The Prison and the Prisoner. Social Pathology in Iran [Tasire zendan bar Zendani; Asib-shenasi-e Ejtema’i dar Iran]

Abbas-e Abdi. The Prison and the Prisoner. Social Pathology in Iran [Tasire zendan bar Zendani; Asib-shenasi-e Ejtema’i dar Iran]. Tehran: Mo’assese-ye Tahqiqati va Ejtema’i-ye Nur (1377 [1998-1999]).

The main topic of this book is the impact of the prison experience on the prisoner. In the theoretical part, the book takes a rational stance and argues that committing crime is based on people’s calculation of costs and benefits. The costs of crime are punishment, social isolation, and economic risks; the benefits are mainly social and economic.

The book presents detailed statistics on the distribution of prisoners and crimes in different provinces in Iran. It also describes the prison system in Iran. It details the facilities and privileges that prisons in Iran offer to prisoners like meeting with relatives and phone schedules, the permission for correspondence, reading newspapers and books, food, health services, entertainment, literacy classes, daily collective prayers, and libraries. The author also identifies the various incentives and punishments that managers of prisons employ.

To answer the main question of the project, the book relies on a group survey method. This method involves surveying all of the different attributes of a particular group. Before the main survey, the project conducted a pilot survey of 35 prisoners to find the ideal types of prisoners and the important subjective factors to integrate in the larger survey.

The main survey sampled in seven large prisons in the country: Qasr, Qezel-hesar, Kachuyi, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Gorgan. Sections in each prison and rooms were systematically sampled. People from within each room were sampled randomly. Despite some problems, the survey was conducted in the form of oral interviews because prisoners were not equally literate.

The independent variables of this project were prison management, facilities, age, marital status, economic states, the type of crime, etc. To analyze the gathered data, multivariate regression and variance analysis were used. The results are presented separately for male and female prisons .

Some of the findings for male prisons suggest that imprisonment is positively correlated with divorce. Having been imprisoned also reduces the interaction of prisoners with relatives, which in turn causes a decline in the social supervision of prisoners. In terms of prevention of recidivism, prison seems to be effective for people who committed sexual crimes and violence but not very effective for those with a history of drug and burglary crimes.

The results further indicate a negative correlation between literacy and membership in criminal networks within the prison, as well as a positive correlation between addiction and burglary on the one hand and getting involvement in criminal networks inside the prison on the other. The book explains how some criminals in the prison form networks, set norms, and make the prison a new community or “home” for themselves. The formation of these networks makes the prison more ineffective in terms of punishing these prisoners. They can learn new tricks, methods and even new crimes.

The conclusion of the book is to an extent negative in terms of the effectiveness of prison. The experience of prison changes the calculation of prisoners in terms of costs, and can encourage prisoners to commit crimes again.