The Subtle Escape of
Psychological Irresponsibility

Excerpted from the Chaplain's Report,
March 1948

An evaluation of the reading trends among the inmates indicates that while the institution is boldly weighted on the side of custody with an extreme preoccupation with thwarting of escape, the plan but invites a more serious type of escape -- the escape from responsibility in real life and the fleeing to the realms of day dream and fiction where boisterous and fantastic success is assured. The extreme affinity for "escape literature" at this institution is the practical flaunting of the custody precautions in a way that is psychologically disasterous for it more and more unfits a man for social and legitimate sharing as he contents himself with the private victories of fiction. The escape these men once sought in crime they now find in fiction; namely, the unrealistic conviction that satisfaction can be had without social concern. Escape is the same dangerous phenomena whether it takes place in the overt violence of a prison break or in the subtle escape of psychological irresponsibility. The latter is the more significant for it must always precede any manifestation of the former. We do our job at grave risk when we concentrate on the one and neglect the other. This, of course, is no matter of forcing inmates to read more religious books. Religion by literary channel alone is extremely unlikely. The essence of the matter is, however, the need of cultivating social responsibility. This is the basic purpose of religion and religious literature is merely a manifestation of this spirit reaching out to others to lend them an opportunity to become socially responsible. The literature alone will fail, to be sure, if the view point the literature expounds has no measure of incarnation in us. In other words, our social irresponsibility will perhaps so encourage a like-mindedness as to make the realistic, responsible view of sound religion both hypocritical and unrealistic in appearance.