Mail Online reports that, “An enormous prison brawl involving 400 inmates broke out today at the Whetstone Unit of Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson. The riot involved 300 white and Mexican inmates fighting against 100 African-American prisoners and started around 9.45 a.m. in the unit which houses 1,250. At least 17 inmates were injured during the free-for-all; two prison staffers suffered minor injuries – The extent of the inmates’ injuries wasn’t immediately available.”
As a former therapist I know that any trigger can set off a riot when people are incarcerated and denied their freedom.
An investigation is underway to determine how the prison could have such a lack of prisoner control. This is not the first time an outbreak occurred. Mail Online goes on to say, “Another fight between 200 inmates started in the Santa Rita Unit of the same prison in September, according to a report by Domenico Nicosia for The Arizona Republic.”
I feel it is quite disturbing that this is the second time in a matter of months that a riot broke out at this prison.
Mail Online maintains, “Racial tensions in Arizona prisons are thought to be one of the main contributing factors to the brawl that began today.” However there can be other psychological factors involved as well.
According to Kendra Cherry writing for About. com, “In 1971, psychologist Philip Zimbardo and his colleagues set out to create an experiment that looked at the impact of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. Zimbardo, was interested in expanding upon Milgram’s research. He wanted to further investigate the impact of situational variables on human behavior.
Cherry goes on to say, “While the Stanford Prison Experiment was originally slated to last 14 days, it had to be stopped after just six days due to what was happening to the student participants. The guards became abusive and the prisoners began to show signs of extreme stress and anxiety. While the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were generally hostile or even dehumanizing.”
I maintain the experiment goes a long way to show how even people playing a role can get so involved that they lose focus and act in ways they never would dream possible.
According to eHow, prison riots could result from triggers such as quality and quantity of food or overcrowding. These situations are, “potential triggers for rioting in prisons and can create a general melancholy among inmates, according to Prison Fellowship International.”
“There are psychological pressures when in prison, such as feeling disregarded or a lack of independence. Rioting, for prisoners, may seem like the only way to be heard or noticed. Although this may seem irrational, the psychological strain that prisoners often feel can cause them to not think clearly about the consequences of actions like a prison riot.”
I must add there are the rabble-rousers who are very charismatic and can convince other prisoners to join the riot. Not joining a riot as large as this could also bring severe consequences to the inmates who did not participate. After the riot is over, they may have to face the rioters.
According to eHow, the discipline policy of the prison can also trigger a riot; the discipline may be too forceful or too lenient.
The reason for today’s riot has not yet been determined however, strained interaction among the inmates may have been the cause for the Arizona prison riot. Strained interaction among inmates is also an important psychological factor.