"The Stanford Prison Experiment" is a new film (video trailer below) hitting theaters in July. The movie is based on a real life experiment of the same name in 1971 conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo.
Zimbardo wanted to know how people behaved and were psychologically affected while in prison.
Male student volunteers played nine prisoners and nine prison guards, while Zimbardo played the prison superintendent.
The "Stanford County Prison" was actually a basement at the college.
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The experiment didn't present jail as a neutral setting. Student prisoners were stripped, searched and given numbered prison gowns.
Zimbardo wanted to recreate the humiliation and emasculation that real prisoners feel, but told the prison guards not to abuse the inmates.
The experiment was only supposed to last for two weeks, but Zimbardo pulled the plug after six days, noted The New Yorker.
Some of the prison guards were abusing the prisoners within 24 hours, which Zimbardo allowed. It was Zimbardo's girlfriend who demanded he stop it.
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Zimbardo recently told ThinkProgress:
I feel guilty about allowing the suffering to go on as long as it did. And that’s reinforced in the movie. Seeing the brutality again, up close and very, very personal, I’m saying to myself: Why did you not end that sooner?
Zimbardo later added:
Obviously, both of us [the film's director Kyle Alvarez] hope this movie will awaken the public’s concern about mass incarceration.
Two million Americans are in prison, and we, the taxpayers, are paying billions of dollars to keep people in prison who don’t belong there: people who should have been in mental hospitals, people who are addicts.
And the questions of, should guards be trained to have a better understanding of human nature and their jobs? Should police officers be trained to understand the inherent power in their role and how to contain it?