Selection committee chair Prudence Gourgechon, Stephanie Gangemi, and Harold Hirshman, at the recent Chicago APSaA conference where the prize was announced as part of a conference session on violence.
Winners of the Seidenberg Prize for psychoanalytic perspectives on problems of incarceration propose a new way to train corrections officers and offer a critical perspective on over-incarceration in the U.S.
“The Seidenberg Paper Prize has demonstrated the value of psychoanalytically-informed psychotherapy as a clinical approach and way to understand our world,” said Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute President Erika Schmidt. “The prize papers clearly show how these ideas work within prisons with incarcerated men and women as well as guards responsible for their care. It exemplifies our field’s dedication to advancing knowledge of human beings—their feelings, thoughts and behavior—and to improving people’s lives.”
Stephanie Gangemi, LCSW, Behavioral Health Programs Manager of the El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Office received the first prize of $15,000 for her paper: “Are They Mental Health or Behavioral?” Toward Object Relations Translation for Corrections Officers.
Elizabeth (Beth) Kita, LCSW, PhD, a clinical social worker in public/private practice and lecturer at University of California-Berkeley, received the second prize of $5,000 for her paper: “They Hate Me Now, But Where Was Everyone When I Needed Them?” Mass Incarceration, Mass Projective Identification, and Creating Containers That Hold.
“Our paper prize asked for practical solutions that didn’t involve changing the whole system,” said Prudence Gourguechon, MD, a faculty member at the Institute who chaired the judging committee. “Kita offered a brilliant overview, and Gangemi had a practical angle. We wished we could have given two first-place prizes.”
The Seidenberg Paper prize was a brainstorm of senior Dentons' attorney Harold Hirshman who approached the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute to partner in the formation of the prize. He and Institute President Erika Schmidt presented the first place prize to Gangemi on June 22, at the American Psychoanalytic Association annual conference in Chicago.
Seidenberg Prize Comments
Hirshman spoke about the meaning of this prize:
“Compassion has limits. Recognizing the humanity of your fellow man is an ideal, easily ignored in everyday life. Prisons are filled to overflowing with the poor, the mentally ill and minorities. The prisoners are controlled mainly by free white men and some women. This crucible tests the limits of compassion and humanity on a daily, even an hourly basis. Is there something useful psychoanalysis has to say to help alleviate the pressure in that crucible? The hope that led to the Seidenberg prize was the belief that this community had people willing to try to formulate such help. Dentons, my law firm, was willing to fund the prize. We all were overjoyed at the response. Now the job is to find a way to actualize the winner’s insights.”
“A moment about Henry Seidenberg. Henry grew up as a child of immigrants on the mean streets of Philadelphia. He benefited from a fine public-school education. He couldn’t go to Swarthmore because he couldn’t afford the car fare. He went to Penn instead. He was a compassionate man. He had lived through dark times, but he refused to endorse Civilization and its Discontents, saying that book was the work of Freud the man, not Freud the genius. In his memory and in his honor I hope that we can increase compassion and humanity in prisons. It is not an easy task, but neither was growing up poor in Philadelphia to become a distinguished Chicago psychoanalyst.”
The Institute has formed an online community for the paper authors to exchange ideas in the coming year, and is exploring other opportunities to share the ideas in the papers including with public officials.