Mentally ill patients packed into California prisons see their conditions worsen, causing higher rates of suicide and mortality than elsewhere in the country, he said.Solitary confinement causes similar effects, said Haney.Prisons built cells designed to hold one person for years, sometimes decades, at a time, Haney said.
This situationist interpretation has been challenged, most forcibly by the British psychologists Steve Reicher and Alex Haslam. Stanley Milgram’s studies conducted in the 1960s appeared to show that many people are incredibly obedient to authority.
The pair argue, on the basis of their own BBC Prison study and real-life instances of prisoner resistance, that people do not yield mindlessly to toxic environments. Given the instruction from a scientist, many participants applied what they thought were deadly levels of electricity to an innocent person.
Conducted in 1971, Philip Zimbardo’s experiment had to be aborted when students allocated to the role of prison guards began abusing students who were acting as prisoners.
Zimbardo interpreted the events as showing that certain situations inevitably turn good people bad, a theoretical stance he later applied to the acts of abuse that occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison camp in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.
SANTA CRUZ >> For nearly 30 years, UC Santa Cruz psychology professor Craig Haney has toured U. prisons, interviewing around 1,000 inmates kept in solitary confinement. Long-term isolation, also known as supermax confinement, began in the 1980s as a new form of incarceration for people perceived as safety threats, such as suspected gang members.
Haney will deliver a public lecture in April on his research, an honor bestowed by the UCSC Academic Senate. Due to the 1970s and 1980s drug wars and mandatory minimums, the prison system saw an influx of inmates, including the mentally ill.When released to mainstream prisons or free society, these inmates sometimes continue to isolate themselves."So much of who we are and what we are is based in our social world, in our connections with other people," he said.Haney said it's hard to describe the smell of a room in which someone lives around the clock for years."Those environments begin to carry the weight of that kind of confinement in a way that's a little bit hard to quantify, but you can feel it when you're in them and you can feel it when you talk to the prisoners," he said.Panic, anxiety, anger and depression are common among these prisoners, he said.