PRISONIZATION AND ITS EFFECTS
When we talk of that experience where a person loses control of himself, of trailing his sense of direction, of draining some measure of hope, of being indifferent, uncaring, cold and unsympathetic; of allowing incidents to take precedent over all matters pertaining his capacity, then that person is having a syndrome only correctional workers are vulnerable to contract. They are most likely to be prisonized.
A prison worker is immersed in a marginal community that is the exact opposite of the free community. But for an inmate, the prison community is an accepted reality. Here life is governed by the minutest of rules not only imposed by prison administration but also inflicted by longer serving denizens.
For the worker however, it is an ambiguity. While he exacts response from his institutional wards in a manner, which he expects from a normal situation, he receives a different reaction. Finally, he develops an unhealthy picture of a person who is subdued, passive and submissive—a different behavior that is reserved and calculated. Without realizing it, he changes from an understanding person to a high-strung character with superiority complex.
The prison community is a secluded world where deception carries the day. Every inmate must have to live under a regime of duplicity. Every officer must always confront a situation where he should always be on top. Inability to cope with these behavioral conditions lowers their guard and they easily succumbed into a gloomy streak.
The challenge is a daily workout, a usual component of the slow and grinding humdrum. For the inmate, he must have to resign early to his fate. He must embrace what is given. He must realize that to be hopeless is to regain his sanity. He must be contented in a situation calling for discontentment. He should never expect anything more than what is provided for the moment. To harbor thoughts of the future is already treading the road to perdition. He must live for the day. He must shun the past and ignore the future. Failure to grasp this response is playing into the hands of destruction. The inmate knows this by heart.
But for the prison worker, for prison volunteers as well, this is something new. It is an almost 360 degree re-orientation. He carries with him the standards of the free community since he belongs there in the first place but in his immersion during his tour of duty in a marginal community, he suddenly would encounter the reversal of his socially conditioned replies. While adjusting and in the process of imbibing such change in his personal projections, he is already being infested with what is referred to as prisonization.
There is however a way out for the prison worker to wiggle away from this condition. His unit if not his organization must have a code of honor to live by, a shield against behavioral transference, a psychological armor and an emotional buffer against a homogenous social stimulation. This code he must determine and formulate along with his peers. In its absence, everything that moves and crawls are subject to the most morbid effects of the prison culture.