Fabricated selves and the rehabilitative machine

Toward a phenomenology of the social construction of offender treatment

Authored by: David Polizzi , Matthew Draper , Matt Andersen

The Routledge Handbook of International Crime and Justice Studies

Print publication date:  August  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415781787
eBook ISBN: 9780203837146
Adobe ISBN: 9781136868504


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Paul sat in his cell, waiting to meet with his therapist for his weekly session. His cellmate began with the mockery uncharacteristically early, albeit good-naturedly. “You goin’ to tell that motherfcker that you’re all sober now, a changed man?” Paul just smiled at his cellmate and looked back through the worksheets his therapist had given him, worksheets he had to fill out that helped him counter his “irrational beliefs” that led to his substance abuse. His cellmate interrupted his review. “So, that means you ain’t gonna party anymore, live the white-picket-fence life with your shirt, tie, wife and two and a half kids?” Paul sighed and looked at his cellmate. “Man, if I finish this program I get a year taken off my bit, which means I can be done with this place in six months.” Paul carefully did not mention that in the prison’s Thinking for a Change program, he was the model client, the one the therapist used as an example on how the principles of the program could be used by the clients to help them learn to live clean and sober lives. The time came for him to go to treatment, and he carefully parroted back to the therapist the language he had learned over the previous three months. He learned that he had to call himself an “addict” and admit that addicts had “irrational thoughts” which caused them to be addicted. He learned that “once an addict, always an addict” so he would have to exercise “rational thinking” in order not to engage in “addictive behaviors.” Paul still did not consider himself an addict, and knew many people like him who used drugs when they wanted to, and didn’t use drugs when they didn’t want to, but that did not fit into the doctrine of the program, so he kept that to himself. He responded carefully to the therapist’s questions about what he had learned and the systems of thinking he had practiced. When he finished, the therapist responded with a warm smile and a flourish of his pen as he signed Paul’s program completion certificate. As he walked out Paul sighed with relief. He was done with prison, and couldn’t wait to get out. Just six months to go. Back in his cell he and his cellmate joked about how much they looked forward to smoking weed and hanging out with girls once they got out. Both looked forward to the freedom of release, but Paul pointed out that he was done with drugs, and swore he’d never do anything but smoke weed, drink, and the occasional pills when he wanted to party.

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