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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: January 2021

6 - Combatting the Pains of Deviance: Organizational Defense As Self-Defense

from Part II - THE ADVANTAGE OF DIFFERENCE: The Process of Institutionalization


The annual reports represent the principal medium through which the administrators presented and defended their embattled prison against claims that the Pennsylvania System was expensive, cruel and inhumane, ineffective, and impracticable. These claims defended both the Pennsylvania System and the men who implemented it. In challenging the myths’ veracity, Eastern's administrators relied on what criminologists Gresham Sykes and David Matza call “techniques of neutralization,” a series of accounts of their behavior that challenge the fact of, or mitigate responsibility or blame for, immoral or inappropriate behavior. This chapter explores three such strategies: changing how they described the Pennsylvania System, denying the existence of bad outcomes, and denying the system's responsibility for bad outcomes that did occur by placing the blame on others. Ultimately, these techniques of neutralization enabled Eastern's administrators to neutralize the pains of deviance and sustain the Pennsylvania System despite the criticism. Defending against the myths in this way also created a context for the Pennsylvania System to become personally institutionalized for Eastern's administrators.