additional experiments by Harlow revealed the long-term devastation caused by deprivation, leading to profound psychological and emotional distress and even death. Harlow’s work, as well as important research by psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, helped influence key changes in how orphanages, adoption agencies, social services groups and child care providers approached the care of children.

Obviously, by using above quotation I'm not suggesting that adult prisoners are in a childhood development state. I'm just not convinced that prison environments that ignore psychological needs are sanguine for adults. (WES).

In a blog some years ago and I set out the equal/special paradox that lies at the heart of human motivation.** We all need the sense of essential human equality with others. At the same time, we all want to feel and be special in some way. This is another way of saying that we all want to feel significant, needed, and worthy. This drive results in the equality/special paradox.

Tonight I attended a support group for those with family in prison. It meets at Saint Paul’s Catholic Church from 7 PM-8:30 PM. The facilitator is a Catholic Deacon and he is perfect in the role of group leader. It is a small group, usually around 12 or less.

Tonight the irony of incarceration was mentioned. In my view, the object of incarceration is primarily punishment and a type of retribution and controlled public revenge. The prisons do a very good job at this. It is interesting to look at incarceration head to head with the fundamental drives to feel equal and special and define how these needs are addressed. If there is to be any hope of reducing recidivism, these needs and motivations must be met extensively. If these fundamentals are spurned, there can be little hope that compassion and the cultivation of a heightened social conscience—to be helpful (at least not harmful) to self and others—will be propagated.

Imprisonment begins with a strip search and issuance of uniform prison garb. A person is thus stripped of individuality and all positive sense of specialness. Rather than a recognition of equality, all are subject 24/7 to a sense of subjugation and subordination. The family and loved ones offer an outlet of significance—at least to those not effectively alone in the world. However, this outlet is rigidly regulated in regards to visitation and correspondence. To a significant degree, the human drive for equality and specialness are not only unattended to, but deliberately made problematic or impossible. We intentionally have designed a system to subjugate people (for the most part not from choice environments to begin with and in many ways already subjugated) and expect good things to come from it—as if yet another punishment will surely do the trick at last. It is time to remove retribution and dehumanization from justice and see what the disciplines of love can do.

**Blog treating the equal/special paradox:

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