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MARION PRISON: a model for mind control?


MARION PRISON: a model for mind control?:

This may be an interesting piece of history relevant to the troubled teen industry that many can relate to.  It is an article on behavior modification in Marion State Penitentiary called ‘Breaking Men's Minds: Behavior Control and Human Experimentation at the Federal Prison in Marion’ which also centers around a 1974 senate report on behavior modification of which includes the topic of troubled teen and drug recovery programs.

Here’s a wikepedia snippet first.

 “Opened in 1963, Marion became the United States' highest security prison by 1978.[4] The facility became the nation's first control unit when violence forced a long-term lockdown in 1983.

Marion was one of two supermax prisons in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the other being ADX Florence in Colorado. The prison was originally constructed to hold 500 inmates. In 1968, a behavior modification program was implemented, called Control and Rehabilitation Effort, or CARE. Inmates placed in CARE wound up either in solitary confinement, or were subjected to "group therapy", which involved psychological sessions.
 … Amnesty International has categorized it as inhumane.” - ... ry,_Marion  -

… And I’m only going to copy a few portions of the article, but well worth a full read.

‘Breaking Men's Minds: Behavior Control and Human Experimentation at the Federal Prison in Marion’. Journal of Prisoners on Prisons Vol. 4 No. 2 (1993)

….Behavior modification at Marion consists of a manifold of four techniques: 1) Dr. Edgar H. Schein's brainwashing methodology; 2) Skinnerian operant conditioning; 3) Dr. Levinson's sensory deprivation design (i.e. Control Unit); and 4) chemotherapy and drug therapy. And, as I will point out, the use of these techniques, the way they are disguised behind pseudonyms and under the philosophical rhetoric of correction…

…But the omnipotent is also omnipresent. Nothing escapes Marion’s elaborate network of ‘eyes’. Between television monitors, prisoner spies, collaborators, and prison officials, every crevice of the prison is overlaid by a constant watch. Front-line officers specially trained in the cold, calculated art of observation, watch prisoners’ movements with a particular meticulousness, scrutinizing little details in behavior patterns, then recording them in the Log Book. This aid provides the staff with a means to manipulate certain individuals’ behavior. It is feasible to calculate a prisoner's level of sensitivity from the information, so his vulnerability can be tested with a degree of precision. Some behavior modification experts call these tests ‘stress assessment.’ Prisoners call it harassment. In some cases, selected prisoners are singled out for one or several of these ‘differential treatment’ tactics. A prisoner could have his mail turned back or ‘accidentally’ mutilated. He could become the object of regular searches, or even his visitors could be strip searched. These and more tactics are consistent with those propagated by one Dr. Edgar H. Schein.


At a Washington, DC conference in 1962 organized for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by the National Institutes of Mental Health, Schein presented his ideas on brainwashing. Addressing the topic of ‘Man against Man’: Brainwashing, he stated:

In order to produce marked changes of behavior and/or attitude, it is necessary to weaken, undermine or remove the supports to the old patterns of behavior and the old attitudes. Because most of these supports are the face to-face confirmation of present behavior and attitudes, which are provided by those with whom close emotional ties exist, it is often necessary to break those emotional ties. This can be done either by removing the individual physically and preventing any communication with those whom he cares about, or by proving to him that those whom he respects aren't worthy of it and, indeed, should be actively mistrusted (quoted in Chorover 1979).

Dr. Schein then provided the group with a list of specific examples:

?Physical removal of prisoners from areas sufficiently isolated to effectively break or seriously weaken close emotional ties. ?Segregation of all natural leaders. ?Use of cooperative prisoners as leaders. ?Prohibition of group activities not in line with brainwashing objectives. ?Spying on prisoners and reporting back private material.  ?Tricking men into written statements which are then showed to others.  ?Exploitation of opportunists and informers.  ?Convincing prisoners that they can trust no one.  ?Treating those who are willing to collaborate in far more lenient ways than those who are not.  ?Punishing those who show uncooperative attitudes.  ?Systematic withholding of mail.  ?Preventing contact with anyone non-sympathetic to the method of treatment and regimen of the captive populace.  ?Disorganization of all group standards among prisoners. ?Building a group conviction among the prisoners that they have been abandoned by and totally isolated from their social order.  ?Undermining of all emotional supports. ?Preventing prisoners from writing home or to friend in the community regarding the conditions of their confinement. ?Making available and permitting access to only those publications and books that contain materials which are neutral to or supportive of the desired new attitudes.   ?Placing individuals into new and ambiguous situations for which the standards are kept deliberately unclear and then putting pressure on him to conform to what is desired in order to win favor and a reprieve from the pressure. ?Placing individuals whose willpower has been severely weakened or eroded into a living situation with several others who are more advanced in their thought-reform whose job it is to further undermine the individual's emotional supports. ?Using techniques of character invalidation, ie., humiliations, revilement, shouting, to induce feelings of guilt, fear, and suggestibility; coupled with sleeplessness, an exacting prison regimen and periodic interrogational interviews. ?Meeting all insincere attempts to comply with cellmates' pressures with renewed hostility. ?Renewed pointing out to the prisoner by cell mates of where he has in the past, or is in the present, not been living up to his own standards or values. ?Rewarding of submission and subserviency to the attitudes encompassing the brainwashing objective with a lifting of pressure and acceptance as a human being. ?Providing social and emotional supports which reinforce the new attitudes (ibid.).

And, of course, as noted in the introduction to this edition of the Journal, following Schein's address, then-director of the BOP, James V. Bennett, encouraged the administrators and wardens throughout the federal prison system to put Schein's techniques into practice. 'We can manipulate our environment and culture. We can perhaps undertake some of the techniques Dr. Schein discussed.... There's a lot of research to do. Do it as individuals. Do it as groups and let us know the results' (ibid.). (underlined for relatedness to this fornits thread viewtopic.php?f=9&t=31751 )

That was in 1962. Since then the results have been compiled and evaluated many times over, and all but one of Schein's suggested techniques have been left intact at Marion – along with the addition of several new features….


There is a small elite group in the prison population that is looked upon by the administration with great favor, because the group shares the same basic ideals with the administration. The group's members see the prison authority as a ‘parent.’ They think of themselves as ‘residents’ rather than as prisoners or captives - because to change the word is to change the reality. And they believe the program in which they are being trained will make them ‘qualified therapeutic technicians’ and help them secure a change in residency.

At Marion, this program is called Asklepieion - which literally means ‘nothing’. The prisoners call the group ‘groders’ or groder’s gorillas, named after the psychologist who implemented Dr. Schein's brainwashing program. The ‘groders’ live in a special cellblock that, by prison standards, is plush. They are allowed luxuries and privileges which regular prisoners can not receive. However, they are
convinced that they 'earn' these things because they are trying to do something to ‘better themselves’. Generally, they look on other convicts with contempt. When confronted with evidence that they are a brainwash group, they reject the proof and accuse other prisoners of being envious But the reality speaks for itself. The program employs a number of noted therapeutic techniques; e.g., transactional analysis, Synanon attack therapy, psychodrama, primal therapy, and encounter group marathon sensitivity sessions.

The administration's favorite is transactional analysis (TA). Essentially, TA propagates the theory that people communicate on three different levels: parent, child, and adult. These become character roles. It is up to the corresponding party to figure out which role the first party is playing, then communicate with the person on the proper counter-part level. What this technique actually does is create an artificial dichotomy between people, each straining to fit into the proper character role. Thus, communication becomes artificial, stilted, and utterly meaningless in its content. Everyone sounds like a pseudo-intellectual. Ultimately, it propagates the idea that the authorities always fit the role of ‘parent’ and the prisoners must submit to the role of a ‘child’. Although some ‘groders’ pretend this practice is a fakeout on ‘the man,’ it still is a real social practice. Changing the words to describe it does not change the reality.

Other techniques include Dr. Schein's ‘character invalidation’. These techniques are incorporated under the auspices of ‘game sessions’ (Synanon attack therapy) and ‘marathons’ (encounter group sensitivity sessions). In ‘game sessions’ members of the group accuse a person of playing games, not being truthful with the group, lying, and so forth, or the person is accused of some misdeed or shortcoming. Before he is allowed a chance to explain (which is considered as only more lying), he is relentlessly barraged by dirty-name calling until he confesses or ‘owns up’ to his shortcomings. He is then accused of making the group go through a lot of trouble in having to pry the truth out of him. 50, for this crime, he is forced to apologize.

‘Marathons’ are all-night versions of literally the same, except that they include local community people who come into the prison to be 'trained' in the techniques. After so many hours of being verbally attacked and denied sleep, a person ‘owns up’ to anything and accepts everything he is told. After being humiliated, he is encouraged to cry. The group then shows its compassion by hugging him and telling him that they love him.

These techniques exploit the basic weaknesses in human (aggregative) nature, especially those weaknesses produced by an alienating society, i.e., the need to be loved, cared about, accepted by other people, and the need to be free. In turn, they are transmuted into ‘submission and subserviency’, the type of behavior conducive to the prison officials' goal of control and manipulation. The ‘groders’ will not resist or complain. Nor will they go on a strike to seek redress of prisoners’ grievances. They are alienated from their environment, and emotional inter-dependency welds and insulates them into a crippled cohesion (of the weak bearing the weak). They are not permitted to discuss these techniques outside the group, because one of the preconditions for admittance is a bond to secrecy. Yet almost anyone can spot a ‘groder’ because the light has gone out of his eyes. He literally wears the look of humiliation.

…. What the ‘groders’ fail to realize is that, even as ‘therapists,’ they will remain under observation long after their release from prison - under what is euphemistically called 'post-release follow-through.' And what Dr. Groder fails to realize is that by camouflaging Dr. Schein's techniques under pseudonyms, whereby prisoners who volunteer for the program cannot recognize its real meaning and objectives, extensive violations of the Nuremburg Code have taken and are taking place. Even the implication of freedom as inducement for volunteers is considered a means of coercion by the Code's standards. The first principle in the Code proclaims:

‘[V]oluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision ... . Before an acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject, there should be made known to him the nature, duration and purpose of the experiment.’ …

The full article is here

I think many will find their experience in troubled teen programs contains, not only similarities, but is modeled under the same influences as eluded to in the 1974 senate report on behavior modification that is being reffered to  -




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