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Webster English 1304.02 8 September 2009 Reflections on Reflections From a Life Behind Bars Reflections From a Life Behind Bars, written by James Gilligan, is an essay regarding the prison system and its current state in the U.S. Gilligan believes that the current system employed throughout a majority of the U.S. is extremely ineffective and actually detrimental to both the criminals being punished and the society as a whole. In fact, Gilligan writes that punishment is the most potent stimulus or cause of violence that we know of (par. 4). This belief leads up to Gilligans solution for the current prison system, his claim that the U.S. should start from scratch with a much larger focus on education in prisons. The essay contains logos, ethos, and pathos to support Gilligans claims of policy, cause, and value, as well as using qualifiers to make his argument appeal to a wider audience and rebuttal to unmask the foolishness of the other side of the argument. The primary claim put forth by Gilligan is one of policy, in which he states that the current prison system in the U.S. should be completely torn down and rebuilt (both the buildings and the general principles behind imprisonment) with the primary purpose of educating the criminally violent (par. 14). This claim is one of policy because it answers the question of how to solve the problem, which in this case is the problem of increasing violence. Obviously, for one to be influenced by this claim, they would have to agree that there actually is increasing violence. Thus, the author includes a sub-claim, persuading the reader that the current prison system is in fact creating more violence, instead of keeping it at bay (par. 4). Along with these claims is an

2 inherent sub-claim of value that must be present, affirming that the current prison system in the U.S. is terrible, and, because of widespread violence, is detrimental to everyone, not just the criminals (par. 2). This claim almost goes with saying, as it serves to validate the other two claims, showing that the prison system is awful and in need of reforming. Combined with the sub-claim of cause, both serve as reasons to support the need for a policy change, specifically the one suggested by Gilligan. In his support for these claims, Gilligan utilizes all three forms of proof: logos, ethos and pathos. The essay begins by shocking the reader with powerful words used to describe prisons in this country, such as horror, brutalization, and degradation (par. 1). This pathos support is used to grab the readers attention and to emotionally invest them in the issue at hand. Gilligan also makes sure to establish his credibility early on, by mentioning both that he has 25 years experience as a prison psychiatrist and how vitally important this issue is to him (pars. 2-3). Gilligans essay relies most on logos, or logical proof, revealing the strong foundation in which his arguments are based. Much of the first half of the essay is a long chain of logical proof showing that punishment leads to more violence as opposed to helping stop it, supporting the sub-claim of cause that the prison system in the U.S. is, by using punishment, increasing overall violence (pars. 4-10). Finally, in support of his primary claim, Gilligan makes sure to mention the overwhelmingly optimistic statistic that the program which allowed inmates to receive a college degree while in prison was 100% effective in preventing recidivism, or falling back into crime (par. 12). This statistic shows that his main claim, calling for the prison system to be focused on education, has some serious proof and precedent behind it. For all of this support to be valid, however, Gilligan depends on a warrant that must be agreed on, but he does provide backing to make the warrant easier to believe. The warrant that

3 pervades throughout the essay is that criminals should not be handled with vengeance. If punishment rather than rehabilitation were the goal in our prison system than Gilligans claim in support of education of the imprisoned would be worthless. The backing for this warrant goes hand in hand with the sub-claim of cause mentioned above, which shows that vengeance carried out through punishment only leads to more violence, the opposite of the goal (par. 4). This warrant leads into one of Gilligans qualifiers, in which he declares that for his plan to work, humans (Americans specifically) need to overcome their irrational need to inflict revenge on those who they feel have wronged them (par. 18). A qualifier in the sense that it shows some limitations to his plan working, this is mentioned cynically rather than seriously, and Gilligan hopes to show the reader that such behavior is really unacceptable. In another policy qualifier, Gilligan limits his idea of residential schools for the imprisoned to those who have a history of violence, to maintain the safety of all those in the program (par. 16). By showing that he does not intend to pair nonviolent criminals with violent criminals, Gilligan demonstrates the safety and hints at the future success of his plan. Gilligan does mention a rebuttal in his essay, but he quickly makes it look ridiculous and leaves the reader almost no choice but to reject its validity. Massachusetts governor William Welds response, when he learned of prison inmates ability to take college courses, responded that Massachusetts should take that privilege away, to keep the poor from committing crimes for a free education (par. 13). Instead of allowing the reader to form his own conclusion of Welds statement, Gilligan calls the response bizarre and Weld one particularly cynical demagogue (par. 13). Through this strong language, Gilligan tears down the opposition and leaves his side as the only one standing. The only problem with Gilligans strategy is that he commits a logical fallacy which, though it could be called several different types, really

4 functions as an Ad Hominem attack against Weld, to draw the readers attention away from the opposing argument. To avoid also falling into a fallacy of Insufficient Evidence, Gilligan does note the Congress reaction as opposing to his ideals, but much more emphasis is placed on devastating Welds character through negative language. Some of the argument could also be seen as Begging the Question, because Gilligan neglects to mention how such a drastic plan would be funded, instead repeatedly stating that educational facilities need to be built. Gilligans argument is an important one in our country where violence is consistently on the rise, and one that he does not take lightly at all. Through his use of logos, ethos, and pathos, Gilligan convinces the reader that this issue is as important as life or death, literally, and that his solution is the most viable solution. The primary claim that education is the main means of preventing repeated violence, and that the prison system needs to be rebuilt to accommodate this, is supported very well through sub-claims, proof, a warrant with backing, and a rebuttal that is quickly demolished. Though he runs into a small logical fallacy, Gilligan is still very convincing in making his point, and hopefully by bringing it into the public forum, some light can be shed on the awful state of our prisons, and change for the better will be brought about.