Prison Transformations: THE SYSTEM, THE PRISONERS, AND ME

The Psychological Impact of Incarceration: Implications for Post-Prison Adjustment
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It comes as a surprise to many to learn that, after decades of rapid growth, there are fewer prisons in New York State. Twelve have been closed in the last nine years.

Table of Contents

That has meant that the adult prison population has declined from 71, in December to 55, on February first! However, these are hard facts; this is not the dreamy musings of some idealistic prison reformer. There are many reasons. There is no single cause for this good news. One is the reform of the Rockefeller Drug laws. Though there was no mass exodus as a result, the improved sentencing guidelines have certainly helped.

Transformations Central

Van de Veur, Paul. It was reported that if there is any free room that can be used for learning, the candidate classes of P. They keep scuffling. He details his crime — the intricate stages that led to the culmination of when he took life, of how. At the sometime, however, as alluded to by the UK Ministry of Justice and Heseltine, Sarre and Day , these programs are resource intensive and dependent on significant allocations of space and personnel and a commitment to individualised rehabilitation models.

Equally important are the Family Visits. They visit, cook meals, play games, sleep under the same roof and generally duplicate life as a family on the outside as much as possible. Obviously the sexual dimension is of enormous importance.


I will not disappear the way my father did. It is astonishing that only four other states in the USA have similar family visits! Then a group of four to six officers would come to his cell, beat him badly and leave him locked in. It is an opportunity for supervisory staff to check the attitude of the complaining officer and caution him if it seems he is trigger-happy. There are also Inmate Grievance Committees in which people can bring complaints against staff or conditions. Such committees were unthinkable in Law Libraries now exist in every prison. And there are people inside who help others research material for their cases.

As important as the substance of complaints brought is the benefit of people learning about process, learning that there are two sides to the justice system, that they are not without recourse. There are three different anger management programs in prison, all essentially the same, but with quite different approaches. Beyond the numbers directly enrolled in their classes, they have changed the lives of many, even illiterate prisoners, facing long sentences who have decided that they have enough time to get a GED and go all the way to college.

And they have done so! Sometimes a man tears up with emotion as he talks.

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The others listen, offering nods of support or asking clarifying questions. Restorative justice models have come about because of a growing recognition that the criminal justice system is warehousing large numbers of people—disproportionately, African Americans, Hispanics, and the poor—and tearing apart communities while failing to make them safer.

Transformation of New York State Prisons

The program aims to help incarcerated men learn new emotional skills and correct problem behaviors in order to succeed in and out of prison. IPP offers a multipronged approach to personal transformation, including classes in violence prevention, yoga, and mindfulness. It can also help the survivors. IPP now operates in 12 state prisons, one federal prison, three county jails, several reentry facilities, and one juvenile institution—and the demand is growing.

Robert Frye is a graduate of IPP who was recently released from San Quentin after serving 26 years of a 25 years-to-life sentence for an armed robbery that resulted in a homicide by his codefendant. The men also shared information about their crimes, answered questions for victims if they could, and tried to explain why they did what they did. For Frye, this was probably the most powerful part of the program. After going through the IPP program, Frye trained to be a facilitator himself and led several groups at San Quentin before being released. Initial research on restorative justice programs like VOEG, in which perpetrators are willing to participate, show that the programs are effective at both reducing recidivism and increasing victim satisfaction with the justice process.

Victim satisfaction with the handling of their cases was also uniformly positive. The effectiveness of IPP specifically, though, is hard to evaluate directly for a number of reasons. One is that it is composed of many different sub-programs, which Frye argues is necessary given that different prisoners respond to different aspects of the program.

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Still, an unpublished pilot study with juvenile offenders at the detention center Camp Sweeney found that those who went through the IPP program had significant decreases in anger and increased pro-social self-appraisal after completing the program. For example, a large-scale study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, involving over 17, people followed over several years, found that children who experience traumas like physical or sexual abuse, or who live in a home where a parent is being battered, experience many adverse consequences, including a higher risk of future substance abuse and an increased tendency toward violence.

Neuroscience research supports her contention.

Shah says that much of what the VOEG facilitators do in their program is to connect the dots for prisoners. She wants them to understand how their own early victimization may have led to problems with emotional processing that likely played a role in their substance abuse and criminal behavior.


Billie Mizell, the director of IPP, has seen this cycle firsthand. She found that people convicted of violent crimes had uniformly been victims of abuse and neglect themselves, often from multiple sources.

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Learn about restorative justice in San Francisco schools. Discover the healthy way to forgive yourself. Explore why evolution made forgiveness difficult. But I had it all wrong. Instead, she saw how the prisoners were victims, too, and that many felt remorse for their crimes. Although she has not come face to face with him, she has been able to tell her story of loss to other prisoners, and she feels that participating in VOEG is helping to end the cycle of violence by preparing prisoners to be better citizens—either within prison or out in the world when they are eventually released.

While not all victims may find healing through dialoguing with offenders, and the goal is not necessarily forgiveness, many victims find it more satisfying than traditional forms of justice.