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mark johnson

CEO Life To The Brim, Inc, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Retired

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Do we Ignore incarcerated men, women and juveniles or help Restore them back into community?

I am recent retired Department of Justice employee (Federal Bureau of Prisons)and Dream Coach. Part of my life's purpose is to Inspire, Impact, Empower and help Transfrom those in the space I occupy. Understanding that rehabilitation does not happen just by incarcerating a person, but actually takes place when the individual recognizes the need to change from the inside.

The likelihood of this happening is when (society) the institution create and provide programs for the inmate to participate in while incarcerated. Is such an idea grandiose? And if not what type of programs would cost effective and cognitively meaninful?

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  • May 11 2012: I will refer to the obligatory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment because I believe it has a lot to teach about the way that people radically alter their identity when they are in a prison environment.

    Another very worthwhile read is http://www.e-archives.ky.gov/pubs/Public_Adv/nov97/crime_control.htm which is primarily an argument specifically against the death penalty but introduces concepts which have broader application to be considered. Of particular interest is "the brutalization effect".

    The approach that so many people advocate for prisons is harsh punishments and strict control to turn it into a hell which anyone with the facilities to do so will avoid.

    Ironically, that would leave only those which are incapable of avoiding that fate due either to mental deficiencies or situational problems... Arguably, innocent victims of their own reality. I'm not sure I like the idea of a torture house for the truly unfortunate.

    Prisons in their current form are a symptom of the pervasive and detrimental belief in "good" and "bad" people. People are what they have been turned into by their genetics and the society which they have been brought up in and as inconvenient as it might be, their inability to function in our society is something which must be treated as our fault and our problem to be fixed.

    Doubtlessly, society needs to be protected from dangerous people but they need to also be protected from each other and themselves when in prison. The fact that they have committed a crime is enough for a lot of people to begin thinking of them as animals and accept any inhumane treatment in the name of efficiency or retribution.

    If we want to improve the criminal justice system, it needs to start with the humanization of prisoners.
    • May 18 2012: Luke I was thinking the same with the Stanford prision experiment, and how the ":guards" become basically drunk with power, I am sure that happens every day in the prisions in the US not all guards but rather enough of them to assert that these people should be degraded and locked down everyday with nothing to do or no one to talk to as punishment. What happens when you have someone locked away in a 6x9 cell for 4 years with no outside contact with no real knowledge what has changed evolved in the outside world, where every move is monitored and they are at the guards mercy, how can these people function and adapt to a changed socieity.
      • May 18 2012: Evidence would suggest that the majority cannot and it's not the least bit surprising.

        This conversation has been quite interesting because if you picked 100 people at random off the street and asked them the same question, I would expect to see a significant proportion of them rant on about how terrible crime is and how we are too lenient on criminals. I would be surprised if you didn't see at least a few of them advocate torture of some kind.

        There is a massive gulf between the perceptions of the average Joe and the perceptions of people who actively seek knowledge and intellectual interaction. Perhaps this is a gulf of ignorance or misinformation and perhaps we can blame education or mass media but whatever the cause happens to be, the existence of a majority of people who abandon compassion and reasonable consideration as soon as they see the label "criminal" applied is the major driving force behind faulty prison and justice system policy.

        When I said that you need to start with the humanization of the prisoners I meant in their own mind but I also meant in the public's perceptions as well.

        I have read some pretty damning statistics about the rate at which criminals are raped in prison and I've even tried to engage people in discussion or debate about the subject and get little to no response. Arguably, inhumane treatment of prisoners is one of the greatest human rights violations going on in the world right now but you try to engage someone in a discussion about it and you'll get avoidance and evasion.

        Nobody wants to know or care about prisoners. It's a sad and horrible facet of human nature.

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