Stanford Prison ex

In 1971 Phil Zimbardo decided to conduct an experiment to observe the effects of prison from both the guard and the inmate’s points of view. Volunteers were gathered and the young men who were chosen were then divided into two groups. They were assigned to be either a “guard” or an “inmate” and this was done randomly by using a coin toss.

A basement in Stanford was transformed into the “prison”. The hallway and stairs were blocked off to create the isolation needed to conduct the experiment. Doors into rooms were removed and replaced with cell doors. Prisoners were given a number and told that they could only refer to themselves and each other by their number.

With the help of the police department, the “inmates” were picked up by a squad car and taken to the local jail for fingerprinting, booking and search. After being charged they were then transferred to the “prison”. The “time served” was intended to be two full weeks.

Within 24 hours those conducting the experiment were surprised by the behavior they witnessed. “Guards” were becoming increasingly more hostile with the “inmates” and forcing them to engage in degrading punishments for their infractions. Some of the “inmates began having psychological problems, despite the fact that they had undergone intense pre-screening before being chosen. The first “inmate” to break was released from the program early due to the researchers becoming concerned for his mental stability.

The men slept 3 to a “cell” and a closet that was 2ft by 2ft became “solitary confinement”. They had narrow, uncomfortable cots to sleep on, but the cots and blankets could be taken by the guards as a form of punishment for bad behavior. Thus, the “inmate” would have to sleep on the floor. As the days passed the “guards” became more sadistic. Seemingly deep into their characters they increased harassment towards the “inmates” and the forms of punishment became worse.

After 6 days, an experiment that was supposed to last for 2 weeks was abruptly ended. The “guards” had become too out of control with their roles and were bordering on inhumane punishments. Meanwhile, the “prisoners” were cracking emotionally. Some of the men cried all the time, others appeared to be suffering from a manic episode.

The experiment was and still is highly controversial. The very real affects on the mental states of the prisoners was disturbing. Some of the men reported lingering affects even months after the experiment had ended.