Analyzing Prisoner #8612

Above is actual audio from the experiment conducted in 1971. In the audio is Doug Korpi, also known as Prisoner #8612. He was one of the participants that were considered mentally stable enough to forego in this experiment. When it finally started, thirty-six hours into the experiment, he’d already asked to be released once, he’d helped stage a prisoner rebellion that occurred in Cell 1 over prison conditions,  and he’d spent most of his time in solitary confinement. Because of the overwhelming conditions of psychological abuse by the guards, according to Zimbardo, Korpi began screaming and crying, although Zimbardo and his team initially thought he was just faking it in an attempt to escape. They decided to deny his request to leave and sent him back to Stanford County Jail. In turn, Korpi’s mental state only grew worse. He began telling other inmates, “You can’t leave. You can’t quit,” because of Zimbardo’s decision to send him back inside. He began thinking that his circumstances were real and no longer an experiment. He later started shouting for a doctor, screaming that he was “burning up inside,” heard in the video above. He was very belligerent, angry, and paranoid during this time. Realizing that something was really wrong with Doug, Zimbardo decided to let him leave the experiment. In order to keep up with the experiment and to make it more real for the participants, he told the rest of the inmates that Prisoner #8612 had been shipped off to a maximum security prison.

While Stanford County Jail was a very traumatizing place for most of the participants, Doug Korpi seemed to be suffering the most. However, in a phone interview done after the experiment, he said that he was acting. “The breakdown I had was a manipulation to get out of the damn experiment. I put myself in a state of mental anguish and it was traumatizing for me to scream, to do those things. Whether you will it manipulatively or were forced into it by some psychotic break, it’s still upsetting to have to yell and scream,” (Grunge, 2017). Doug Korpi admitted that his breakdown was fake but Phillip Zimbardo believes that he may not have the same feelings about the experiment as he did back in the actual prison, ultimately altering his memory of the experience — creating a false memory.

In the end, he transformed his personally negative experience into something great.  After the experiment, he went on to obtain his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, has been the chief psychologist in the San Francisco County Jail for years and is now a practicing forensic psychologist. His mission is to create corrections conditions that help raise the dignity of those in the prisoner role while containing the potential sadism of those playing the guard role in our prisons. This widely known experiment has made an impact, even on those it may have harmed. Doug Korpi has worked towards making a change because of what he endured during his “sentence” at Stanford County Jail. Kudos, Doug, kudos.

Source: (2017). The untold truth of the Stanford Prison Experiment. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].


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