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Session: What Is A Just, Decent Prison? How Can We Improve Prisons? (Type: Requests)
This is a Session within the Topic Prisons and Prisoners
 
 
"Prisons should be places of re-education and re-integration into the community, and the conditions for prisoners should be fitting for human beings."
Pope Francis
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Goal
See what is true or insightful about each perspective. Begin to envision a prison that addresses the problems in a deep, lasting way.
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Perspectives & Resources
Perspectives are short paragraphs summarizing any point of view about the Topic. Explore each View and then vote on it.
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"Prisoners need to be guaranteed safety while they serve their sentences"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


Prisoners need to be guaranteed safety while they serve their sentences

The Prison Rape Elimination Act’s standards - a set of strong federal regulations aimed at ensuring safe ways to report abuse behind bars and improving medical and mental health care in prisons - should be vigorously implemented and enforced. Sexual violence especially should be prevented....

 

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Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on June 20, 2018
 
Visionary
This is a general opinion.
"There should be opportunity for learning, art, music, and spirituality"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


There should be opportunity for learning, art, music, and spirituality

Prisoners can take courses that will prepare them for careers and practical work. There could be drawing classes, wood workshops, cooking classes, music lessons and performances, yoga, etc.

 

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Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on March 14, 2018
 
Visionary
This is a general opinion.
"Prison cells and common areas should be decent places to live"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


Prison cells and common areas should be decent places to live

To ease the psychological burdens of imprisonment, the planners at Halden spent roughly $1 million on paintings, photography and light installations. According to a prison informational pamphlet, this mural by Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk "brings a touch of humor to a rather controlled space." Officials hope the arts – along with creative outlets like drawing classes and wood workshops – will give inmates "a sense of being taken seriously."
Time Magazine

 

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Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on March 14, 2018
 
Visionary
This is a general opinion.
"Health care should be decent"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


Health care should be decent

Norwegian inmates lose their right to freedom but not to state services like health care. Dentists, doctors, nurses and even librarians work in the local municipality, preventing a subpar prison standard from developing. On-site, Halden boasts a small hospital and this state-of-the-art dentist's office. Time Magazine.

 

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Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on March 14, 2018
 
Visionary
This is a general opinion.
"Prisoners should be treated respectfully at all times"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


Prisoners should be treated respectfully at all times

This includes decent living conditions (cell and common areas), healthy food, safety, interaction with guards

 

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Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on March 14, 2018
 
This is the view of the Opinion creator
"Guards should treat prisoners with personal interest and concern"
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Topic: What is a just, decent prison? How can we improve prisons? (Type: Requests)


Guards should treat prisoners with personal interest and concern

Norway's prison guards undergo two years of training at an officers' academy and enjoy an elevated status compared with their peers in the U.S. and Britain. Their official job description says they must motivate the inmate "so that his sentence is as meaningful, enlightening and rehabilitating as possible," so they frequently eat meals and play sports with prisoners. At Halden, half of all guards are female, which its governor believes reduces tension and encourages good behavior." Time Magazine.

 

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(Hide)

Addresses the root issue
Flawed, one-sided, or superficial
 
How to Explore a Perspective
Relax, focus. Take a step back and look at the Perspective from all sides. Now, zero in at the center!
 
What is the Bias?
What assumptions does it make? Whose interests does it serve?

What is your Personal Experience?
How does it make you feel? How do your experiences, privileges, and personal interests affect your understanding of it?
Now, enter the heart
▶ Say something good about what you disagree with, even if there are flaws.
▶ Find causes, not symptoms. Ask what lies at the root.
▶ Have respect for people with different views, insights, and priorities!
 
Opinion added by
Visionary Society
on March 14, 2018
 
Visionary
This is a general opinion.
 
Would you like to add a Perspective or Resource to this Topic? Go to the Topic development page!
 
Recommended Resources (Review before voting)
 
 
Link: Prisoners Jubilee Cuba grants pardons to 787 convicts after pope's clemency call
 
 
Link: Turn Prisons Into Colleges By Elizabeth Hinton, NYT, March 6, 2018
 
 
Text: Norway Builds the World’s Most Humane Prison
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Norway Builds the World’s Most Humane Prison

Learning
notes
Prisoners can take courses that will prepare them for careers as caterers, chefs and waiters.

Books
Drawing classes
Wood workshops
Music
There's also a recording studio with a professional mixing board. In-house music teachers – who refer to the inmates as 'pupils,' never 'prisoners' – works with their charges on piano, guitar, bongos and more. Three members of Halden's security –guard chorus recently competed on Norway's version of American Idol. They hope to produce the prison's first musical – starring inmates – later this year. Time Magazine.

Spirituality
Free time
Security guards organize activities from 8am to 8pm. It's a chance for inmates to pick up a new hobby, but it's also a part of the prison's dynamic security strategy: occupied prisoners are less likely to lash out at guards and one another. Inmates can shoot hoops on this basketball courts, which absorbs falls on impact, and make use of a rock-climbing wall, jogging trails and a soccer field." Time Magazine.

Yoga in prisons
“We were there to celebrate the launch of Freeing the Spirit through Meditation an Yoga, a book recently published by the Prison Phoenix Trust. This remarkable charity brings meditation and yoga to people in prison, claiming that the cell nee not only be a place of incarceration and restriction: it can be a place where the spirit can find freedom, even joy….
The Trust has a small office in Oxford, which is staffed by two full-time and five part-time workers, as well as 20 volunteers. There are also, spread across the country, some 90 yoga teachers who go to the prisons to teach weekly classes in yoga and meditation….” www.prisonphoenixtrust.org



Time Magazine, May 10, 2010
Notes: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html

 
 
Other Resources
 
Text: Criticism of “What We Learned From German Prisons”
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Criticism of “What We Learned From German Prisons”

"I don’t think I’ve actually considered something as naive as this op-ed since Jane Fonda, straddling a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun in 1972."

Before one waxes entranced by the state of German prisons relative to our own, one first should compare the average IQs, levels of education attained, economic class from which the two cohorts of prisoners sprang, and the nature of the crimes they committed.
We seem to be depopulating our most economically disadvantaged communities across America, filling our prisons in part with drug offenders but also with the extremely violent that such environments grow; and a very large percentage of our prisoners are mentally ill, as well. The most we can ask of prison guards is not to abuse them as they risk their lives seeking to control such a desperate and violent population of prisoners.
If we were to focus on this matter for a generation, we might JUST get to the point where we had developed sufficient alternative programs to deal with non-violent drug offenders and other offenders outside of a prison context; but until we moderate the poverty in our poorest communities and dramatically improve the education available there, the notion of petunias, private phones and cons dicing carrots with chefs knives is just too alien to feature.

NYT comment August 7, 2015






Link: What We Learned From German Prisons By NICHOLAS TURNER and JEREMY TRAVIS, NYT, AUG. 6, 2015

Text: Criticism of “Turn Prisons into Colleges”
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Criticism of “Turn Prisons into Colleges”

Dre, NYT comment, March 7, 2018
I've worked part-time as an adjunct in prison college ed programs at 3 different max security prisons on both coasts. I have had many great students & generally support such programs, but I also like facts & context, and some key ones are missing from the article & comments. 
Yes, academics & reformers are fond of quoting statistics like: those who take college courses have recidivism rates about 40% lower than those who don't.
To translate: on average, about 75% of felons released from state prisons return within 5 years. When you reduce that by 40%, that means roughly 45% that took college classes still return. Progress certainly, but there's always more to the story.
In a typical prison, those that actually want to take college classes and have at least a GED make up about 10-20% of the total prison population.
So yes, among those internally motivated to participate and hopefully get a 2 or even 4 year degree, recidivism is lowered by ~ 40% mentioned, and chances for a decent life outside rise significantly.
But one point seldom emphasized is that people change only when they want to, it doesn't matter what you or I want for them, or what programs you offer. They change themselves or they don't, and in my experience on the order of 80% don't want to change.
Lastly, it costs about $100k for 4 years of tuition, books, room & board at a state university. If your law abiding child has to pay her way, why not a repayment plan for inmates. Or perhaps free tuition for all.

Details, California, NYT comment, March 8, 2018
I want to believe you. I really do. 

But - for many, you are mixing cause and effect. Not everyone has the same abilities, not everyone has the same interests - for some sitting still in a classroom is torture. This is why mainstreaming lower performing kids into regular classes all too often hurts BOTH sets of students, by making the lower performing students think less of themselves while distracting the teacher.

Prisons should have education available and encouraged, absolutely. Safe, and non-disruptive ways to allow participation in college is great. I'm a big fan of redemption, rehabilitation, not punishment. And schools in poorer areas need a LOT more investment, they need to be a safe haven where disruptive students, and violent students are kept from the others and still educated. But it's not a panacea, it's not the cause of all crime.

Dre, NYT comment, March 7, 2018


 
 
Conclusion
Ask the impossible question!
What is true and relevant about the varying perspectives? How can begin to build better, more humane, more meaningful prisons?
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