In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, institutionalization is portrayed though the mental ward, which many of the patients confine themselves to voluntarily. Yet the safety of the mental institution is riddled with control and humiliation, with patients being controlled by solitary confinement, verbal and physical abuse, and horrific medical practices, like electroshock therapy or lobotomies. When McMurphy attempts to escape this safe but manipulative institutionalization, the entire culture of the mental ward shifts as other patients attempt to escape the control placed on them, too. But because the institution is so powerful and cruel, this escape is portrayed as a struggle for one's life and dignity that most cannot survive.
The Shawshank Redemption portrays institutionalization as an unforgiving force that characters either control or are controlled by. The ability to escape institutionalization is not determined by morality or one's actions. Because the system is so corrupt, many cruel and undeserving people escape this institutionalization while innocent people, like Andy, are confined for decades. Yet in the story, the fight to escape institutionalization is portrayed as more important than the escape itself. Fighting for one's dignity and freedom is not always successful, but the hope it provides redeems characters like Andy and Red from the confinement they experience in prison.