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Jacobson, E. (1960). Theoretical Studies in Social Organization of the Prison: By Richard A. Cloward, et al. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1960. 146 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 29:577-579.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:577-579

Theoretical Studies in Social Organization of the Prison: By Richard A. Cloward, et al. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1960. 146 pp.

Review by:
Edith Jacobson

This pamphlet is the precipitate of sociological studies by a Conference Group on Correctional Organization, under the sponsorship of the Social Science Research Council; it presents six interrelated papers modified by group discussion.

The authors consider their work an analysis rather than a criticism of the existing penal system, yet they hope to contribute to its eventual improvement, mainly by pointing up the contradictions that arise from the aims of 'custody and punishment' versus 'treatment and reform'. The volume is only of peripheral interest to the psychoanalyst. While most of the authors have a psychological orientation, they approach the prison as a society like any other society—or even as a culture—without considering the special psychopathology of the criminal or the complex psychological and psychiatric problems which confront the 'correctional therapist'. So far as psychological questions are concerned, the discussion remains rather superficial, limited to problems of self-esteem and dependence versus independence, or to the role of power drives and aggression.

Two of the authors, Gresham L. Sykes and Sheldon L. Messinger, describe the adaptive function of the socialization process in the inmates, which they view not only as a means of tolerating frustrations and deprivations of prison life but also and especially of building up the prisoner's self-esteem out of his degraded self-image. Cloward stresses discrepancies between the prison's goals of rehabilitation and social integration and those of the prisoner, and the attitudes of society which bar legitimate means of access to such goals. He shows how the official system accommodates itself to the inmate system by creating illegitimate controls, and how a conservative inmate elite bridges the two systems and binds them together.


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