The Society of Captives: A Study of a Maximum Security Prison

1655 Words Jul 8th, 2018 7 Pages
Gresham M. Sykes describes the society of captives from the inmates’ point of view. Sykes acknowledges the fact that his observations are generalizations but he feels that most inmates can agree on feelings of deprivation and frustration. As he sketches the development of physical punishment towards psychological punishment, Sykes follows that both have an enormous effect on the inmate and do not differ greatly in their cruelty.
The “pains of imprisonment” can be divided into five main conditions that attack the inmate’s personality and his feeling of self-worth. The deprivations are as follows: The deprivation of liberty, of goods and services, of heterosexual relationships, autonomy and of security.
Firstly Sykes specifies that the
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Gorillas use sheer force to obtain these goods from others, while the Merchants sell their goods to others in need. They never simply “give” and with that oppose the solidarity of the group of prisoners.
As homosexual activity surfaces in the prison, the argot developed names for the different “types” of homosexuality. Inmates refer to men that prefer homosexuality and show feminine sides as Fags, while Punks are coerced into it or give in due to the lack of alternatives (see Deprivation of Heterosexual Relationships). Both are seen as failures to be “real men”, while the Wolves, who search for victims to release sexual frustrations, are regarded as very masculine.
The struggles with the deprivation of autonomy are especially demonstrated with the appearance of Ball Busters and Real Men. The latter are somewhat able to keep their autonomy as they maintain their integrity and attempt to endure their sentences with dignity. Real Men are admired for their strength and behavior. Ball Busters on the other hand are defiant, often viewed as a fool and disliked because their behavior causes uproars and negative consequences for all. They do not refrain from physical and verbal assaults towards the guards and are not willing to comply with the rules.
Lastly, the Tough quarrels with anyone that is in his way and represents aggressive masculinity, while the Hipster pretends to be
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