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It is not only the forms and sites of punishment that change; these are accompanied by a whole new vocabulary that either literally or euphemistically "civilizes" what is done in the name of punishment:

The civilizing process in punishment is also apparent in the sanitization of penal practice and penal language. Pain is no longer delivered in brutal, physical form. Corporal punishment has virtually disappeared, to be replaced by more abstract forms of suffering, such as the deprivation of liberty or the removal of financial resources . . . [T]he aggression and hostility implicit in punishment are concealed and denied by the administrative routines of dispassionate professionals, who see themselves as "running institutions" rather than delivering pain and suffering. Similarly, the language of punishment has been stripped of its plain brutality of meaning and reformulated in euphemistic terms, so that prisons become "correctional facilities", guards become "officers", and prisoners become "inmates" or even "residents", all of which tends to sublimate a rather distasteful activity and render it more tolerable to public and professional sensibilities. (Garland at 235)

In the context of punishment, Elias' "civilization curves" have to contend with the contemporary escalation in the scale of punishment reflected in most western societies by increasing prison populations, longer prison terms, and an extended, more finely meshed net of corrections. In explaining the limited impact that the civilizing process appears to have on public perceptions of crime and punishment, Garland offers us an explanation drawing upon the analysis of George Herbert Mead and Sigmund Freud.

In the course of the civilizing process, at both the social and individual levels -- human beings are led to repress (or to sublimate) their instinctual drives and particularly their aggressions. This process of repression, however, does not lead to the total disappearance of such drives -- civilization does not succeed in abolishing the instincts or legislating them out of existence, as the wars and holocausts of the 20th century show all too clearly. Instead, they are banned from the sphere of proper conduct and consciousness and forced down into the realm of the unconscious . . . Civilization thus sets up a fundamental conflict within the individual between instinctual desires and internalized super ego controls, a conflict which has profound consequences for psychological and social life. Thus while social prohibitions may demand the renunciation of certain pleasures -- such as aggression or sadism -- this may be only ever a partial renunciation, since the unconscious wish remains . . . Civilization thus makes unconscious hypocrites of us all, and ensures that certain issues will often arouse highly charged emotions which are rooted in unconscious conflict, rather than single minded, rationally considered attitudes . . .

The "threat" posed by the criminal, and the fear and hostility which this threat provokes -- thus have a deep, unconscious dimension, beyond the actual danger to society which the criminal represents. "Fear of crime" can thus exhibit irrational roots, and often leads to disproportionate (or "counter phobic") demands for punishment. (Ironically, our psychological capacity to enjoy crime -- at least in the form of crime stories -- leads the media to highlight the most vicious, horror-laden tales, which in turn serve to enhance the fears which crime evokes. The linked emotions of fascination and fear thus reinforce each other through the medium of crime news and crime thrillers.) . . .

The behaviour of criminals, particularly where it expresses desires which others have spent much energy and undergone much internal conflict in order to renounce, can thus provoke a resentful and hostile reaction out of proportion to the real danger which it represents . . . It may also be the case that the punishment of others can provide a measure of gratification and secret pleasure for individuals who have submitted to the cultural suppression of their own drives and for whom the penal system represents a socially sanctioned outlet for unconscious aggression . . . The tendency of "civilised" societies to "lock away" offenders, thus putting them "out of sight and out of mind" might be interpreted as a kind of "motivated forgetting" -- the social equivalent of the individual's repression of unconscionable wishes and anti-social desires . . . In a society where instinctual aggressions are strictly controlled and individuals are often self-punishing, the legal punishment of the offenders offers a channel for the open expression of aggressions and sanctions and a measure of pleasure in the suffering of others . . . The view of James Fitzjames Stephens that it was the duty of the citizen to hate the criminal is nowadays considered reactionary and distasteful, and is normally cited to show how far we have come since the late 19th century . . . Nevertheless, there remains an underlying emotional ambivalence which shapes our attitudes towards punishment and which has so far prevented the civilizing effects of transformed sensibilities from being fully registered within the penal sphere. (Garland at 238 - 40)

The language of modern corrections is not framed as moral discourse. "Prison officials, in so far as they are being professional, tend to suspend moral judgement and treat prisoners in purely neutral terms. Typically, the evaluative terms which are used relate to administrative criteria rather than moral worth . . . hence the much quoted formula that offenders come to prison as punishment and not for punishment . . . In effect, penal professionals tend to orientate themselves towards institutionally defined managerial goals rather than socially derived punitive ones" (Garland at 183). But while this can be accomplished by changing the language of punishment to that of risk management, the men and women in the correctional bureaucracy, when they leave home to assume their posts as guards, case managers, or administrators, cannot so easily shed, like some reptilian skin, the cultural inheritance that the rest of us share. Correctional bureaucrats they may be, but as Michael Ignatieff, himself one of the revisionist historians, has reminded correctional workers, they are "bureaucrats of good and evil" (Michael Ignatieff, "Imprisonment and the Need for Justice" [presentation to the Criminal Justice Congress, Toronto, 1987] [unpublished]). The fact that the official language of corrections does not acknowledge these concepts cannot change the fact that they inhabit our minds, consciously or unconsciously. In this way correctional workers bear the burden of sorting out their own ambivalence about punishment and that of the larger society, not as philosophical or existential angst but in carrying out the routines of their daily work.

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