Henry SeidenbergPhoto: The prize is named in honor of Henry Seidenberg, MD, a former Institute dean and staunch supporter of psychoanalytic scholarship


Seidenberg Prize highlights psychoanalysis in prison system

Thank you to all of our authors and congratulations to our winners: 

  • First prize: Stephanie Gangemi, LCSW, Behavioral Health Programs Manager of the El Paso County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Office will receive the first prize of $15,000 for “Are They Mental Health or Behavioral?” Toward Object Relations Translation for Corrections Officers.
  • Second prize: Elizabeth (Beth) Kita, LCSW, PhD, a clinical social worker in public/private practice and lecturer at University of California-Berkeley, will receive 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.

The Seidenberg Paper Prize was announced in 2017 and awarded in 2018 by the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute with support from Dentons Law Firm. Senior Counsel Harold C. Hirshman, also an Institute board member, helped lead a pro bono federal class-action suit, Rasho v. Walker, that led to a 2016 consent decree in which the Illinois Department of Corrections agreed to invest millions in facilities and staffing to provide mental-health services to 11,000 inmates dealing with mental illness.

Hirshman worked with the Institute to create the prize, earmarking funds from attorneys’ fees awarded to the firm and co-plaintiffs Equip for Equality and Uptown Peoples Law Center. In his research related to the case, he says, none of the sources he read offered much of a sense of compassion for the people in prison.

Thinking back to his own experience of psychoanalysis with therapist Henry Seidenberg, the late former dean of the Chicago Institute, Hirshman believed the discipline had something to offer: “I thought it would be possibly helpful if a question were posed to the analytic community: what can be done to reduce hostility or create a sense of common humanity between the prisoners and the guards?

“I went to Erika, who was willing to give it a try. But she didn’t want me to have any exalted ideas,” Hirshman says. “She told me, ‘well, maybe we’ll get three papers.” In fact, the prize attracted widespread national and international attention in four months from the November call for papers to the March 1deadline. Twenty-six papers were submitted by authors from Argentina, Denmark, Ecuador, England, Israel, Italy, and Peru as well as around the U.S.

News of the call spread rapidly thanks to a network of dozens of psychoanalytic institutes around the U.S., American and International psychoanalytic associations and academic scholars who assisted in distributing the call for papers. The rapid response and range of papers received underscore the continued relevance of psychoanalysis for clinical treatment and interpreting the world around us.

America has the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world. Its prisons are overcrowded and almost every state has a disproportionate number of African-American inmates. Perhaps 25% of inmates suffer from mental illness. 

In this atmosphere, prisoners live in fear of each other and of the guards. Guards work in fear of the prisoners. The atmosphere of fear can be considered a mental health problem in and of itself that affects both guards and prisoners. It then further contributes to the multiple challenges confronting prisoners, including educational levels, employment opportunities, discrimination and family support. As a society, we have made a determination to incarcerate a vast number of people. The Supreme Court has decided those people are entitled to basic medical and mental health care. Yet we as a society have not found a way to ensure that prisoners receive adequate mental health care.

In October 2017, Institute President Erika Schmidt announced that in collaboration with Dentons Law Firm, we would sponsor the Seidenberg Paper Prize for the two best papers on Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Problems of Incarceration: 

What can psychoanalytic thought and psychology contribute toward an understanding of the social issue of incarceration?  What are the dynamics of fear within prisons and how can the atmosphere of fear be alleviated?  How can a more tolerable environment be created for prisoners and for guards?  How can the problems of mentally ill prisoners be addressed?  

Papers should contribute to an understanding of these problems and offer feasible suggestions for intervention (apart from releasing significant numbers of prisoners or vastly increasing expenditures on mental health for guards and prisoners). 
The Seidenberg Prize, named in honor of Henry Seidenberg, MD, recognizes the best paper with a psychoanalytic perspective on problems within prisons that affect the mental health of prisoners and of guards.
This one-time paper prize is made possible through a very generous contribution from Dentons Law Firm in honor of Institute Board member Harold Hirshman's pro bono work on the class-action suit known as Rasho.

The settlement in the Rasho case provides for personnel and facilities for mental health services for prisoners who are mentally ill. (More about the case and Harold Hirshman). 

You can also download the announcement and call for papers for further details.