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)1-28
    JournalJournal of American Studies
    Early online date16 May 2022
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 May 2022

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