“ONE OF THE MANY LESSONS THAT ONE LEARNS IN PRISON IS, THAT THINGS ARE WHAT THEY ARE AND WILL BE WHAT THEY WILL BE.” – OSCAR WILDE
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to Jessica Hall (2016) a writer of a prison blog from an offender who was serving time in prison. The offender gave permission to share his words publicly.
“I have quite a few Prison experiences that I can share with you and I have witnessed quite a few more. What would you like to know? There is ‘SO MUCH” that goes on behind these walls that the public don’t know about and then there are things the public “DO” know about but just don’t care because we are prisoners many people feel we “deserve” the abuse we receive.”
This excerpt gives a brief overview from an offenders perspective on how much the public may or may not know about the treatment of offenders in prison.
Many people in society may feel that offenders “deserve” the abuse they receive in prison. However, Lucy Ash (2016) from University of Cambridge states in her podcast entitled “Trusting Inmates” that offenders are locked up because they have broken trust. Distrust can be destructive and mental health professionals can use “intelligent trust” to help offenders. Intelligent trust recognizes the offender as a person and makes them feel human. Starting to trust an offender with what they say in treatment and assigning them minimal tasks on the unit is the first challenge. Treating offenders with dignity, respect and trust will help them turn their lives around and make for positive outcomes. Ash speaks of the importance of building trust in the offender so they can take responsibility for their actions and make for better outcomes.
In the article “Treating Prisoners with Dignity can Reduce Crime” Turner and Wetzel (2014) discuss that the belief in European countries is that offenders will eventually return to their communities, so the approach is to make incarceration conditions as “normal” as possible – with the addition of treatment. European countries have adopted a way of creating a more “therapeutic culture” within the prison system. Along with offenders sleeping on real beds, wearing their own clothes, and cooking their own meals they receive positive mental health treatment by professionals within the facility. This implementation of a “therapeutic culture” has led to little or no violence within the correctional facility and minimal reoffenses.
Adopting a therapeutic culture and treating offenders with dignity can perhaps lessen the risk of reoffending upon release. Offenders needs to be held accountable for their actions, yet treated as humans. Clinicians can help further the therapeutic culture by utilizing narrative therapy which allows for the offender to feel human again. The clinician can apply intelligent trust to the group session and allow the offender to be the expert and have control over their narrative. Having the offender feel like an expert and in control, places trust within the offender and the privileged information he chooses to share with the group. Offenders can gain a sense of empowerment and self respect through narrative therapy that can benefit them once they are released and return to the community. Creating an abusive environment for the offenders behind prison walls does not illicit any positive productivity for the offender or the community once the offender is released.