Total institution

form of enclosed place of work and residence

A total institution is a place of work and residence where a great number of similarly situated people, cut off from the wider community for a considerable time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.


  • In recent decade the nursing home industry has quickly extended, and particular regions of the country have become huge territorial nursing homes where we hide the aged and they hide from us. Long before their death, they are buried in the folds of the total institution, hidden, out of sight and out of mind. In the United States, dying in a total institution has become a common experience.
  • A total institution may be defined as a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life. Prisons serve as a clear example, providing we appreciate that what is prison-like about prisons is found in institutions whose members have broken no laws. This volume deals with total institutions in general and one example, mental hospitals, in particular.
  • The prison should not be seen as an inert institution, shaken at intervals by reform movements. The 'theory of the prison' was its constant set of operational instructions rather than its incidental criticism - one of its conditions of functioning. The prison has always formed part of an active field in which projects, improvements, experiments, theoretical statements, personal evidence and investigations have proliferated. The prison institution has always been a focus of concern and debate. Is the prison still, then, a dark, abandoned region? Is the fact that one has ceased to say so for almost 200 years sufficient proof that it is not? In becoming a legal punishment, it weighted the old juridico-political question of the right to punish with all the problems, all the agitations that have surrounded the corrective technologies of the individual.
Baltard called them 'complete and austere institutions' (Baltard, 1829). In several respects, the prison must be an exhaustive disciplinary apparatus: it must assume responsibility for all aspects of the individual, his physical training, his aptitude to work, his everyday conduct, his moral attitude, his state of mind; the prison, much more than the school, the workshop or the army, which always involved a 235 Prison certain specialization, is ‘omni-disciplinary’.

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: