Nathan Taylor

Stories from Nathan Taylor

Prisonization: America’s Expanding Prisons and Their Effects on the Mind

Prisonization is a term first coined by Donald Clemmer in his 1940 book The Prison Community, where he defines it as “the taking on, in greater or lesser degree, of the folkways, mores, customs, and general culture of the penitentiary”(Clemmer, 1968). Prisons and their social conditions had not been in the public’s concern until about the late 1800s when scholars began to publish works ruminating on the important role that prisons play in a society. Around this time, Dostoevsky wrote “the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.” If one was to follow this guideline when looking at the United States prison system, they might think that it was a much less developed society stricken with poverty. This is concerning, especially since the “U.S. [incarceration] rates have consistently been between four and eight times those for these other nations” (Haney, 2017) The other countries being compared here are Japan, Australia, the U.K., and the Netherlands. At the same time as this incarceration rate’s expansion, allocation of funds for “prisoner services or inmate programming” (Haney, 2017) has been nearly stagnant in comparison. These figures are particularly disturbing when one realizes how detrimental these substandard prison conditions affect the minds of the prisoners that inhabit them. The current dreadful conditions seen in U.S prisons, in combination with an unprecedented incarceration rate, put the country on track to be releasing hundreds of ill adjusted prisoners who pose an even bigger threat than they did before being locked up.