Journal Entry: Scott Donald Carper-01/11/2024

Journal Entry

SO rather then counting the days down to my ankle monitor removal I am focusing on making sure I stay off everyone’s radar. I made a comment that we knew back in 1971 (The Stanford Prison Experiment) how it would go when you gave people unchecked power over other people. I was shocked to learn how few key people (STAFF) knew ANYTHING about the Stanford Prison Experiment. SO I promised an explanation since now that I am certain everybody (meaning staff) read my newsletter.

The Stanford prison experiment took place at Stanford University (duh the reference) and involved 24 college students who were screened for psychological stability and randomly assigned roles of prisoners or guards in a simulated prison environment set up in the university’s basement.

The guards were given uniforms, sunglasses, and instructed to maintain order without resorting to physical violence. However, the guards quickly began to assert their authority in oppressive ways, using psychological tactics to control the prisoners.

They enforced strict rules, employed humiliation tactics, and even subjected the prisoners to degrading tasks (not after months, or weeks….in DAYS)

The prisoners, on the other hand, internalized their roles, feeling powerless and becoming submissive to the guards’ authority. Some exhibited signs of extreme stress, emotional breakdowns, and rebellion against the oppressive conditions.

Dr. Zimbardo (THE HEAD GUY), who acted as the superintendent, became so immersed in the role that he initially failed to recognize the severity of the situation. However, after just SIX days (SIX DAYS!!!!!), the experiment was abruptly halted due to the escalating psychological trauma experienced by both prisoners and guards.

To me the Stanford prison experiment sheds light on numerous issues relevant to today’s incarceration problems:

  1. Abuse of Power: unchecked authority can lead to abuse and mistreatment within the prison system. It illustrates the potential for corruption and actual harm when individuals are given control over others without OVERSIGHT.
  2. Dehumanization: The experiment revealed how quickly human dignity erodes. It emphasizes the need to maintain respect and preserve the humanity of incarcerated individuals, highlighting the dangers of dehumanizing conditions within prisons.
  3. Systemic Flaws: The abuse and power imbalances observed in the experiment echo real-life situations of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment that are prevalent in today’s prisons.
  4. Reform: We knew it didn’t work back in 1971 and since then we have done nothing but make things worse. There are people out there trying to make things better but the fight they have is so enormous it ALMOST seems impossible.

When I spoke about this study most of these key people didn’t believe me. They thought if that study was conducted today there would be more positive results. WOW. (Information about the experiment is readily available on the web. Stanford has a dedicated webpage with citations