A Bold Makeover for Prisons

We Have Too Many People In Traditional Prisons

Are we getting sufficient bang for our bucks out of our correctional system, one that sees the United States leading all other countries with the highest rate of imprisonment?

Are there tweaks that need to be made or are major changes needed as to who we imprison and what we do with those inmates that we do imprison?

Many states are also looking to the courts for help in diverting offenders away from incarceration using a mix of treatment, probation and judicial oversight. Drug courts, interagency treatment programs, have thus far demonstrated success in reducing recidivism and are relatively cost effective. Other specialized courts emerging nationwide include mental health courts, domestic violence courts, homeless courts, teen courts, tobacco courts, and some forms of family courts.

But, we still have prisons that bring together people who have caused problems for others, keep them together for several to many years, and then release them back to their neighborhoods and communities unwanted and untrusted where they will again be looking for their support groups.

What alternatives might exist to the imprisonment of non-violent offenders that would still remove them from their neighborhoods and allow them to return within two years less likely to be an offender?

If we did make major changes, sort of reinvent our correctional system and prisons, what would that look like?

For a correctional system to be reinvented, a very bold and measurable action would have to be made.

I define bold as something that would go sufficiently viral as to be copied by multiple states and reduce inmate population and rate of recidivism by 33%. 

Here is the history we don’t want in our future:

1960               Prison riots were occurring throughout the country.

1970               States paid $5 billion on corrections.

1983               Jails population 224,000.

1990               Prisons were one of the fastest growing line items in state budgets.

2000               States prison cost: $40 billion, average cost of $60/day or $22,000/yr per inmate.

2000               States prison population: 1.2 million inmates. 51% for non-violent crimes;  21% of those were drug related.

2013               Jails population 731,000. Includes offenders viewed as a flight risk or too dangerous to release while waiting for trial as well as offenders who are too poor to afford bail or have mental health issues or a history of drug addiction.

RETHINKING CRIMINALITY

Many of us are tired of crime and have been supporting laws that put more offenders in prison for longer periods of time.  Many of us don’t want to know what that punishment is like; we just want offenders off the streets and out of our neighborhoods.

Hammurabi, King of Babylon 1955-1913 B.C., developed a code known for its eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth wisdom.   The code regulated in clear and definite strokes the organization of society. The judge who blunders in a law case is to be expelled from his judgeship forever, and heavily fined. The witness who testifies falsely is to be slain. Indeed, all the heavier crimes are made punishable with death. Even if a man builds a house badly, and it falls and kills the owner, the builder is to be slain. If the owner’s son were killed, then the builder’s son is slain. These grim retaliatory punishments take no note of excuses or explanations, but only of the fact.

But what do we know of what our punishment is like.  Do we send offenders off to prison to be idle, raped, abused, and intimidated regardless of their crime?  No, not as much as we used to do but for the bulk of the inmates, there is still no reason to think that when they return to our streets and neighborhoods after three to fifteen years of prison life they will be ready and willing to become productive community members.

Can we please be more proactive?

A growing body of research indicates that ADHD kids are far more likely to become criminals, thrill seekers, successful or bankrupt risk obsessive entrepreneurs.  Because of slower than normal waves in the prefrontal cortex, the front of the brain cannot communicate effectively with the midbrain and properly regulate emotions in everyday life.

Damage to the cortex from accident, physical abuse, sports, genetics, oxygen deprivation at birth, or drinking by the mother apparently causes slower than normal waves in the front of the brain and the inability to engage the other systems.

Because the brain’s internal communication system in people with slow wave activity in the frontal lobes is sluggish, incoming messages need to be more sensational than normal to achieve the same level of stimulation.

A study of 101 students from age fifteen to age twenty-nine found that kids with low arousal in the prefrontal cortex had a much greater chance of becoming delinquents.  The theory is that these kids become addicted to stimulation that increases their arousal levels back to normal.  Some adolescents join a gang, burglarize a house, or beat someone up to get an arousal jag.  (Source:  Getting Rid of Ritalin, Robert W. Hill, Ph.D. and Eduardo Castro, M.D. 2002)

There are inmates that could more safely be released early saving many millions of dollars if they were released with balanced brains and good work experience.  Most inmates enter and leave prison with unbalanced brains which is the root of their criminal and addictive behavior.  All of us seek relief from pain.  If the left side of our brains to a large degree were unbalanced from its right side we would be tormented.  Sometimes abnormal behavior seems to be the drug of choice in dealing with this torment.

Our behavior, thinking, and what we are going to do with our life is influenced by the type of brain waves we produce and where in our brains we produce them.  Brain scans reveal that when brain function in one area is abnormal, so is behavior.

More on brain balancing in the  post:  Brain Waves. 

Proposed Bold Change #1

Only assign violent offenders to prison and scale down and privatize those prisons overseen by State Department of Justices.

Close state run prisons and eliminate Departments of Corrections.

Create Offender Reentry Divisions within Departments of Justice. 

State departments of corrections have fixed costs that basically eliminate savings that come from inmate population reductions.  A private prison that can serve multiple states has a better ability to maintain inmate population levels that spread the fixed cost of imprisonment over a set population.  Private prisons have proven to do a poor job of  providing programs which is mitigated by making these prisons violent offender prisons that only offer work and medical care including mental health care.

Prison Characteristics:

  • Population: Only those that are convicted of a violent crime or flunked out of transitional housing by walking away or being a bully, predator, or instigator.
  • Transition: Inmates with 3 years remaining on their sentence would move to outside work camps for one year and then move to transitional housing for one year and then be released on parole for one year and  complete their sentence while on parole.
  • Prison Environment: Activities would only include work and recreation and would not include education or vocational training.
  • Medical: Provided along with limited counseling.
  • Location: Violent offenders would be housed in private prisons.
  • Work would include maintenance, kitchen, laundry and private sector manufacturing operating inside the private prison.  See proposed changes to federal interstate commerce law identified in Proposed Bold Change #4.
  • Jail Characteristics:
    • Population: Only includes offenders viewed as a flight risk or too dangerous to release while waiting for trial. Alternatives will be provided for those that can’t afford to post bond.

Proposed Bold Change #2

Group (A)– Non-Violent Offender Work Camps — Managed by new State Offender Reentry Divisions

Note:  Non-violent offenders have to be removed from the environments they were in when they committed their crimes and moved into supportive positive environments other than prisons.  Prisons have difficulty providing consistent supportive positive environments.

Group (A) non-violent offenders are those the court has determined, through a standardized evaluation process, are not ready for advanced treatment or where offenders believe they do not need to make changes in their lives.

  • Group A would live in camps until ready to move to Group (B).
    • Those camps would be movable and could look much like the old Civilian Conservation Core (CCC).
    • Counselors would be present and good work would be rewarded.
    • Walkaways or troublemakers could be moved into prisons.

Proposed Bold Change #3

Group (B) –Non-Violent Offender Accelerated Release–Managed by new Offender Reentry Divisions within Departments of Justice.

Group (B)– non-violent offenders are those that the court has determined through a standardized evaluation process are ready for advanced treatment that the offender desires treatment and accepts the need to change behavior.

  • Group (B) Punishment Program:
    • Punishment takes the form of separation from current environment into transitional housing.
    • Walkaways and troublemakers could be moved into Group (A).
    • While living in transitional housing, offenders would be allowed to work part-time in the local area or work in State/Private Sector partnered businesses.
    • Parole required–Offenders that have completed their treatment program which would include basic life skills and remedial reading, writing, and arithmetic training as needed coupled with advanced brainwave technology treatment could be paroled immediately and remain on parole for a year.
    • Conditions of parole include having a job and drug tests as appropriate.
  • Group B Treatment Program:
    • Designed to get to the core of what influences behavior.
      • Behavior, thinking, and what we do with our life is influenced by the type of brain waves we produce and where in our brains we produce them.
      • Brain scans reveal that when brain function in one area is abnormal, so is behavior.
      • Whenever there is more than a 10% difference between brainwave strength between left and right side of brain, behavior is affected.
        • No inmate has ever been measured with better than 40% of balance.
      • Over 60,000 people worldwide have experienced breakthroughs utilizing Brainwave Optimization with RTB™ (Real Time Balancing).
        • This process is an effective, holistic and non-invasive method of achieving greater brain balance and harmony.
        • Improving brain function has shown to help with injuries, disorders, stress, pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, addictive dependencies, challenges to learning and performance, ADD, ADHD, depression as well as criminal behavior.
      • A team of neuroscientists from Wake Forest School of Medicine, under the direction of lead investigator Charles H Tegeler, MD (McKinney-Avant Professor of Neurology, Director of Telestroke Services, and Director of the Ward A. Riley Ultrasound Center), are testing the efficacy of Brainwave Optimization as an intervention for a variety of conditions.
        • Two of their studies have already seen publication and in 2013 they were awarded a $1 million grant to continue and expand their research.
        • To date they have been awarded more than $2.3 million in outside funding to facilitate research related to Brainwave Optimization.
      • Published in 2013 by the peer-review journal Brain & Behavior, The HIRREM Methods paper describes how Brainwave Optimization (aka HIRREM) assists neuro-network efficiencies through relaxation and auto-calibration of neuronal modulation. Disturbances of neural oscillation patterns have been reported with many disease states. HIRREM is a precision-guided technology for allostatic therapeutics, intended to help the brain calibrate its own functional set points to optimize fitness.
      • Unlike drugs that stop working when no longer used or coping therapies, this process is curative.

Note:  History has shown that too often the only way new discoveries are embraced is for the reigning generation to die off.  As technology moves faster and faster, our prisons can’t continue to remain unchanged as it is too costly to wait for the generation that is resisting prison reinvention to pass away.

For more information take a look at www.brainstatetech.com.

Proposed Bold Change #4—Modify Public Law 96-157, Sec. 827

Bring back 100,000 jobs that were once located in the United States that have been outsourced into foreign countries.

  • Modify the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).
    • PIECP originally was authorized under the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979 (Public Law 96-157, Sec. 827). The Crime Control Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-647) authorizes continuation of the program indefinitely.
      • The Bureau of Justice Administration (BJA) certifies that local or state prison industry programs meet all the necessary requirements to be exempt from federal restrictions on prisoner-made goods in interstate commerce.
    • Proposed modification would allow garment manufacturing and assembly type operations to exist in prisons as if prisons were those foreign countries where those jobs are currently located.
      • Inmate wages would match what is paid to foreign garment and assembly workers now doing the work.
      • Private companies like Nike or Apple would contract for and oversee the manufacturing business operating inside the prisons.