I am very interested in working toward prison reformation here where I live in the US. There are some prisons in the world where inmates are treated like people, like this one on Bastoy island in Norway, and their relapse rate into a life of crime is very low! http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/25/norwegian-prison-inmates-treated-like-people
"Every type of offender, including men convicted of murder or rape, may be accepted, so long as they fit the criteria, the main one being a determination to live a crime-free life on release."
This is very fundamental and important.
So far I am thinking that I would like to go visit this prison in Norway, visit some prisons around the US and around the world to do some research, and come up with ways we can harmonize the US prison system into a beautiful atmosphere of recuperation and dignity, instead of the wretched state of affairs at current. Please send waves of support if you can, I am very ambitious about this.
The reason I think this is so important is because we must hold our ideals high. In societal-speak I would like to point to the model of the Commune. Communes are most excellent communities of superior harmony, often growing their own food and being very sufficient on their own and community oriented. Many people "escape" the buffles of our "civilization" to live fulfilling and wholesome lives in communes, and to me this level of living, when it is expanded to include the whole of humanity, is what many refer to as "Utopia"
If the highest rung of the ladder is an idealized Utopia, the prison system in the US currently functions as the bottom rung, the catch of the funnel, the gutter.
This gutter can become a place of poise and equilibrium, a place where people who have "fallen off the face of the earth" by committing some seemingly unforgivable action, can come back to human nature, and be nourished to grow and love and be loved. The aim of this spillway should really be the top of the ladder. That is, to successfully orient prison culture to be of Benefit to outside-the-prison culture; for far too often does an inmate leave and no sooner is she or he dropped back into the agonizing loop.
There are some spots I feel that are most pivotal in prison reform:
Culture. When a prison is constructed its atmosphere is established through both the architecture (how it is designed, how communities are established), and the first generation of inmates to go through this gauntlet. If the culture starts on a positive, recuperative, healthy note, this can be maintained and even strengthened through successive iterations of the prison.
Ratio. Prisons typically have many inmates and few stabilized people. Shifting the ratio of "good to good-not-yet-discovered" people can really accelerate the process of healing and educating.
These are some thoughts from this morning. Please contribute if you are sincerely interested in the welfare of the myriad inmates subject to harsh conditions, and even harsher proclivities. If we affect positive change in the lowest rung of the ladder, if the gutter improves remarkably and substantially, the whole ladder will benefit. So many countries base their judicial standards on those the US, and with helpful changes to the US system, the whole world will benefit. Humanity at large will benefit.
Already there is a movement called the Prison Dharma Network, where people start meditation groups and Dharma book clubs in prisons. I have been very moved by their work. One quote " I have shed many of my negative identities" really touched me to the point of tears. It is nigh impossible to imagine what sort of life one goes through to end up in prison, and to think that there is so little we do to help pull people out of the womb of poisonous snakes breaks heart.http://www.prisondharmanetwork.net
Please send your support. I thank you all in advance. Namaste and Arigatou.