Within a very short time both guards and prisoners were settling into their new roles. Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. At 2:30 A.M.
prisoners were awakened from sleep by blasting whistles for the first of many “counts.” The counts served as a way to familiarizing the prisoners with their numbers. More importantly, they provided a regular occasion for the guards to exercise control over the prisoners. The prisoners were taunted with insults and petty orders, they were given pointless and boring tasks to accomplish, and they were generally dehumanized. Push-ups were a common form of physical punishment imposed by the guards.
One of the guards stepped on the prisoners’ backs while they did push-ups, or made other prisoners sit on the backs of fellow prisoners doing their push-ups. The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too. The Federal Bureau of Prison states that almost 270 adjudicated assaults were recorded in February of 2017. They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time.
They “told tales” on each other to the guards. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, as though they were there for the prisoners’ benefit and infringement would spell disaster for all of them. Some even began siding with the guards against prisoners who did not obey the rules.