Chapter Summary Of Gresham M Sykes's The Society Of Captives

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This week’s reading focused on prisons. The Society of Captives was written by Gresham M. Sykes in 1958. He conducted a study on a maximum security prison in New Jersey. Chapter 1 focused on the prison and its settings. The author goes into detail about the size of the cells and what the prison actually looks like. He also writes about how the prisoner is no longer seen as man but as a number. My Sunday school teacher visits prisons to teach about the bible. He has commented to me that is exactly how certain correction officers see the prisoners. They are nothing but a number to some individuals. This can lower their self-image (Sykes, 1958).
Prisons hide prisoners from society. “If an inmate population is shut in, the free community is shut out, and the vision of men held in custody is, in part, prevented from arising to prick the conscience of those who abide by the social rules” (Sykes, 1958, 8). The prison is an instrument of the state. However, the prison reacts and acts based on other groups in the free community. Some believe imprisonment
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But systems of power may fail for other reasons as well. Those who are in charge may not be willing to exert their power. There may be some corruption among the custodians. Custodians are in close proximity to the prisoners so there may be some blackmail involved in not taking action when supposed to. “In the second place, the guard’s position as a strict enforcer of the rules is undermined by the fact that he finds it almost impossible to avoid the claims of reciprocity” (Sykes, 1958, 56). Third reason is the constant infringement of the guards’ dominance by prisoners. Some of the inadequacies of prison officials have been said to be linked to the fact more than fifty percent of the guards are temporary employees. There is also the low salary for the guards. The job is not seen as very glamorous or worthwhile as well (Sykes,
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