Is it Safety or Control?

A Panopticon’s major effect is to “induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.”   From the reading material, Foucault stressed the importance, convenience, and unique qualities of a panopticon. Panopticons offer an efficient and effective method for overseeing a prison with low labor costs and high reward. The inmates act accordingly because of the constant reminder that they are always watched. They are on a 24-hour shift with little to no breaks available. Moments where the inmates might have been able to slack off or try anything against prison protocol were unknown to the inmates due to lack of visibility of the prison guards. 

One way in which Panopticism is embedded in our society is through the police. This example was mentioned in the reading, but I specifically want to focus on the school zone “photo enforce” signs. This instance could apply to red light cameras as well. Essentially, cars that drive by a school during allotted hours must follow a strict 20mph speed limit. This speed limit can be annoying and quite aggravating, especially when there is a cluster of schools next to each other. However, most people follow this rule not because the health and safety of America’s future leaders is a priority. This is strictly followed due to the photo enforce signage posted in the area. This rule emulates the homogenous effects of power. A line of cars every morning and afternoon for 5 days consecutive days out of the week strictly abide by this rule. In this scenario, drivers are the inmates and the police camera or the prison guards. I am sure that some people speed in a school zone and never pay a ticket since the cameras are not always monitored. The belief that these cameras could be checked with a monetary repercussion keeps most citizens behavior in line. This is also applicable to red light cameras. Specific intersections contain red light cameras, and the uncertainty of whether the police will catch you is the same as school zones. Like school zones, drivers believe that they might get caught and have to face the consequences. 

The panopticon is an effective ideology. While it is not humane and completely revokes autonomy for inmates, the effectiveness of the system cannot be denied. The only way I see a system flaw occurring is if all inmates decided to orchestrate a massive revolt. A takeaway question I had from this reading and prompt is whether panopticism is really about the practical benefits, efficiency, effectiveness, and safety, or is it about exercising power and control? In modern day panopticism practices, I think there is still a lingering sense of control.

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