Which ideas, concepts, or accounts from the first four weeks of LST1PDC have most impacted your understanding of containment? In addressing this question, you should begin by thinking about your knowledge and views of containment prior to commencing the subject.

Words: 1189
Pages: 5
Subject: Sciences


The concept of containment has undergone a remarkable transformation over time, evolving from its historical punitive connotations to encompass a diverse range of practices in the modern era. This essay conducts a critical analysis of various forms of containment, examining their development, functions, and impacts, both historically and in the present. Furthermore, it delves into the ethical dimensions inherent in containment practices and explores the role of representations in shaping public understanding.

Evolution of Containment and Its Representations

The evolution of containment, both in its historical manifestations and contemporary forms, offers a compelling narrative of societal transformation. Historically, containment primarily manifested in punitive measures such as incarceration and banishment, reflecting a society’s inclination towards retribution and control. Ancient civilizations utilized physical constraints to confine individuals, often as a means of punishment or to safeguard societal norms. These early forms of containment lacked the complexities and considerations that have come to define modern approaches.

In the modern era, containment has expanded its scope to encompass a diverse range of practices, including detention centers for immigrants and mental health institutions for those with psychological challenges. This evolution reflects society’s growing recognition of the multifaceted nature of containment. Rather than being solely punitive, containment now encapsulates notions of rehabilitation, psychological well-being, and societal integration. This transformation is a testament to the advancement of human rights, as contemporary societies emphasize the importance of treating individuals with dignity and respect, even when subjected to containment.

The evolution of containment is intrinsically linked to the representations that have emerged throughout history. Early portrayals often sensationalized confinement, perpetuating negative stereotypes and amplifying fears. In contrast, modern representations strive to provide a balanced perspective, shedding light on both the challenges and potential benefits of containment. These representations play a pivotal role in shaping public perception, policy decisions, and societal attitudes.

From literature to films, representations of containment have evolved to mirror the changing paradigms of societal values. The representation of containment in media is not only a reflection of the times but also a potent force in shaping public opinion. Factual representations, such as documentaries and news coverage, contribute to informed discussions, while fictional representations create emotional connections and invite empathy. Consequently, the evolution of containment representations reflects broader shifts in societal viewpoints, from punitive to rehabilitative, and from stigmatization to understanding.

In conclusion, the evolution of containment and its representations captures the dynamic interplay between societal shifts and perceptions of control and punishment. From its historical roots in punitive practices, containment has expanded to encompass a spectrum of approaches that reflect changing societal norms and values. Representations, whether fictional or factual, hold the power to shape public understanding and influence policy decisions. Understanding this evolution enriches our appreciation of the multifaceted nature of containment and its role in shaping societies throughout history and into the present day.

The Influence of Representation

The power of representation in molding public opinion cannot be understated. Both fictional and factual representations contribute to shaping public understanding of containment. As noted by Jewkes (2012), media has the ability to shape public opinion and influence penal policies. Fictional representations often evoke empathy and emotional connection, while factual representations provide valuable insights and information.

Primary Definers and Credibility Hierarchies

The process of understanding containment is intricately tied to primary definers – individuals or groups who shape the dominant narrative. The influence of these definers often dictates the lens through which containment is viewed. Furthermore, credibility hierarchies determine the perceived legitimacy of sources, impacting the credibility of information consumed. The Handbook on Prisons (Jewkes, Crewe, & Bennett, 2012) stands as a resource that provides comprehensive insights into the multifaceted nature of containment.

The Total Institution Paradigm

Goffman’s concept of the total institution offers a profound lens through which to view containment practices, particularly within the context of prisons. The notion of an all-encompassing environment that engulfs both inmates and staff underscores the intricate power dynamics at play. The Stanford Prison Experiment further highlights the intricate interplay between individual behavior, attitudes, and the broader institutional environment, underscoring the potential for both positive and negative outcomes.

Impacts of Containment: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Throughout history, containment has yielded profound impacts on individuals and societies. Historical accounts reveal the harrowing conditions of past prisons, leaving lasting scars on both individuals and communities. In the contemporary landscape, the focus has shifted towards more rehabilitative approaches that acknowledge the humanity of those subjected to containment. However, the ethical considerations remain complex and multifaceted.

Ethical Considerations in Containment Practices

Ethical concerns surrounding containment practices are deeply ingrained in societal discourse. The treatment of detainees, prisoners, and individuals in custody raises critical questions about human rights, dignity, and the fundamental balance between punishment and rehabilitation. DeVeaux’s (2013) exploration of the trauma associated with the incarceration experience emphasizes the ethical imperative to prioritize the well-being and mental health of those subjected to containment.

Role of Representations in Shaping Public Perceptions

The role of representations in shaping public perceptions is undeniable. Media portrayals significantly influence public opinion and policy formulation. Fictional representations have the capacity to humanize individuals subject to containment, fostering empathy and understanding. Conversely, biased portrayals can reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate stigma. Thus, a discerning approach to media representations is pivotal in cultivating a comprehensive understanding.

Personal Evolution of Understanding

Reflecting upon the initial weeks of the LST1PDC course, my understanding of containment has witnessed a profound transformation. Preceding the course, my perception of containment was limited, primarily focusing on punitive aspects rather than its nuanced functions and repercussions. Through the exploration of various forms of representation, the role of primary definers, and the total institution concept, my comprehension has matured.


In conclusion, containment has traversed a dynamic journey, manifesting in various forms across history and the contemporary landscape. The power of representation, influenced by primary definers and credibility hierarchies, significantly shapes public understanding. The concept of the total institution provides a lens to decipher the complex dynamics of containment environments. Historical and modern perspectives emphasize the importance of ethical considerations and the need for a holistic approach. As we navigate the intricate realm of containment, adopting a critical, empathetic, and well-informed stance is paramount for comprehending its multifaceted essence.


DeVeaux, M. (2013). The trauma of the incarceration experience. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 48(1), 257–277.

Goffman, E. (2007). Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. Taylor & Francis Group.

Jewkes, Y. (2012). Prisons and the media: The shaping of public opinion and penal policy in a mediated society. In Y. Jewkes, B. Crewe, & J. Bennett (Eds.), Handbook on prisons (pp. 447–465). Routledge.

Jewkes, Y., Crewe, B., & Bennett, J. (2012). Handbook on Prisons. Routledge.

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