Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Versus Forensic Psychology: Compare and Contrast Essay

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Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers is a novel narrated by incarcerated teen, 14-year-old Maurice “Reese” Anderson. The novel begins with Reese detailing his experience in juvenile detention after 22 months of imprisonment, his sentence for stealing a prescription pad from a local doctor’s office, and selling them to his neighborhood drug dealer. However, Reese is comprised of more than the person his crimes suggest; he is smart, compassionate, and devoted to those he considers his family. This essay will summarize the events of the novel and examine their relevance to the course: Forensic Psychology Theory and Practice, analyze an interesting character from the novel and lastly, relate concepts from Juvenile Delinquency, 10th ed. (Bartollas, Schmaller, & Turner, 2019) to the novel.

The novel begins with what appears to be a chance for Reese to prove himself. Reese, out of all the inmates, is allowed to participate in a work-release program where he aids in taking care of the residents in a nursing home facility, called Evergreen. There, he meets Mr. Hooft, a prejudiced and ornery old man that exhibits disdain for him. At the juvenile detention center, Reese typically attempts to avoid conflict, but when Deepak “Toon”, a 12-year-old inmate is set to be jumped into the prison gang, 3-5-7, Reese feels a need to protect him but worries that his interference will mar his good record. Because Toon cries during his beating, he has failed his initiation and his bullies, Cobo and Diego decide to kill him. Reese’s protective nature prompts him to engage in fighting behavior with Toon’s aggressors. This fight puts his participation in the work-release program in jeopardy but he luckily does not lose his placement and his ability to continue at Evergreen. At Evergreen, Mr. Hooft slowly begins opening up to him about his childhood as a prisoner of war in a Japanese war camp. At the detention center, Reese is once again induced to fight, this time he fights with Tarik or “King Kong”, a new inmate. King Kong repeatedly tries and succeeds in coaxing Reese into fighting with him. Their altercation leads to each of them being placed in solitary confinement for five days, a particularly insufferable punishment for Reese. Again, his fighting puts his only form of reprieve for the detention and source of social interaction with the world--the work release program at Evergreen--at risk of being withdrawn. He despairs, but at the end of his confinement, he is told that he can still work at the nursing home facility. At the pinnacle of the story, Reese is taken from the detention center to a precinct where he is told that he would be charged with murder and is facing up to 20 years. The investigators believe that in his initial crime, Reese stole drugs in addition to the prescription pads, and these drugs resulted in someone overdosing and dying. Reese must consider taking a plea deal of 3 years, or facing trial and wagering the next 20 years of his life. After his time in isolation, Reese makes a realization that he must take an active role in bettering his life and reforming his actions so that he can sustain a life outside of incarceration. Fortunately for Reese, the police drop the murder investigation, but Reese does not receive the early release he had hoped for and must remain at Progress for another four months. One year after he is released, Reese has managed to avoid delinquency and continue working at Evergreen. From here, Reese can hopefully realize his goals and sustain a life outside of criminality.

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The overall depiction of juvenile delinquency is relevant to the understanding and application of this course. Forensic psychology is a specialization of psychology, requiring expertise within the judicial system, which mainly focuses on the psychological issues faced by the people within the judicial system (i.e. suspects, defendants, and convicted criminals.) In other words, forensic psychology handles the psychology of the people affected by the justice system. Reese, as well as all of the delinquents in the story, have personalities and experiences similar to the adolescents we will encounter in the practicum section of this course. This book accurately expounds on the psychological effects of the legal system and the role it plays in society. From the opening words of the novel, the reader can observe that these juvenile delinquents are viewed as a disposable part of society: “I hope you mess up! I hope you blow it big time! (Myers, pg. 1)” The condescension in this line reveals that these juveniles know and live in a system that not only expects the worst from you but has the fortitude to inveigle and perpetuate that negative behavior. Lockdown invokes feelings of sympathy and empathy for these characters, tools that will be beneficial in the application of this course. It highlights the necessity of giving second chances and will influence what we think of the kids we will interact with. Additionally, the novel exposes the complexity of the character. John Galsworthy asserted that “a man is a sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else.” Contrarily, Lockdown shows the reader that people are not just the sum of their actions. Myers shows us that these teens are multidimensional beings that experience cognitive dissonance but may not always do the right thing. The novel shows us that by not treating juvenile delinquents based on their crime and believing in them we can spur a change in them that can propel them to lead better lives.

Our protagonist, Reese is, to me, one of the more interesting and complex characters in the novel. Reese is an African American and one of the first concepts the reader observes is Reese’s awareness of race and how his race affects his role in society and the juvenile detention center. At the nursing home facility of the work-release program, he notices that “it looked like all the help at Evergreen were colored and the residents were white (Myers, 52).” He perceives a distorted system through which he identifies himself with those that remain on the subjugated side of this system. When Reese meets Mr. Hooft, he is further reminded of the prejudice held by the dominant society. Mr. Hooft, a Danish white man, is adamant that Reese is the summation of his crimes and an unworthy human being simply because of the color of his skin. Reese understands that being black and a delinquent only further ostracizes him from the benefits of society. Later, Mr. Hooft can recognize the similarity between his childhood and Reese’s life in that both of them lacked control over the entities that oppress them: the imprisoning Japanese army and the structure of systemic racism in America. Reese’s race not only influenced how he was treated in the world, but it also plays an immense role in the conditions of his incarceration and release. Unlike the other minority inmates at Progress, Reese is the only one allowed to participate in the work-release program because of his high IQ, and because he had not committed anything violent. However, Reese’s potential as a young black teen made him a target for other people, especially other African Americans to try to pull him down. “They know it and every time they see somebody who might break the cycle and do something with his life, they want to pull him back in. Especially if you look like them (Myers, 141).” This is known as the ‘crabs-in-a-barrel’ mentality, the idea that people that belong to the same group might sabotage one another’s success. Reese acknowledges this and endeavors not to allow himself to be pulled away from his purpose by other people.

Reese’s character is complex because of his strong level of compassion and commitment to those who he deems family. The fights that Reese gets in are not only because of the system and other actors that attempt to goad him into violence but rather they are also resultant of his inability to fully control himself. That could be a consequence of his upbringing with his physically abusive father and drug-addicted mother or just an outcome of a lack of awareness present in adolescence. Nonetheless, Reese does have some culpability in his actions and he allows his empathy to decide how he behaves. Reese conveys that he sees himself in Toon, a helpless younger inmate, and reasons why he is protective of him. “There were minutes when I thought me and Toon were the same person. I was on the outside, dark, and ready with my fists if anything went down, and Toon was me on the inside, always a little nervous, always looking around to see what was going to happen to him (Myers, 24).”This connection to Toon prompts Reese to twice risk his discipline record and his ability to be released to defend Toon. This selflessness is unlike the other inmate characters in the novel and is also displayed in his relationship with his 9-year-old sister, Icy. Her goal, to go to college and become a lawyer or teacher, becomes his reason to survive the detention. Admirably, he plans to get out and work to pay her way through college, which prompts him to maintain behavior that would get him out of Progress.

Many concepts from Juvenile Delinquency, 10th ed. (Bartollas, Schmaller, & Turner, 2019) relate to the novel. The first relevant concept is strain theory. Strain theory proposes that the frustrations individuals feel when they are unable to achieve the goals they desire can result in juvenile delinquency. Robert K. Merton, one of the most influential strain theorists emphasized two components of strain theory: culturally defined goals and institutional means. Culturally defined goals are the set of purposes and interests a society defines as reasonable goals for individuals. Institutional means are the culturally-approved methods of obtaining those goals. According to the theory, when a culture has a goal for which there are no legitimate ways to attain it, the culture lacks integration, and a state of normlessness, or anomie occurs. The disconnection between society and possibilities creates intense pressure for deviance; this pressure is referred to as a strain. A key factor in strain theory is the idea of blocked opportunity, the limited or nonexistent chance of success. In Lockdown, Reese’s initial crime resulted in his being sentenced to juvenile detention was the result of personal strain. Reese describes himself as “need[ing] money real bad (Myers, 59),” Reese shares that his “father didn’t have anything. Willis [his brother] didn’t have anything, [and his] mom was checking out the world to see what she could snatch off.” In other words, he engaged in his delinquent behavior to resolve the strain he felt and to achieve monetary goals. The second relevant concept present in the novel is social process theories. These theories contend that criminal behavior is learned through interactions with others and that socialization processes occur as the result of a group membership. According to Bartollas et al., adolescents are influenced by their family, school experience, and their peers. Reese’s delinquency could be attributed to their parents’ illegal activity and the presence of violence in the home, his brother’s antisocial behavior as well as the socialization of his friend, Kenneth “K-man” Bramble’s behavior. Reese expresses his neighborhood’s lack of institutionalized means and the temptation of delinquency. “Just the way King Kong was messing with me, I knew the streets were waiting to mess with me. All my homies hanging out and dealing whatever they had were waiting, all the suckers leaning against the rail on the corner and looking to see who was weak were waiting, and all the gangbangers with nothing to do but cook up some mad were waiting (Myers, 83).” Because of this, Reese fears going back home. He knows that socializing with those people will influence him into criminality. The novel highlights that the weight of the influence of social actors in society contributes to instances of youth delinquency. The third relevant concept alluded to in the novel is resiliency. Resiliency is an individual’s “capacity to regain personal power and develop a strong sense of self in the face of poverty, severe family hardship, and community devastation (Bartollas, Schmaller, & Turner, 2019.” Throughout the novel, Reese strives to attain resiliency. Facing many hardships, poverty, familial instability, and lockup, Reese desires to start over and “invent something, look around, and figure out some way to survive that's not going to get [him] killed or back in the jail system (Myers, 236).' This understanding of resiliency is what ultimately allows him to stay the course and realize his hopes and desires.

Conclusively, Lockdown provides a cohesive understanding of juvenile delinquency. Through Reese’s experiences, the reader comes to understand the structure of the juvenile system as well as hear the voices of those directly affected by judicial decisions. The novel compels the reader to empathize with the characters and to see them as more than just their crimes. It revealed interactions that were beneficial to the growth of the adolescents as well as exposed the realities of treatment that are antithetical to progress. Forensic Psychology encompasses all of the components of the judicial system and Lockdown highlights the concepts involved and their implications.

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Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Versus Forensic Psychology: Compare and Contrast Essay. (2023, July 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/lockdown-by-walter-dean-myers-versus-forensic-psychology-compare-and-contrast-essay/
“Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Versus Forensic Psychology: Compare and Contrast Essay.” Edubirdie, 11 Jul. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/lockdown-by-walter-dean-myers-versus-forensic-psychology-compare-and-contrast-essay/
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Versus Forensic Psychology: Compare and Contrast Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/lockdown-by-walter-dean-myers-versus-forensic-psychology-compare-and-contrast-essay/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers Versus Forensic Psychology: Compare and Contrast Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Jul 11 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/lockdown-by-walter-dean-myers-versus-forensic-psychology-compare-and-contrast-essay/
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