Monday, February 1, 2010

A Brave New Prison System

 A friend who is a public defender told me on facebook that a gang member couldn’t leave their gang else they will be killed. This shot home to me that the current prison system is simply not working and it’s actually the main breading ground of gangs. So using my studies and experiences in comparative religion and mental health treatments for my own sanity - I’m attempting to design a prison and system that prevents the spread of gangs and may actually cure and rehabilitate first time and repeat offenders.

The system is based on non-invasive, non-violent, non-chemical Eastern and tribal mental health treatments and modern eco friendly design, combined with modern learning technologies. It is cheaper, better security, and in more cases faster results than the current conventional therapy, rehabilitation, and/or prison. Mouthful, but I have the basic design down and so far it is making sense.

Based on Zen and Hindu principles of mental health using isolation to clear the mind, and positive reprogramming to rehabilitate.  

The growing pandemic of gangs is caused, nurtured, and exploded by the current prison system.  If we look to the oldest living cultures, such as the Australian Aborigines and ancient cultures such as Zen and Hindu, they see and treat crime as a mental disease.

In ancient Zen they isolate the patient for a minimum of 21 days to calm the mind, in ancient Hindu it is 21 days of Vipasna meditation staring at a blank wall.  Then through months or years of self-discipline and self-education, depending on individual responsiveness, the patient is gradually rehabilitated for re-entry to society.

At its most basic level, gang or organized crime is a contagious mental disease transferred by communication and collaboration, akin to mob psychosis.  This is not science fiction this is psychological fact from independent study over thousands of years to present day, both in the East and West.

 The current prison system, developed in the dark ages, allows communication and collaboration thus creating the danger and puts the community directly in it’s path with every inmate. It is the same as letting sick children with contagions go to school, one child shares a sandwich or sneezes on another and the whole school gets sick, then the children take the sickness home to spread throughout the community.

By that time you have pandemics like the gang problems in low-income neighborhoods where innocent residents are gunned down in cold blood and schoolgirls are pushed into prostitution and drug addiction and bystanders are caught in the cross fire of turf wars.  And even if they wanted too the gang members can’t actually quit, because the other gang members will kill them.

The only proven way to stop the spread of any disease from one living being to another is quarantine or total isolation, the same as preventing the spread of a virus, such as the H1N1 virus. We have to prevent the crime or gang disease spreading from one criminal or gang member to another by disabling their ability to communicate and collaborate.

By simply taking individual organized crime and gang members out of the picture, by putting them in isolation and not letting them see or communicate or collaborate with anybody, they cannot spread the disease of organized crime.

By not letting the disease spread, a single US state, such as California, can save billions of dollars in clean up and save tens of thousands of innocent lives, cities will save billions in property damage, and insurance companies save billions of dollars in claims. All in one year.

By cleaning up whole neighborhoods, nice families move back in, the property values go up, and the state/city earns billions more in property taxes and spends less in policing and victim compensation.

All the city, police, security service, or relative has to do is get written consent from the patient’s nearest relative, deliver the patient to the complex for medical observation and the patient stays for the duration of the 24/7 care program best suited to their problem.

The program is very similar to treating drug addiction.
 A sample rehabilitation program consists of:
One prisoner/patient, one cell, no communication.
Step 1#  21 days withdrawal and rest to calm the mind.
Step 2#  21 days deprogramming with videos.
Step 3#  21 days positive re-programming with videos.
Step 4#  21 days finding and nurturing a skill or talent.
Step 5#  180 days building that skill or talent to employment level, plus post traumatic stress training to deal with emotional triggers using instructional videos and video games and touch screens.
Step 6#  180 Days re-entry on parole into a new community with a job, clean residence, and ankle bracelet with sound transmitter;  well away from their old haunts, contacts and triggers.

Though we cannot force anybody to meditate and repent, it is possible to put somebody in a meditative environment where they can be consciously and subliminally rehabilitated using a noninvasive hypnotic medium, such as a television screen and commercially available educational videos and games.

Food is planned out according to good nutrition and security to maintain preventative health and served on paper plates and eaten with the hands, to prevent weapons or escape tools being made from utensils.  The used paper plates are then sent to recycling centers or patients can clean and reuse the plates for craft projects.

Soap and bathroom products are meted out in time-controlled dispensers in the cell bathroom to prevent waste.  All water is recycled, cleaned and filtered to be reused for toilets and cleaning.  The building fitted with eco friendly insulation, solar power, and energy efficient LED lighting and appliances to keep utility costs and environmental impact as low as possible.

During their stay in the complex, patients rarely come in contact with another human, and then only staff. Patients are also monitored with test projects, to see if they are ready for the next step and eventual halfway house then safe re-entry to society.

Discipline is noninvasive, non-physical, relatively simple, and in a way novel. For example, if a patient wipes their excrement all over their cell, an annoying jingle about cleaning up your mess is played very loudly over and over and over again in their own language until the patient cleans up their mess. Even if it takes weeks, the patient will eventually clean up their mess and not do it again.  In this way no staff are put at risk, the patient has nobody to focus their anger on, and nobody has to clean up the patient’s excrement except the patient.  This method also gives the patient a wake up call to grow-up, the first footfall on the path to rehabilitation.

While outdoor privileges in the complex are not possible for security and treatment effectiveness, patients do receive video fitness training in yoga and other mind calming physical practices. Patients are also encouraged in their progress with small educational privileges, such as being able to keep non-toxic indoor medicinal plants or receive e-books and specialized video learning.

Without the peer pressure of other inmates and internal gang politics, the patient’s mind is de-stressed and clear to receive positive re-programming and the inmate/patient is more responsive to rehabilitation.

The positive results can be life lasting and in the meantime the treatment truly takes the patient out of society and crime by not enabling them to communicate or collaborate, not even with family or loved-ones, as they may be enablers or triggers.

 The deprogramming and reprogramming helps patients ward off real life enablers and triggers that may make them re-offend, by giving them proven tools to stay on track and feel good about doing so.

For patients that fail the first round of treatment, a more intense version using psychiatric medication, and longer conscious as well subliminal reprogramming can be made available. In cases of severe drug addiction and violent crime a minimum of three to five years is recommended.

Because patients never see, hear, or communicate with each other it is possible to house females as well as males in the same complex.  Because visitors are not allowed and the building is sealed, a complex can exist within and urban environment without affecting the neighborhood or its residents even being aware that it is a prison rather than a private hospital.

The set up and logistics are not as expensive as building a new prison or mental health facility, because it does not need as much land and existing buildings can be refitted to purpose, such as a hotel or apartment buildings where there are small units with a bathroom and room for a single bed and video. The walls, ceilings, floors, and bathroom can be lined with steel, the windows bared, prison strength doors, and touch screens for media, monitoring, and security technology installed behind protective tamper proof covers.  These modifications also help make the building more fire and earthquake safe.

An experimental complex can be set up and running within 12 months, for less cost and expertise than renovating a high-end hotel.  Video trainings can be automated, and food served through secure hatches in the doors.

Running and security costs are cheaper because everything is in a single building and patients do not see or communicate with each other to attack each other or collaborate to cause trouble.

Results will start to be visible within individual patients within the first 6 months. Lasting results after completion of full program.

Extra income can be brought in by the patients working with the touch screens in data entry, surveys, and other on-screen work using a secure Intranet system.  Instruction pages and video tutorials can be in any language. All work is then checked by staff, from the safety of a secure office, before it is sent to the client.  

The system is designed to eliminate having direct communication with the patient, so the patient can focus on their rehabilitation with less risk of negative thought triggered by human interaction.  This also dramatically cuts down the cost and logistics of security and increases the effects of rehabilitation.

Actual cost of rehabilitation is minimal and low risk, because it is done by video learning not by actual hands on staff and therapist, and there are hundreds of suitable educational videos available commercially to start with.

Room and board costs are also minimal as per the cost of a small studio apartment and basic utilities and health insurance, plus food at bulk cost rates.

The complex can also serve as a private patient preventative measure to “nip it in the bud”, such as unruly or at risk teens, domestic violence, and road rage. Usually the first 63 days will give positive long lasting results alongside ongoing therapy for 6 months to 5 years, or as their assigned mental health professional prescribes. 

Inmate fees can be as low as $2,500 per month per head or less for treatment at the complex, as oppose to a conventional prison stay at $6,000 per month per head. With nonprofit status theses fees are also tax deductible.

FYI: Courts and criminal records don’t have to be involved if the patient is admitted before getting into legal trouble.   This can prevent future life setbacks.

Simply by preventing the spread of trouble we increase the safety of our communities, and it doesn’t have to cost or cause as much trouble, family heartache, stigma, or state or federal budget as a stay in conventional prison.

I believe the more of these complexes we can get set up, the faster we can make our streets and communities much safer places to live, and improve our children’s futures.

This is still a work in progress, but so far it is making sense to me.

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