Prison Is An Unethical Experiment On Human Beings

Image from a dramatization of the Stanford Prison Experiments, which were deeply flawed

We cage, torture, and kill human beings based on a theory that punishment changes behavior. Can we test this theory? Um, no. No ethics board will let you cage and torture people for years to see how it 'works'. Incarceration is too fucked up to study, but somehow totally fine to do.

We are living inside a deeply unethical psychological experiment, which neither asks for consent nor delivers results. Besides being unethical, besides being psychologically and socially devastating, mass incarceration doesn't even work.

In every possible way, throwing people in cages is just wrong.

1) Punishment Doesn't Work

BF Skinner from his book Science and Human Behavior (1965)

Everything in human psychology, child psychology, and even dog training tells us that punishment doesn't work. If you're trying to change long-term behavior, it's the worst possible intervention. Punishment produces a temporary effect that you have to keep punishing to maintain. The fact is that incarceration doesn't change behavior. It's a violent behavior in itself.

Skinner, continued

BF Skinner was the OG of operatant conditioning and he wrote that "in the long run punishment, unlike reinforcement, works to the disadvantage of both the punished organism and the punishing agency." It is, in short, evil. Science has slowly come around to this and punishment is no longer recommended for children or even dogs. Which begs the question. Why are we still caging adults?