total institutions | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Corrections

Total institutions refer to a type of institution where individuals are subject to strict control over every aspect of their lives.

In the criminal justice context, total institutions refer to correctional facilities, such as prisons, where inmates are subject to strict control over their daily lives. Total institutions are characterized by a high degree of regimentation and a loss of individual identity. Inmates are subject to strict rules and regulations and are expected to follow a rigid schedule.

The concept of total institutions was first introduced by sociologist Erving Goffman in his book “Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates.” Goffman argued that total institutions are designed to transform individuals into a “different kind of person,” one that is more obedient and docile.

Total institutions can have a profound impact on inmates. Many inmates experience a loss of personal identity and a sense of isolation from the outside world. In addition, the rigid structure of total institutions can make it difficult for inmates to readjust to life outside of prison.

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Last Modified: 03/14/2023


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