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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78526 Find in a Library
Title: Self-mutilation by Peruvian Prisoners
Author(s): H H A Cooper
Date Published: Unknown
Page Count: 9
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article analyzes the psychological and circumstantial dynamics of self-mutilation by Peruvian prisoners.
Abstract: The pattern of prisoner self-mutilation examined typically consists of inflicting cuts, usually by a razor blade, to arms, abdomen, or legs, producing profuse bleeding and lasting scars, but rarely resulting in death. First and foremost, self-mutilation is a means of stopping some form of corporal ill-treatment, usually by the police. The methods of the Peruvian police are primitive, and interrogation of some types of suspected offenders is usually preceded and punctuated by tortuous physical abuse. Interviews of 600 prisoners in the Centro Penitenciario of Lurigancho near Lima over 14 months of observation indicated that a large proportion inflicted their first self-injuries during an actual or threatened beating by the police, and that they acted on the advice of experienced companions who told them that self-mutilation would cause the police to refrain from physical abuse. For whatever reason, the police do invariably cease their abuse following self-mutilation. This circumstance also produces strong peer pressure for self-mutilation, since it is widely believed that one only escapes being beaten through self-mutilation, some type of influence with the authorities, or through betraying others. There is another more complex type of self-mutilation by mentally disturbed prisoners. Prison life produces in certain disturbed persons a psychosis for which self-mutilation acts as a kind of catharsis, repeated under circumstances of stress. Most often the stress involves a sense of powerlessness in dealing with aggravating circumstances or an intensification of self-contempt. It is common for such self-mutilation to be accompanied by drug use. Eight references are listed.
Index Term(s): Inmates; Peru; Police Brutality; Psychological theories; Self mutilation
Note: This article was published in the International Journal of Offender Therapy.
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