In Cold Blood context


Prison life

  • No civil rights movement. Prison life has changed in ways that the prisoners had the right to file a court order and challenge the legaility of their sentencing and the conditions of their imprisonment.
  • Prisoners were receiving a lot of attention in the United States, not only for an abundant of lawsuits but also because of interest in rights due to the Attica Prison riot.
  • Prisoners were slaves of the state, and were treated harshly by guards. This reflected the view in the English common law, where the U.S law derived that convicted felonies suffer a civil death and have no rights (Capital Punishment).
  • Sentence length for violent crimes was 5 years.
  • By the 1960's prisoner treatment programs were increased, effective treatment programs justified early release. 
  • Being held in solitary confinement  for most prisoners is a stressful experience with potential harmful health effects. The prisoner is socially isolated from others and all human contact . They are restricted to superficial transactions with staff and infrequent contact with family + friends.
  • They are dependent on prison staff for provision of their basic needs and few actions are tightly controlled and observed. They are confined to a small furnished cell with little or no view of the outside world and with limited access to fresh air and natural light. They also live in an environment with little stimulation  and few opportunities to occupy themselves.
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Prison life (continued)

  • In the 1960s, there was a major lack of mental health care and support in american prisons, despite the large amount of prisoners being mentally ill.
  • Several of the prisoner's cases were filed as lawsuits alleging to poor health care were re-examined by the court in the late 60s.
  • The court's approach then began to change and prisoner's constitutional right to adequate health care began to develop.
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American Dream

  • Western and Family shows played up the ideals of the American Dream. Also whitewashed, cover up issues such as racism and segregation and showed a glossy view of middle-class suburban life.
  • After WW2, returning soldiers were given opportunities to put themselves through college, and many of them were the first in their families to earn a degree. Because of this, there was a huge difference in the growing post-war middle-class, and its ability to own a house and to provide for their children.
  • America emerged from WW2 as the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet. There was an economic boom; jobs were avaliable, and America considered to be a 'land opportunity'. To many, the 'American Dream' stopped being a dream and became reality. So with victory under their belts and money in their pockets, Americans pursued the American Dream.
  • In Epic of America (1931), James Truslow Adams wrote that the American Dream is “…a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
  • 30 million Americans were living below the poverty line.
  • 20% of the American population didn't share general prosperity.
  • This mainly consisted of single parents, elderly minorities and rural Americans.
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Gender roles

  • Though the 1950s was in many ways a period of conformity with traditional gender roles, it was also a decade of change, when discontent with the status quo was emerging.
  • Popular culture and the mass media reinforced messages about traditional gender roles, consumer culture, and the Cold War ideal of domesticity, but the reality of women’s lives did not always reflect these ideals.
  • African American women faced particular difficulties in the pursuit of postwar material abundance and the “American dream.” Popular portrayals of ideal femininity and home life ignored the lives of minority women and families.
  • norms of consumer culture and domesticity were disseminated via new and popular forms of entertainment – not just the television, which became a fixture in middle-class American households during the 1950s, but also women’s magazines, popular psychology, and cinema.
  • From the 1950 to 1960 their labour force participation farte grew from 17% to 30%, the man overlooks "all financial purchases made by the female".
  • Abolition of Democratic Women's Division. "The force of this direct assault on the public/public dichotomy has left an impact on American politics, on American society, and on the feminist movement. Issues like domestic violence, childcare, abortion and sexual harrassmnet have become central to the Amercian political agenda, and exposing a division in society.
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  • Almost half of all Americans were attending church- the highest percentage in U.S history. During the 1950s, nationwide church membership grew at a faster rate than the population, from 57% of the U.S population in 1950 to 63.3% in 1960.
  • Religion flourished in the 1950s because of the expanding spiritual marketplace, there are lots of different options that would appeal to different kinds of people. 
  • Churches were expanded to accomodate the increasing population.
  • President Eisenhower- signs "In God We Trust" into law.
  • Why he did it- "In this way we are reaffirming the trascendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."
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  • 1960s- child abuse increased, the states also set limits on how far one could physically punish a child. 
  • The push for their civil rights throughout these year's was a significant turning point in America's history as new laws were finally starting to pass and intergrations slowly appearing. Even though African American gained a lot from the civil rights movement, socially, many people thought intergration was completely outrageous and racism still continued.
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Critiques+ Truman Capote

  • Truman was attracted to investiagte journalism, and an account of the Clutter murders, in the New York Times on 16 November 1959, happened to catch his eye. Initally Capote had one object in view. to analyse the effects of the murder on a small, isolated community. 
  • The issue could be seen as an example of the age-old conflict between Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. Capote saw it as a battle between innocent, pastoral America and violent, ubran America.
  • His increasing involvemnet with the killers added another angle to the novel: it became a statement against the cruelty of the American judicial system and the barbarity of the death penalty. 
  • There are moments of suspense and high drama which testify to Capote's talent as a playright, Perry's account of the murders in graphic and horrifying yet the execution scene leaves the reader feeling haunted. 
  • Capote uses juxtaposition to create a contrasting effect, hightening tension and increasing the emotional impact. 
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  • Merton (1957) The Strain theory is used in Criminal justice it proposes why some individuals commit crimes, suggests that when socities inadvertently peer pressure individuals which can lead to rule breaking behaviour.
  • The dominant goal in the U.S is to be successful or in other words wealthy but obtaining the goal one must be educated and is a hard worker but for those who are economically diadvanatged, might be viewed as lazy or detective, With low self-esteem these individuals might turn to crime to establish material success.
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Mental Health

  • A series of successful ant-psychotic drugs are introduced that do not cure psychosis but control its symptoms. Studies show that 70% of patients with schizophrenia clearly improve on anti-psychotic drugs,
  • The development of psychiatric drugs such as Thorazine and new tranquilisers reinforce psychiatric confidence in the effectiveness of outpateint treatment and their ability to cure mental illness. Less need for shock treatment, restraints and seclusion rooms. Able to begin to develop and sustain intensive individualised treatment progress. America's mental health patient population was reduced by drugs.
  • "Social Milieu Therapy" became increasimgly popular. It represented a move away from surgeries. The institution once again became the focal point of therapy. Milieu therapy called for developing a permissive and rich social environment for the chronically mentally ill. 
  • Mid-1950s- a new type of therapy called behaviour therapy is developed, which holds that people with phobias can trained to overcome them.
  • Mid-1960s- many seriously mentally ill people are removed from institutions. In the U.S they are directed toward local mental health homes and facilities. 
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