Similarities Between Prison And Closed Institutions

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Sociology, being the study of society and the people who constitute that society, makes definitions varied and complex. What one would describe as a family, for instance, might differ from someone else’s point of view. In this essay, we will try to give our own understanding of a total institution. By analyzing Goffman’s point of view and description of a total institution, we will focus on three main types of institutions, namely jails, army barracks and monasteries. Moreover, this essay will try to criticize the open and closed institutions, whereby they, more often than not, overlap. There is a fine line between open institutions and closed institutions. Goffman, in his attempt to describe a total institution suggests that prisons are…show more content…
Excluding the members of the staff, prisons consist of individuals who have broken society’s set of laws. Prisons serve as a way to implement social order in the community. Different kinds of strategies are put forward in order for the prisoners to abide by the rules and be ready to get back in society, causing no threat to the community. However, despite the rules which exist, Goffman argues that inmates still create their own culture within themselves. They adapt themselves to the rules implemented, almost as if they create their own community within their own. He mentions: “It was then and still is my belief that any group of persons – prisoners, primitives, pilots, or patients – develop a life of their own that becomes meaningful, reasonable, and normal once you get close to it […]”. Prisons have a way of structuring individuals in order to make them conform. However, the inmates manage, in different ways to create a world of their own. For instance, they would have their own language, be it signs or code words, in order for the staff and the guards do not understand what they are communicating about. Moreover, within their own culture, they also develop their own sets of values which have to be respected. For example, inmates have their own groups, whereby, in order to fit in that specific group, the member has to conform to a certain set of norms and values implemented by his or her own peers. If those unofficial rules are not respected, sanctions might take place. Sanctions would be bullying or the member being set aside and excluded from certain
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