Erasing minds: behavioral modification, the prison rights movement, and psychological experimentation in America's prisons, 1962–1983

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Abstract

This article explores the development of behavioral modification programs inside penitentiaries during the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus upon how such tactics were used to crush dissent and silence incarcerated people who challenged the prison regime. First, it explores how psychology became an influential force in the operation of many penitentiaries from the 1950s. Second, it considers the role that psychologists and psychiatrists played in developing brainwashing techniques to punish those prison activists who sought to expose the dehumanizing and brutal treatment of incarcerated people. Finally, it uses the example of the behavioral modification unit at Marion Federal Penitentiary to show how the federal government was complicit in the use of psychological torture to silence prisoners’ complaints.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-111
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of American Studies
Volume57
Issue number1
Early online date16 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences

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