Incarceration of the Future
Re-imagining a functional justice system
2.3 million people in the USA are currently incarcerated in prisons, jails, and other institutions according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
Nearly 1% of the entire US population is behind bars and most of those people will re-enter our community.
How we can strategically reduce this number and return people who participate and maintain a civil society?
I started leading yoga classes in jails and juvenile halls in 2017, shadowing other instructors and eventually leading classes of my own with other volunteers accompanying me.
That word "yoga" has been thrown around, but for my class, it's movement, breathing, and being aware of how we are experiencing the present moment.
The energy inside a jail is negative in my experience. Shame, regret, frustration and denial persist. People scream for seemingly no reason. It's obvious how much of a mental health crisis exists in America.
In my experience, yoga offers short respite from that negative energy. For guys who decide to practice, we literally transform the energy for a short time, shining a light in the darkness.
The feedback I get from the guys is positive. They say that they sleep better on yoga days and they feel calm and relaxed after the class.
Exploring a Re-imagined Justice System
So, should we re-imagine a functional justice system? Think of the costs. The first cost to consider is the emotional, spiritual, physical and mental strain of the people involved in a crime and those ripple effects. Just based on this, I’d say yes.
Then, consider the monetary costs of incarcerating 1% of the US population. Infrastructure, staff, logistics. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, it costs about $35K per year on average (though it varies by state) to house a prisoner. We are spending billions of dollars per year to keep people locked up in America.
As a community, how should we support those who have been found guilty of committing crimes? Unless the crime was extremely heinous, there's a good chance that person will become our neighbor and community member upon release.
As the old saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." Some people will not take ownership for their personal development no matter what opportunities you present to them.
Others will. Others will take it seriously, develop, and contribute to a civil society.
Web3 and Incarceration
Even though an incarcerated person is forced into a physical environment in a nation-state, one has the ability to contribute to a network state if given the proper opportunity.
There are many ways to help build a network state in the Web3 environment.
Do we have a curriculum to help incarcerated people build the skills they need to be civil and participatory when they return?
I think a gradual curriculum starting with basic personal development and leading up to computer science and artistic expression could be a good model. This could start with classes on mindfulness, recognizing emotions in yourself and others, team collaboration, personal finance, physical education, and communication.
Once the basics are covered and comprehended, the curriculum expands to prepare the individual for contribution - computer science, leadership, artistic expression.
Good behavior? Early release. Can we expand on the gamification of prison sentencing? What if someone takes extreme ownership over their actions, learns to code, builds a useful piece of technology, and now for the first time in one's life have a clear focus for their energy? Should we consider a sentence reduction for cases like this?
We have an untapped talent pool sitting in cells in the US. Let's consider how we can use technology to reform justice and rehabilitation in the USA and beyond.