Psychological Survival – Cohen and Taylor Essay
Psychological Survival – Cohen and Taylor
1) Aim of the study
Obtain a phenomenological picture of long term imprisonment i.e. the analysis of the every day life of long term prisoners.
The smooth patterning of every day life is the result of social interactions and learning about routines and the different domains of life. But some situations are outside the routines (death, sense of self or world view threatened). Disturbed orderliness brings meaning of life into question and often individuals rely on a different domain.
Long term prisoners cannot do this. Theirs is a life in cold storage.
Psychologically hard to deal with life outside. Some people go in when 20 and don’t leave before they’re 40, so a lot has gone on in everyday life and they’ve missed it.
2) Cohen and Taylor not really interested in the crime committed and the moral issues behind it. They are just interested in how prison affects this group of people. Society has been taken away from these people. Some of the people are well known, but they put aside what these people have been convicted on, they just want to know about their psychological survival.
3) Life inside
Metaphor of a submarine: Impregnability, empty, claustrophobic, lifeless, bland no natural light, TV cameras.
Things we take for granted in normal life, sociability and privacy, are not there. Not many friends you can have or choose to have.
Relationships between guards and prisoners, maybe from a similar social backgrounds, have a lot to talk about. In the E-wing case there was a very pronounced geographical divide, north and south. Prisoners have a public profile outside, quite famous and it sets them aside from the guards. A sense of celebrity in some of the prisoners. This creates a division between guards and prisoners. New power dynamic.
Not only hard to create and maintain relationships inside hard to do so with the external world. The prisoners were more worried about getting letters rather than receiving them.
No physical contact, e.g. members of your family. Not allowed to talk about conditions in the prison maybe that is why they wanted to get their stories heard with Cohen and Taylor. Isolating experience.
5) different people fulfil different social roles. Obviously there was a small pool in prison. One friend had to fulfil many different roles, which made friendship very strong and intense. Some people were moved constantly and losing your one friend can be traumatic. Intensity of relationships and falling out, which will have an impact on the group and on you.
No privacy no time. Can’t develop intimacy with other people. Constantly surrounded by others. Interactions regulated within the group to make sure nobody got harmed. 6) time means different things. For us it’s a resource.
Living the present they don’t face or think of the 20 years ahead.
Marking time in different ways: mood, seasons, unusual markers.
Make time pass faster: body building, university courses, etc. promise of a visit. 8 weeks visit for e.g.
obsessive concern about their physical and psychological condition.
8) history of riots, rebellions and security. Cohen and Taylor interested in solidarity. The resentment towards guards held the group together, helped with bonding. Fight back together.
9) authority and unity
different situations lead to different types of solidarity
10) fighting back
11) different criminal careers lead to different ways of psychological survival.
Notes from a lecture and seminar on Psychological Survival.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 9 January 2017
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