Prison Violence by Gross – Article Example

Download free paperFile format: .doc, available for editing

The paper “ Prison Violence by Gross" is a thrilling example of a psychology article. The essay aims to address a two-fold objective to wit to summarize the article; and to violence, punishment, and evil behaviors in relation to the theory covered in the unit and to integrate personal opinion on the topic. Violence has been in existence of the United States criminal justice system for more than 200 years. Some categories of aggressive violence fit into the neat categories of evil behavior that should be punished. In a study made by Gross entitled “ Prison Violence: Does Brutality Come with the Badge? ” in 2008, the author discussed the increased incidence of violence among police officers, study and history of violence, and theories that may explain punishment and evil behaviors. SummaryGross (2008) cited from Phillip Zimbardo's study that one-third of the guards exhibited sadistic behaviors as a result of their inability to resist role pressure and exercise moral judgment once in a group (p.

24). In the study, Zimbardo also believed that because of unequal power within groups, the danger is inherently possible and evil behavior is a natural expression of those who have power.

Thus, situational factors and not the individual dispositions or personalities of group members were the cause of violence or extreme behaviors among prison guards in the study. However, prison guards’ behavior may have also been affected by Zimbardo’ s instructions and orientation of abuse that the guards believed that they are expected to act in a sadistic way. Participants’ increased vulnerability to and propensity for cruelty compared to screening methods could also explain prison guards’ brutality. Selection bias was probably present because Zimbardo selected subjects based on volunteerism – one could volunteer on either group that does or does not have prison life.

Studies found out that those with propensities for violent or abusive behavior purposely chose to belong in the prison life group (Gross, 2008, 25). Asserting that group with power over another group is dangerous, one could also put it in a positive way that groups can also foster pro-social behavior and reinforce moral judgment as what Haslam and Reicher believed in the BBC Prison Study. Unlike Zimbardo’ s study, BBC believed that the possibility of earning a promotion among prisoners made them uncooperative and resistant toward the guards, more positive and empowered, and organized and effective as a group (Gross, 2008, 26).

As of the guards, they were unable to exercise their authority and establish shared identity, experienced burn-out, and supported an egalitarian system. Both studies assert a social identity theory that represents collective self-realization or adoption of other's values or belief systems that may either lead to a functional group or a group that directs misconduct and brutality.

Social identity theory has relevance to violence, punishment, and evil behaviors which were explained in the article. Being in a group is one of the causative factors for violence and individual perceptions of groups affect how a person will behave. Brutality may emerge if the group has no pro-social values and has unequal power and perception of humanity; meanwhile, evil behavior is viewed to occur naturally in groups with unequal power and in good people who nothing. Likewise, punishment in the prison hierarchy may result in violence both in guards and prisoners. Conclusion After analysis of the article, the author has fully understood the role of social identity theory in understanding relationships and conflicts within groups.

Social identity theory assumes that groups influence their members because of categorization and identification attached to a group member and thus, plays a vital role in shaping members’ value and belief system (Forsyth, 2010, 77). Therefore, a group’ s behavior could make a member act in an evil or violent way or could foster a member with moral judgment, empowerment, and functionality. The author also agrees with the findings that despite group influence, there may be a few that may oppose.


Forsyth, D.R. (2010). Inclusion and Identity. Group Dynamics (5th ed.) (p. 56-86). California: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Gross, B. (2008). Prison violence: Does brutality come with the badge? The Forensic Examiner, 17(4): pp. 21-27. Retrieved on June 25, 2012 from ProQuest Criminal Justice database.

Download free paperFile format: .doc, available for editing
Contact Us