The Power of Institutions vs. the Power of the People

“While nothing is easier than to denounce the evil-doer, nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

We all have the capacity to commit crimes, but it is our very systems and institutions that create deviant behavior. It is through the broad influences of political, economic, and legal power that the human character is transformed into an “evil-doer.”

Psychologist, Philip Zimbardo, argues that our society needs to shift away from our medical model at looking at crime and deviance, and adopt a public health model that recognizes situational and systemic vectors of disease.

I personally see the parallels in how we treat our most marginalized, the incarcerated, as mirroring many of the very acts that we’ve lauded throughout time as being inhuman and unethical.

Humanity is everyone’s business. True heroes are ordinary people whose social action is extra-ordinary, that act when others are passive, and who give up ego-centrism for socio-centrism.

We can no longer passively sit by and accept that that our criminal justice system is an effective deterrent or punishment for crime, but see it for what it really is… a flawed system that is in need of desperate and immediate revision.

It is impossible for mental health courts to function as the be-all-end-all in fixing the myriad of concerns in our penal system; however, I strongly believe that it is a step in the right direction. The likelihood of a full system upheaval is slim to none; therefore, any movement in the right direct creates a course for change and improvement – which is bound to having lasting positive affects for our society as a whole.

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky


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