Posts tagged incarcerations
Posts tagged incarcerations
I normally don’t think much about incarceration but I just saw an episode of Modern Marvels on prisons and was fascinated by the rich history. The correctional system is chock full of juicy tidbits that are made interesting as only the History Channel could make it.
Although the Romans were credited with the first prisons (at least on this show, but hard to imagine that the Chinese or Mesopotamians didn’t have something going on, right?), the Catholic Church is acknowledged as the father of contemporary philosophy regarding incarceration, where clergy or lay people alike were imprisoned for disobeying cannon law. Extending the church’s symbolic imagery of good vs. evil, the cells were really deep pits where the damned were fed by the worthy from above, simulating the construct of heaven and hell, and if I’m not mistaken created idol worship. Oops, seems like disregard for the 10 commandments, but they can say a few rosaries and move on. My pointed feelings on the matter stem from years of Catholic school, so just like the Seinfeld episode, “It’s ok, I’m allowed since I’m one of them!”
It seems just about every religious organization in the U.S. threw their hat in the ring regarding rehabilitating the prison system, centering on two main schools of thought: build walls or open walls. The latter does not refer to letting society’s most unstable lose to run wild, despite what Reagan did to the psychiatric hospitals in the ‘80’s. Rather, it refers to the Quaker’s construct that fewer solitary confinement cells and more open spaces with structured, constructive vocational training will rehabilitate and prepare an inmate for release; to be better citizens upon that release. It is an interesting concept that is debated in the news every time a death penalty case comes to term. Which, as a resident of the Bay Area was quite common with the proximity to San Quentin, until recently. Also interesting to me is the meaning of the word penitentiary which comes from the Quaker concept of experiencing penance during incarceration.
This notion of reflecting upon the self as the purpose of incarceration strikes me as a Buddhist perspective and does center on the belief that change can happen given the right circumstances and openness. However, part of the problem is that much of the prison population is made up of two main personality types/disorders: Sociopathic and Antisocial. By definition personality disorders are characterlogical and therefore pervasive. There is no cure. At best the individuals with these issues will address them by maintenance therapy but that assumes they will even recognize they have a problem - a rare occurrence in this population.
As a therapist I can attest that the mind runs afoul with self-destructive ideas and actions when under stimulated. I see it frequently with clients who have learned helplessness from dependance on welfare and self-esteem so thin you could shatter it with a sneeze. As humans, we have a basic need, programed in our biological hardwiring, to feel needed through companionship and generative through participation in something meaningful, like society. The current structure of the prison system does not foster this as much as it fosters increased criminality and violence. Also something my clients corroborate. I don’t see hardened felons, but in dealing with anger management and domestic violence I get a wide range of offenses and experiences in my room.
The Modern Marvels show demonstrated all the variations of correctional facilities that didn’t work, mostly due to the faults of architecture and unforeseen issues in the planning stages of prisons. So it left me wondering more about the underlying constructs of the correctional system and the possible solutions for a growing cancer in our social system. Namely, the fact that everything revolves around money, on both sides even. The inmates have turned to crime most likely out of poverty and poor impulses from low SES and education (not including the afore mentioned personality disorders who will engage the same way no matter what their circumstance) and the system responds based on the governing budgets.
In the words of Alanis Morisette, isn’t it ironic?