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

7 - Strategic Manipulations: Acceptable and Unacceptable Violations of the Pennsylvania System

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


This chapter examines two strategies Eastern's administrators used in their annual reports to challenge one of the most effective—and personally detrimental—myths: the Pennsylvania System’s cruelty and inhumanity. To undermine this myth, Eastern's administrators used several techniques of neutralization, characterizing the Pennsylvania System and themselves as a kind, benevolent, and humane, while arguing that the Auburn System’s supporters were the opposite—profit mongers willing to resort to cruel practices. These techniques allowed the administrators to defend themselves against charges that they were engaging in cruel and inhumane behavior. Because of their defensive posture the administrators could sublimate their own self-praise into the prison’s defense. Thus, administrators' statements defending the Pennsylvania System were often as much about the administrators themselves as the system they sought to defend. Indeed, the ability to constantly issue these statements incentivized Eastern's administrators to maintain the Pennsylvania System for as long as they did. These claims were the largest anchor keeping the Pennsylvania System personally institutionalized.