Posts Tagged ‘self-sufficent’

Let’s assume for a moment that prison staff are there to rehabilitate people. And assume that a staff goal is to prepare inmates to lead normal lives in society.

Currently there are several steps in the right direction. However, my experience over twenty years is that the small steps forward don’t seem to last long.

One prison had some sympathy for lifers, mainly those with a life sentence for murder. Off the main hallway, a ten by twenty room sat abandoned except for a sink, an old stove, and a freezer. The lifers’ group asked admin if they could buy their own food and have a meal there once a week.

The warden approved, and soon the freezer was filled with steaks, roasts and ribs.

I watched the men prepare for this…it could only be called a banquet, a royal banquet. Guys who gave the finger to jailhouse jobs worked hard testing recipes and finding real silverware (or making it).

The meal went off without a hitch, that meal and others for over a year. The room got to be called, “The Lifer’s Kitchen.” People tried to up their crime classification so they could join the group.

Of course, like most good things prison does, it died a year later. “What will people think, the convicts are eating T bone steaks?”

In Canada, to give the system credit, minimum security prisoners live in four to six man cottages, and each man gets $35 a week to buy his own groceries.

Several other great self-management programs had similar histories – inmates beg for permission, finally get it, the program is very successful and helps people rehabilitate, and then admin kills it because some in the public object.

Some cases are:

The men developed an empty field into a small golf course for their own use. “Those damn convicts are hanging around playing golf. And we pay for it.” Now community people use the golf course, but inmates can’t.

A tattoo parlor. Inmates decorate an old room in the prison with tattoo posters, and they get an old record player to play anything but elevator music. The warden likes this idea, because only clean needles will be used. Hep C and HIV are practically eliminated. Then, “those damn convicts are getting free tattoos.”

Men and women prisoners ask to grow their own veggies. (Somebody send me a recent example of this in an American prison, but I lost it). Everything is fine – prisons include a lot of land. Then a new security chief is hired and he thinks the garden is a security leak.

Inmates cannot have the internet. But the security chief could set up an “Internal Net” where the prison would put ‘on line’ several informative pages about a whole variety of subjects. This gave the inmates a feel for what the real Internet was like.

Good idea, don’t you think? The idea was vetoed before it got off the ground. Prison officials are deathly afraid of the computers and the Internet.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a story like this – an idea that almost got off the ground, but died at the beginning?