Follow the link to the article that inspired this post:
Dungeons & Dragons in the Department of Corrections
Excerpt: A psychologist named Frode Stenseng at the University of Oslo differentiates between two types of escapism: “self-suppression escapism” and “self-expansion escapism.” The former is an avoidance tactic while the latter actively seeks new skills and strengthens character.
As a person who has studied human behavior and human motivation for quite a few years, the above is an expanded frame of reference for me. It gives a new spin on getting away from it all, at least in these terms.
Excerpt: In the Singer trial, the court ruled that, “punishment is a fundamental aspect of imprisonment, and prisons may choose to punish inmates by preventing them from participating in some of their favorite recreations.”
There is so much ignorance and there are so many misconceptions about prisons, prisoners, and prison life by the uninitiated (defined as someone who has never been to, studied, worked at, or is related to a family member/loved one who has been or is in, prison) that it is easy to either forget about the incarcerated population or to believe what the headlines tell you about them. The first big thing that needs to be known is that most of the incarcerated eventually end up back on the streets. Prison isn’t a vortex that a person gets dropped into, never to be seen again. Question: would you prefer to have a person who has been treated like a human being or like an animal (just for the record, not a pampered pet animal but a factory-farmed or experimental research subject animal) come out and start living next door to you or to a loved one?
Next, statistics show that locking people up does not have a deterrent effect on recidivism; however one benefit of doing it means that the streets are safe while they are. That said, life within walls and behind bars is not considered the streets, and crime does continue within these bounds. Question: how far does your lust for vengeance go when it comes to making a person “pay for” their crimes? Can it be quantified? One embezzlement = 3 rapes a month? An armed robbery = 9 rapes a month? Manufacture and delivery of marijuana = sliced by home-made shanks 4 times a year?
I’ve studied criminal justice for over 20 years and have worked in the field for almost that many. The question of rehabilitation vs. punishment is the ever-debated question with locking someone up. What is vitally important to understand is that your punishment is having your freedom taken away. Period. Half-assed serious crime gets you a decent amount of time locked up. A major crime gets you locked up for a long time. Multiple major crimes and you may never see the outside of the walls again. A person incarcerated who is treated cruelly and inhumanely in any fashion is being punished twice.
The following link will take you to a lengthy piece of Pulitzer Prize- worthy journalism. It’s written by a journalist who went undercover in a prison as a correctional officer. You want insider’s look? Here it is:
My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard
The 8th Amendment prohibits prisoners from being treated with cruel and unusual punishment. The following paper is a very well-reasoned plea that simply placing a person in prison is cruel.
Cruelty, Prison Conditions, and the Eighth Amendment
Let the prisoners play D&D. It is a win from virtually every point of perspective. The prisoners win, the guards win, society may or may not win, but the leaning is towards yes, especially if, when released, some of that socialization and “lawful good” continues in the real world.
Take a moment to see the breakdown on how many are locked up and for what. Ask yourself how many of them really need to be locked up.
My feeling on it is that prisons need only be for violent criminals. If the rest were released, the resources would be available to truly focus on rehabilitation as well as foundational safety and humanity for those behind bars.
Taken from one of my favorite renderings of the Tao Te Ching, “The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu”, rendered by Witter Bynner, Verse 74
Death is no threat to people
Who are not afraid to die;
But even if these offenders feared death all day,
Who should be rash enough to act as executioner?
Nature is executioner.
When man usurps the place,
A carpenter’s apprentice takes the place of the master:
And ‘an apprentice hacking with the master’s axe
May slice his own hand.’