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Resocialization and Total Institutions

Resocialization and Total Institutions

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize the process of resocialization, and how it relates to total institutions.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Images from

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on resocialization allocation and total institutions. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at resocialization and total institutions. Now to start us off, let's look at what a total institution is. Now a total institution is just a place where the residents have all aspects of their lives really controlled by somebody. And they're being kept apart from the rest of society.

Now, there are some similarities amongst total institutions besides just the definition. So inside a total institution everyone is treated similarly. Daily life is really tightly controlled. And residents really can vary quite differently from supervisors. You're not going to accidentally mistake a resident for someone that's supervising them.

At the bottom, I have really the four best examples of what a total institution is, boarding schools, prisons, bootcamps, and mental hospitals. So all those four are considered total institutions. So the life of the people that live there, the residents, is really controlled. And they're being kept apart from society.

Now, resocialization is something that most total institutions attempt to do. And resocialization is attempting to fundamentally change someone. And there's really two pretty basic steps to that. Step 1 is breaking them down. And step 2 is building them up.

So when we look at step 1, to break them down, what the total institution is trying to do is eliminate any independence and really eliminate people's personality and identity. You want to break them down. You need to break them down so they're malleable. So you can make them the way that you want to make them.

So in bootcamp, that's when the drilling structure is really yelling at you and forcing you to question yourself and being really hard on you. That's like part of the break 'em down stage.

Now in step 2, you build them up. So here, to remake them, you're really going to reward conformity. So when someone does an action that is something that you want from them, you're going to give them something as a reward.

Generally speaking, it's privileges. And privileges don't have to be super big. They can be as simple as just being allowed to read a book. But they're really important for that remaking of the person.

On the other side of that, while you're building them up, you going to punish even the minorest minor nonconformist actions. So the tiniest things people do that are against this new person you want to make, you're going to make sure you stop that. And one thing that happens is that people, whether or not they are acting in a conformist manner or nonconformist manner, people see other people being punished in that way. And that will help guide them to being the way that the institution wants them to be. So again, you break them down. And then you build them up.

Now, one thing that happens if someone stays in the institution too long is they get institutionalized. Now, that's just when a person spent so long an institution that he or she doesn't really work in the outside world anymore. Their independence, their ability to make decisions, they can't make it anymore.

What is today's take-away message? A total institution is a place where residents have all aspects of their lives controlled by someone else and they're being kept apart from society. And resocialization is an attempt to fundamentally change someone.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon.

Terms to Know

The attempt to fundamentally change a person's, typically and inmate's or an enlistee's, ingrained personality by carefully controlling the environment.

Total Institution

An institution set apart from the rest of society in which individuals are controlled, monitored, and shaped by an administrative staff.