[Ppnews] Supermax Psych: "Behavior Modification" at Marion Federal Prison

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sat Jan 22 18:39:59 EST 2011

Psych: "Behavior Modification" at Marion Federal Prison

Ridgeway and Jean Casella | January 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm
URL: <http://wp.me/pKbGK-IB>http://wp.me/pKbGK-IB

Eddie Griffin, a former Civil Rights Movement activist and Black 
Panther, spent 12 years in federal prison for bank robbery, beginning 
in the early 1970s. After he was injured doing prison labor at Terre 
Haute Federal Prison, and refused to return to work under unsafe 
conditions, he was labelled "incorrigible" and transferred to the 
U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.

Built to replace Alcatraz in 1963, Marion is widely acknowledged to 
be  the first modern "supermax," and was once the highest security 
and most notorious prison in the federal system. That distinction 
today belongs to ADX Florence in Colorado, but Marion is now home to 
one of the ultra-isolated federal Communications Management Units 
opened during the Bush Administration.

Men's Minds: Behavior Control and Human Experimentation at the 
Federal Prison in Marion" is a remarkable article authored by Griffin 
and published in the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons in 1993 (vol. 4, 
no. 2). (H/T to Alan for alerting us to the piece.) In it, he 
discusses the realities of the "behavior modification program" 
instituted at Marion in the 1960s. Griffin begins by describing the 
control of every moment--and every movement--in the lives of prisoners.

In prisoners' words, it is 'part of the program'--part of the 
systematic process of reinforcing the unconditional fact of a 
prisoner's existence: that he has no control over the regulation and 
orientation of his own being. In behavioral psychology, this 
condition is called 'learned helplessness'--a derivative of 
Skinnerian operant conditioning (commonly called 'learning 
techniques'). In essence, a prisoner is taught to be helpless, 
dependent on his overseer. He is taught to accept without question 
the overseer's power to control him. This rebels against human 
consciousness, so some prisoners seek means of resistance. Others try 
to circumnavigate the omnipotent force via escape.

But the omnipotent is also omnipresent. Nothing escapes Marion's 
elaborate network of 'eyes'. Between television monitors, prisoner 
spies, collaborators, and prison officials, every crevice of the 
prison is overlaid by a constant watch. Front-line officers specially 
trained in the cold, calculated art of observation, watch prisoners' 
movements with a particular meticulousness, scrutinizing little 
details in behavior patterns, then recording them in the Log Book. 
This aid provides the staff with a means to manipulate certain 
individuals' behavior. It is feasible to calculate a prisoner's level 
of sensitivity from the information, so his vulnerability can be 
tested with a degree of precision. Some behavior modification experts 
call these tests 'stress assessment.' Prisoners call it harassment. 
In some cases, selected prisoners are singled out for one or several 
of these 'differential treatment' tactics. A prisoner could have his 
mail turned back or 'accidentally' mutilated. He could become the 
object of regular searches, or even his visitors could be strip 
searched. These and more tactics are consistent with those propagated 
by one Dr. Edgar H. Schein.

Griffin goes on to tell the story of what he calls "the history of 
this behavior modification laboratory," which its inventors and 
practicioners did not hesitate to call "brainwashing."

At a Washington, DC conference in 1962 organized for the Federal 
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by the National Institutes of Mental Health, 
Schein presented his ideas on brainwashing. Addressing the topic of 
'Man against Man': Brainwashing, he stated:
In order to produce marked changes of behavior and/or attitude, it is 
necessary to weaken, undermine or remove the supports to the old 
patterns of behavior and the old attitudes. Because most of these 
supports are the face to-face confirmation of present behavior and 
attitudes, which are provided by those with whom close emotional ties 
exist, it is often necessary to break those emotional ties. This can 
be done either by removing the individual physically and preventing 
any communication with those whom he cares about, or by proving to 
him that those whom he respects aren't worthy of it and, indeed, 
should be actively mistrusted.
Dr. Schein then provided the group with a list of specific examples:

Physical removal of prisoners from areas sufficiently isolated to 
effectively break or seriously weaken close emotional ties.
Segregation of all natural leaders.
Use of cooperative prisoners as leaders.
Prohibition of group activities not in line with brainwashing objectives.
Spying on prisoners and reporting back private material.
Tricking men into written statements which are then showed to others.
Exploitation of opportunists and informers.
Convincing prisoners that they can trust no one.
Treating those who are willing to collaborate in far more lenient 
ways than those who are not.
Punishing those who show uncooperative attitudes.
Systematic withholding of mail.
Preventing contact with anyone non-sympathetic to the method of 
treatment and regimen of the captive populace.
Disorganization of all group standards among prisoners.
Building a group conviction among the prisoners that they have been 
abandoned by and totally isolated from their social order.
Undermining of all emotional supports.
Preventing prisoners from writing home or to friends in the community 
regarding the conditions of their confinement.
Making available and permitting access to only those publications and 
books that contain materials which are neutral to or supportive of 
the desired new attitudes.
Placing individuals into new and ambiguous situations for which the 
standards are kept deliberately unclear and then putting pressure on 
him to conform to what is desired in order to win favor and a 
reprieve from the pressure.
Placing individuals whose willpower has been severely weakened or 
eroded into a living situation with several others who are more 
advanced in their thought-reform whose job it is to further undermine 
the individual's emotional supports.
Using techniques of character invalidation, ie., humiliations, 
revilement, shouting, to induce feelings of guilt, fear, and 
suggestibility; coupled with sleeplessness, an exacting prison 
regimen and periodic interrogational interviews.
Meeting all insincere attempts to comply with cellmates' pressures 
with renewed hostility.
Renewed pointing out to the prisoner by cell mates of where he has in 
the past, or is in the present, not been living up to his own 
standards or values.
Rewarding of submission and subserviency to the attitudes 
encompassing the brainwashing objective with a lifting of pressure 
and acceptance as a human being.
Providing social and emotional supports which reinforce the new attitudes.

...[F]ollowing Schein's address, then-director of the BOP, James V. 
Bennett, encouraged the administrators and wardens throughout the 
federal prison system to put Schein's techniques into practice. 'We 
can manipulate our environment and culture. We can perhaps undertake 
some of the techniques Dr. Schein discussed...There's a lot of 
research to do. Do it as individuals. Do it as groups and let us know 
the results'.

That was in 1962. Since then the results have been compiled and 
evaluated many times over, and all but one of Schein's suggested 
techniques have been left intact at Marion--along with the addition 
of several new features.

There's much more to this long article, which deserves to be 
<http://www.jpp.org/documents/forms/JPP4_2/Griffin.pdf>read in full.

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