For this blog post, I watched “Arkangel”, from the Netflix series, Black Mirror.
In this episode, a mother got a “chip” inserted into her child which allowed her to track her by GPS, view the world from her eyes, and “filter” out things that she did not want her child to see. The mother had a tablet in which she could control all of these features. Things seemed to work out in her favor as she could protect her daughter, until around age 10. The daughter became curious as to what she could not see, because of the “filter” being on. When the mother decided it was time to turn off the filter and pack away her tablet, that is when the daughter felt free. She became more open to the real world and was exposed to “bad” things for the first time. As years went on, she became a teenager, and as we all know, that is when we become more exposed to things that mothers wish they could know about. Long story short, and in my attempt to not “spoil” the episode, her mother began surveillancing her daughter again, without her knowing. She saw things that she wished she didn’t, and decided to be the overprotective mother that she is, and try to control things again. I would even say that she was being watched in one of the most extreme ways, as in her health was being closely surveilled as well.
This episode made me think about Panoptican. As the guards in the jail are surveillancing the inmates, they know they are being watched, but not when. As the girl grew up, she did not know that she was being watched, but she in fact, was. When the daughter was young, she was to act as though she was always being watched, because she knew that she was, which is the same concept as the prisoners. Is this a good thing, though? For the prisoners, maybe. It gives them a sense that they should all be on best behavior at all times, but that makes sense for them, as their rights have been taken away, for the reasoning of being a criminal. But, as a free human, I believe that is an unhealthy way of living and can do serious damage to mental health, leaving a person in a constant state of being on edge.
“The overall aim was to make the prison a place for the constitution of a body of knowledge that would regulate the exercise of penitentiary practice. The prison has not only to know the decision of the judges and to apply it in terms of the established regulations: it has to extract unceasingly from the inmate a body of knowledge that will make it possible to transform the penal measure into a penitentiary operation; which will make of the penalty required by the offence a modification of the inmate that will be of use to society. The autonomy of the carceral régime and the knowledge that it creates make it possible to increase the utility of the penalty, which the code had made the very principle of its punitive philosophy: “The governor must not lose sight of a single inmate, because in whatever part of the prison the inmate is to be found, whether he is entering or leaving, or whether he is staying there, the governor must also justify the motives for his staying in a particular classification or for his movement from one to another. He is a veritable accountant. Each inmate is for him, in the sphere of individual education, a capital invested with penitentiary interest”. (Foucault, 13).
When reading this passage, many thoughts run through my mind, as I have known people close to me who have gone in and out of the system. I have heard stories of guards abusing their power, and some who use their power as good to try and correct the behavior of inmates. I feel as though inmates are used as “puppets” often. Someone I know who was in the system, has told me stories that I thought only happened in movies. One story was, while she was incarcerated, she was taunted and denied her daily medication, because the guards claimed that they should all be treated like murderers since they were all in jail. Another, was that they would make the inmates get on their knees and beg for toilet paper, for the purpose of enjoyment from the guards.
While there are “good” guards, there are also those who abuse their power. Why is this? I believe there is a view that the guard is the superior (in a way, they are), but they want to make sure that the prisoners believe this. The system has lost track of what they should be doing. Instead of, in a way, wasting the time the inmates are in jail, why not try to use this as a way to help them? As stated in the passage above, the inmate should be modified to be a use to society. For example, if a person is in jail for DUI’s, why not set up programs for alcohol abuse? If a prisoner is in for drugs, why not set them up for substance abuse? The list goes on. Why use the time as a way to degrade or worsen a person, rather than attempt to better them? Is the reason of this human greed or is it because we have been brainwashed into believing that degrading is the best form of technology to use on the inmates?