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Ben McLeish - Prison, Punishment & Profit - Z-Day 2012

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Before that I'd spent the last year researching prison systems and general entities, so I thought I'd take you on a journey through what I've found. At the end I would like you to celebrate with me the fact that I can now leave this disgusting, horrible, painful, dangerous system behind me; and we'll all go out and have a drink and celebrate the fact that we, ourselves, actually can leave it behind unlike some. Fyodor Dostoevsky once said that one can measure the degree of civilization in society by entering its prisons. While this may be true, I think that in all senses we see prison as separate from society, parallel to society, not a product of that society but a neighbouring entity. This is partly a product of the nature of the modern imprisonment paradigm: a delineation of walls, barricades, halted access in circumscription of its structures, its necessary opaque methods of administration. The anatomy of a prison system comes into existence or is defined by its separation from its surroundings; it's cut off from the external. At the same time, these institutions we wish to understand and the system as a totality, house what is seen by the general public as an alternative population, a branch of humanity that has transgressed whatever that society has placed into the paradigm of legal activity. This perception aids us in divorcing the prison system and the whole concept of the imprisonment system from our daily lives too. Few problematic consequences arise, I think, from this. First off, it has become very hard to criticize the prison system. You are less likely to see the root causes and consequences of social issues and the effect of social pressures on the people who ultimately become inmates in the prison system if you don't see the prison system as a product of a certain kind of society. It's not independently involved, and yet we quietly slip into the habit of this impression. More specifically, and as I want to argue, all attempts at social criticism of the method of imprisonment need to flow from an understanding of the historical precedence that came to produce the prison. This is rarely done academically and never in mainstream media. This notion of separation also allows for the methods of the prison system to be transferred to a general society whilst maintaining a certain doublethink that these methods are not being used. Ever-increasing and ever-powerful surveillance is quite an embedded part of life now, and yet it goes unnoticed by many because we are 'outside the prison', therefore we must be free. Comparisons of the school system with a prison are met with a priori cynicism and are mostly made half jokingly by students who are only quietly aware that the school system much more closely resembles the coercive organization of prison than people would comfortably admit. But, the reinforcer is there: You are not in a prison, you are outside; and even though you may be in another social institution, the logic and methods of the prison system in your life are made to appear non-overlapping. You should be thankful that you are not in prison. This is a powerful enforcer against critical engagement with prison as well. The 3rd and final effect of dividing up prison and society I want to dwell on concerns the reform movement towards prison. While it may seem an odd thing to say, the debate against prisons' various failings or successes is automatically framed as an argument for increasing its abilities. The demand for reform, improvements, inspections, accountability are all impulses of the same core values that gave birth to the prison itself. Thus we easily slip into solving the problems of prisons with a debate framed within the assumptions of creating more imprisonment, in a sense that the attributes of surveillance, structured administration and the demand for improvement and tracking of a subject that we see in the prison are all reasserted on the prison itself, magnifying it more. Let's give prison the context we need in order to understand it. What came before the practice of the prison? What happened to people caught in transgressions of the law in pre-carceral days? What were the development pressures of imprisonment, and how have they continued up to the present day? What does it actually mean, in social terms, to be living in a society that makes use of a prison system? In his book 'Discipline and Punish | The birth of the Prison' Michel Foucault recalls a famous case of public execution in 1757 of a regicide named Robert-François Damiens. On the 1st of March, 1757, Damiens the regicide was condemned to make the 'Amende Honorable' before the main door of the church of Paris, where he was to be taken and conveyed in a cart wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds. Then, in said cart, to the place de Grève where on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and cleaved with red-hot pincers, his right hand holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur; and on those places where the flesh will be torn away poured molten-lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together, and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses, and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and the ashes thrown to the wind. The account covers in detail the final moments of this goring. Then the executioner, his sleeves rolled up, took the steel pincers which had been especially made for the occasion and were about a foot-and-a-half long, pulled first the calf of the right leg, then of the thigh, and from there, the two fleshy parts of the right arm, then, at the breasts. Though a strong, sturdy fellow, the executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so; and what he took away formed at each part a wound about the size of a 6-pound crown piece. Stories like the one of Damiens are extremely common for this time period and for the hundreds to thousands of years before it. Indeed, in the pre-modern era we often find stories of the beheaded, treasonous characters from history having their heads placed on London Bridge's entrance. The stories of Henry VIII, his misadventures towards his wives, the methods by which Guy Fawkes was placed on the rack and then ultimately hanged: These are common to our historical understandings. I think it is with seemingly great relief that many parts of the world have now abandoned public torture and execution. On the face of it, this has been a humane move, informed by design, not to see wanton, visceral bloodshed performed by the State on its own people in those societies that have abandoned either the death penalty or any other overt public torture or execution. However, before we move away from staged state violence, the following points need to be made which help us understand this transition. Public executions are just that: public. As a spectacle, the event consists of a singular criminal or defined set of criminals usually raised on a stage for better viewing, surrounded by gazes of the onlookers. In fact, there are historical precedence of crowds of expectant onlookers rioting because a certain execution was held in private or organized with limited or obstructed viewing. Such was the expectation of the public to have a visible event. Events were also explicitly ordered for and performed by agents of the state. The hanged man is not an aggressor so much as the showman for the crowd and an employee of the state. As is particularly the case with treason, the crimes that have been committed are seen as against the monarch or the head of state. The violence retribution that takes place is at once the expunging of the crime, often symbolically as with Damiens whose hand held the knife with which the attempted murder of the king was made. It's also a reassertion of the power of the monarch or state head, which has been undermined by the transgression of one of the laws that the monarch has made, and which defines the power to which the serfs are indeed subject. The sovereign's power is acted out physically on the subjects and the gaze of the onlookers at once empowers the event as theatrical, noteworthy and central, whilst one would think also forming a strong negative reinforcement to the witnesses. This is what happens if you disobey the laws of the land. To move away from this kind of punishment to an organization of corrective institutionalization and surveillance is often considered as one driven by the enlightenment or a new set of human-based values and understandings towards human behaviour or the nature of what we call 'evil'. It is seen predominantly as the melioration of the viciousness of the punitive mechanisms of the social order, a more humane form of interaction between society and the criminal individual. Indeed, the move from torture to punishment and imprisonment as the main corrective function occurred in Europe in under 80 years, making it a very speedy and almost sudden move in the force of punishment. It demonstrates that large changes in the social organization can happen, but in this case the move was not driven predominantly by these values at all, but by something else. The morphing of societal methods of treating transgressions occurred in tandem with the development of an economy more closely founded on the ideas of private property and ownership. A reorganization of power occurred that relocated the point of application of power from the body whose physicality was tied up in a more agricultural and labour-based economy to what people often term as 'the soul' or the more inner light of the delinquent products of that society. Theft and other property-related crimes belong to the physical, but once more ideological crimes come into play, like an up-tick in the amount of fraud that occurs as a market-based economy and a monetary paradigm begin to dominate, the more the power becomes effective if it is relocated to the behavioural rather than the physical side of the human being. Consequently, we see the following: The gallows are largely replaced by handcuffs, and the public spectacle that was overt, punitive violence and state termination of bodies has now been replaced by an inverted spectacle that is worth noting. Where once the lone criminal was gazed upon by a multitude, by and by the institutional form of correction has inverted this model into the modern recognizable prison organization: a multitude of prisoners, all confined, separated, a crowd of individuals rather than a throng surrounding a central, all-seeing tower which allows constant supervision of the inmates, but whose watching eye is itself not identifiable. It is unseen, invisible. Indeed, as Foucault himself put it: "Visibility is a trap." This then was the invention of the 'Panopticon' by a cheerful chap called Jeremy Bentham (there he is), a structured excluding building that would house always-visible criminals; and although the Panopticon is most famous for its central tower and often round nature of the buildings, actually over time surveillance has become digital, and as such the ever-present centre can now be aided by CCTV and similar measures rather than the need for direct line of sight. So, even though today's prisons look rather different to this model of operation, we can see how surveillance is the thing that has most empowered itself in our punitive measures; and we can also see that those measures are totalising, born of a central tower, now morphed into a hi-tech control room. No longer are the crowd watching the criminal. A crowd of criminals is now being watched, isolated independently by cells and the larger layout of the prison; and yet made uniform by literally, uniforms, shared rules and statuses. They can be both entirely separated from the world in solitary confinement, and yet have every move and behaviour inspected and supervised. In fact, the word 'super-vision' has its roots in literally overseeing; those two meanings of regulating an event as well as having complete views of it are preserved in the modern phrase. Such a system is always defended (especially by politicians) as something that works in reducing crime and making society safer. Indeed, the inbuilt, psychological effect of locking up human delinquents is to bestow an ill-conceived feeling of being protected from them, and indeed this feeling of needing protection itself becomes an engine for the maintaining of such a system of punitive function. Incarceration is also broadly characterized in two ways which maintain its persistence as an accepted function in society. One is the negative reinforcement: People believe that peoples' experience of prison, of being deprived of liberty, should correct that behaviour so that upon their release they will integrate with that society, or others exclaim "Some are just so bad that you should just lock 'em up and throw away the key!" This view essentially chooses to see the prison system as a permanent container for the permanently dangerous. It is maintained in the pro-imprisonment rhetoric that prisons ought to be pacifying the criminals, to be normalizing them so they can be potentially released in most cases. This, of course, presupposes that they be non-violent enough to be trusted with freedom. One of foundations of being able to coexist with the wide population is the curbing of violent behaviour towards the self and others; such an impulse and tendency should be implicitly generated by a system that is built to be the normalizer of human beings for social coexistence. Yet, I want to impress upon you the following: The prison system, its structure, its foundational ideology of punishment through negative reinforcement, its governing legal mechanisms, and its criminal, administrative and interpersonal hierarchies are implicitly those that instill, promote, require, enable and affect violence. It is no longer the priority of the prison, nor was it likely ever the main priority to sustainably and correctly adjust human beings to a society in a cooperative manner; and even if it were, the main, actual effect of prison is in large part the worsening of human social integrity. I'll break this down into the following subheadings: 1) Prison's meta-social effects This is the evidence of prison's negative effect upon all inhabitants including the guards, whether they are criminals or not (that's a key point that I'll explain in a moment). 2) Decisions and governing methods The methods by which decisions are arrived at within the correctional body; that body, including the legal system, the courts and their associated costs, the rehabilitative organizations that work in tandem with the prison during the release and transition of prisoners back home, and the hardware, nutrition, buildings, telephony and everything else. This sounds distant from the topic at hand, but you'll see shortly that all of these considerations lie at the heart of what correction actually means, how we run it, and in what direction. What are we building in there? 1) Prison's meta-social effects James Gilligan, head of the Harvard University Department for the Study of Violence, spent decades working in prisons. He has stated amongst many others than prisons are, in fact, engines of violence which can turn non-violent criminals into violent ones right in time for their release. Several factors play into this effect, one key element being the implicit shame and debasement of becoming subjected to overt coercion. Playing into this for some prisoners is the social stigma of being a criminal: You are opposed to the social structure as an individual. Indeed, the ordered and structured communal nature of prisons establishes a powerful educational environment for criminals: a school of crime, which spits out shamed, deprived and dangerous individuals into a society that understands neither them nor the institutions from which they emerge. Equally, those sent to prison leave on the outside families that are more greatly impoverished by the loss of a breadwinner, thus there is the built in downgrading of social cohesion at the very point of which the system of punishment meets society. Further crime and the psychosocial effects of the shame of an imprisoned family member greatly distort an already very likely problematic and stressful background of that same family. Of course, we abhor violence precisely because it generates more violence, but closing off many violent people within a confined space produces violent effects. To quote Gilligan from 'Psychiatric Quarterly' describing the Massachusetts' prison system: "By the 1970s, the Massachusetts' prison had degenerated into a virtual war zone. In addition to riots within the maximum security prison alone, there were periods in which there was an average of a murder a month and one suicide every six weeks in a 600-man prison. The decade as a whole ended with a total of more than 100 violent deaths in one prison alone, and throughout the prison system as a whole, there was an epidemic of riots, arson, hostage taking, murder followed by suicide and other violence in which inmates, prison staff and even visitors were being killed, raped and injured. The federal court investigation that followed determined that much of this violence was precipitated by untreated, undiagnosed mental illness. Much of it was itself precipitated or at least exacerbated by conditions within the prison." Gilligan, who found himself placed in charge of this chaos, instigated over 10 years of psychological treatment and therapies that encouraged and nurtured self-respect through positive reinforcement. It was a value shift in the approach of rehabilitation. He reported "During the first 5 years of our program there were no riots at any prison, though there were two serious hostage-taking incidents both of which we were able to resolve without any deaths. No staff members or visitors were killed, though 7 inmates throughout the prison system as a whole died from homicide or suicide. During the second five years there were no riots, no hostage taking, one homicide and two suicides. That is, there were some entire years with no violent deaths." Gilligan's project was unfortunately unraveled after 10 years with the refocusing of the new governor on reintroducing prisoners to the joys of busting rocks. We see the system resetting down to its origins with a greater focus on structural violence regardless of provable outcome, but for this assertion to be valid, that the prison system is itself inherently a nurturer of violence, one would have to see non-violent people turn violent in a prison, for one; but most helpful would be to see that the encouragement of violence might also manifest in a controlled scenario with non-criminals. For the first point, that non-violent people may become violent, the US prison population is now at some two million people in strength. This population quadrupled in the 1980s fueled by the war on drugs' mandatory minimum sentencing, which prolongs sentences on average to a preset term or longer, and by 'truth-in sentencing' which more or less eliminates the ability for rewarding better behaviour with parole or similar programs. The 'three strikes' law also ensured that repeat offenders for crimes including drug-related crimes (non-violent ones) would see a quicker jail time now, as well as they'd be in for longer. Around half of US convicts are in [prison] for non-violent offences (around 20% drug offences); but as James Gilligan reminds us, most prisons do more to stimulate violence and crime than they do to prevent it. Prisons have often been termed 'Schools of Crime'; I'd call them 'Graduate Schools of Crime'. People often have to become violent in order to survive in them; or even if they're not attacked by others, they are subjected to conditions of degradation, humiliation, intimidation and threats that I think might drive the most saintliest of people to become more violent in response. But, what if there's no criminals in prison but simply ordinary people? Does the problem of violence disappear? The theory that prison precipitates violence would predict that ordinary people should become distorted by the institution. Thankfully, this has been tested and proven valid, most notably by Dr. Philip Zimbardo and his Stanford Prison Experiment. Making use of a disused cellar wing of [a] Stanford University building, he and some colleagues constructed a rudimentary cell block with locks on the door and secret audio surveillance so that inmates could be monitored for their reactions to the environment and other inmates. An ad was placed in the paper asking for paid volunteers to take part in a 7-14 day experiment at $15 per day. Those chosen for the experiment were picked for their mental stability: non-aggressive and non-dominant characteristics. 24 local males in all were randomly assigned to be either prisoners or guards. Prisoners were stripped of their name and given a number. They were given hairnets and other ways of shaming them, and they were deloused. There wasn't real delousing powder; in fact, that whole delousing process is mostly to shame them on the way in. The rules stated: A guard's orders must be obeyed; timetables must be kept; house rules were enforced and learnt by rote for public recitation, either in order or in part. The resulting outcome of this was a practical 'reign of terror' by the guards who began with tiresome and deliberately tedious exercises such as reciting their prisoner numbers backwards, forwards, in reverse, etc. But, as these mentally stable, ordinary boys slipped further into their roles as domineering or the domineered, more cruel results became apparent. Clashes between inmates and guards, hunger strikes, disobedience, destruction of prison property and inter-prisoner unrest soon gave rise to essentially forms of torture, cruelty, sleep deprivation and more. One inmate folded after two days of subjection and was replaced. All forgot it was an experiment. One of the rules even stated that it would not be referred to as such. Even Zimbardo (as a fictional prison superintendent) ended up seeking snitches, convincing upset prisoners to stay on and subject themselves further, etc. The experiment collapsed after five days, and does it remind you of anywhere? Google thinks so: It says Abu Ghraib. Hand-in-hand with Zimbardo's experiment comes the direct association with Stanley Milgram, whom we've had mentioned today; and indeed Milgram and Zimbardo were at one time high school friends. Milgram's experiment showed that over 90% of people who were placed in the experiment would apply what they believed to be mortally dangerous electric shocks to unseen victims, when commanded to do so by a white-coat-uniformed head of the experiment. Zimbardo shows us that ordinary people within a prison structure can produce tension and violence. Depersonalization runs right through the whole schema of command, and coercion, and power administration within a structure. We turn the ordinary into exactly the kind of distorted creature by treating them in a distorted way. Milgram, on the other hand, shows us how people can be led to punish others. As such, we have to decode the behaviour of the brutal prison guards, not as one of corruption of the prison methodology, but in fact another symptom of its effect on human beings regardless on which side of the law they stand on. Part ll: Decisions and Governance What steps are we taking to adapt prison? What are we adapting it towards? What governs the development of prison now? Many would contend that it would still be the eradication of criminal behaviour or the paying of a social debt in some way. Since my claim is that the culture is what births the prison, we should also be able to predict the following: A culture in society rooted to a great extent in the profit mechanism should see its prison system reflect this tendency of profit before every other consideration, i.e., collusion, fraud, and so on, in a similar manner. So, it comes as no surprise that we do find the evolution of privately-run prison as a powerful dominant force in the system of correction today. American entities Wackenhut and CCA (the Correction Corporation of America) and their international subsidiaries in Australia and elsewhere are now prominent, but much well less known than one would think, sold into society as 'cheaper alternatives' than state-run institutions, but being more 'efficient' because of corporate backing. CCA, for example, is now at the point where an offer is on the table to run the entire correctional apparatus in the 48 states of the United States. A key element of the offer is the promised occupancy rate of at least 90%. In other words, we are now measuring the success of the prison system by economic indicators that run counter to the welfare of the inmates and the wider population. It is now valued by its larger size rather than its smaller size. It is valued by the money it saves, not the lives it saves. The maintenance of at least a stable prison population and at best a growing prison population has become built into the welfare of thousands of satellite industries. Two million prisoners eat six million meals a day, meaning literally a captive audience for catering services. The telephony company Sprint has made large contracts with prisons to provide communication services. Inmates get sick, allowing for private health companies to thrive servicing the population. Wackenhut and CCA trade their stock on Wall Street based on the size of the prisoner population, the larger the better for the economy. Now, I already mentioned the 3 US laws: the Three Strikes Law, Truth in Sentencing, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing, all of which have an effect on prison population. It's interesting to note that these laws and many like them are actually drafted by an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (amusingly ALEC, for short). Hundreds of state laws are passed each year under the banner of being the 'Unsung Heroes' of American public policy. ALEC states that its agenda is to: promote free markets, small governments, state rights and privatization. During these closed meetings, hundreds of delegates from the prison industrial complex like Wackenhut pay large dues to sit at the table together and eek-out pre-written templates for state laws, that are then brought back by the state reps to their own states, where they're then dressed up and passed as the conclusions of that state representative instead of the corporation gaining off their passage into law. Do you now see why I don't trust the idea of government? It's built in! [Applause] Truth in Sentencing and widely spread Mandatory Minimum Sentencing and the Three Strikes Law have all been promoted heavily into acceptance by ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force, which included CCA (which now claim as of last year to have left ALEC), and others in a bid to insure a growing and robust prison population which in turn insures the viability of the private prison enterprises involved. Further (it gets better), forced labour, either for a pittance or no pay at all, means that companies now regularly use prison labour to produce the products more cheaply in order to sell at a higher cost (or greater profit) to the non-imprisoned population. There's only a mild difference there, isn't there? This is more economically efficient if profit is your guiding light, not if we're talking about the viability of prison as a tool for social rehabilitation. This should be termed what it is, Ladies and Gentlemen: Slavery 2.0! It is the wholesale refocusing of the measure of success of this system into economic indicators that are based on deprivation, restricted access and control in the first place. It has spread to corporate prisons in the UK, Australia and beyond. If prison is a microcosm of the society as James Gilligan has stated in his book 'Preventing Violence' and which Dostoyevski essentially alludes to in my opening quotation of him, then we can expect this to magnify as our paradigm becomes more predatory and as the dominant for-profit forces seek to own and deflect media attention and influence policy as we have come to expect from every other avenue which has been taken, and profitized, and commodified, and altered into a machine for economic viability instead of viability. [Applause] What's the alternative then? About two years ago I was speaking with a cab driver (as I'm wont to do) about the Utah man sentenced to death, who chose to be killed by firing squad, in 2010! Now, seguewaying into punishment and its effects, I suggested that the violence of the penal system encourages the violence of more crime, more social division, more social ills. The cab driver replied: "What do you want to do then, give 'em all a medal?" This dualistic vision of reward and punishment, is quite easy to fall into, but we are trying to solve the problem of crime, not ignore it or celebrate it. Solve it, not manage it within a power framework that perpetuates the violence that gave birth to the criminal behaviour in the first place and foster a society that less provokes crime and violence to begin with, not simply extend the prison bandage further. As the work of James Gilligan, Wilkinson and Pickett in the book 'The Spirit Level' and the work of many others now makes it clear: to mistreat a human being, to deprive, limit and shame a human being is a sure-fire way of developing more aberrant and violent behaviour. Shake a glass jar with ants in it and they will fight. Shake it as a punishment, they'll just fight some more, ad infinitum. So, I took up the cab driver's challenge and looked for alternative prisons or other approaches. I didn't have to look too far. Nestled in the mountains of Styria in Austria, in the little mining town of Leoben, lies a prison so unrecognisable that it actually made viral email rounds in 2008. Comments to the effect of: "Perhaps I should go and commit some crimes so I can get into this holiday camp!" were rife in the description and even ended up echoed under the byline of a New York times article that described the prison and talked to the architect. So, I thought I'd go and have a look at this place and ask the prison warden what his thoughts on the feasibility, function and the role of prison were. So, Ladies and Gentleman, I went to prison, (which I'm sure you're pleased about.) Magister Manfred Giessauf and the Chief Guard both gave two generous hours of their time, allowed me to record our interview and even showed me around the prison! It features a library, built-in artworks into the wall-space that were designed to be added to by prisoners, exercise rooms and outdoor areas which allow prisoners to become used to seeing distance; that's something you don't get, and people forget. We take distance for granted. The whole edifice is glass structured to deliberately allow light in. Consequently the prisoners, not shrouded in darkness, have at least some chance to feel that they're in an institution that is designed for rehabilitation. Consequent to the design, the courses on social reintegration offer to prisoners the basic foundation of the prison's modus operandi. Prisoner violence is much lower, as are the statistics on absenteeism for prison guards; it's about a quarter of what absenteeism is for guards in normal prisons, so they're also not suffering. The basic tenet of this prison is literally unavoidable, sandblasted onto the wall, it states: "Jeder, dem seine Freiheit entzogen ist, muss menschlich und mit Achtung vor dem Menschen innewohnenden Würde behandelt werden", "All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." That comes from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [Applause] Yeah, give them a round of applause! (They're lovely people. They didn't even question what I was asking them for.) Leoben Correctional Center's budget was about €50 million. It was completed in 2007, and had been commissioned through an architectural contest, actually. "But for €50 million," I asked, "why not just build more prisons or save money and build a cheaper prison? After all, isn't being economical to do with saving money, cheapening processes, cutting services, trimming the fat?" The answer came: "It all depends on if you count in the social cost to the social economy. You can always build cheaper prisons. You may well build a prison whose edifice is cheaper; but if you run a prison like the American Supermax Prisons, you build human time bombs. They are released at some point too, and who knows what the social costs are of such an act. At the very least, we cannot release prisoners who are worse than they were when we received them." I'll admit that Leoben is not a complete test case for prison reform or alteration. There are no 'lifers' in this system, and highly violent criminals are not sent there. Ironically, most of the criminals are there for monetary crimes, crimes which will most likely be repeated once they're on the outside since they're not likely to receive good job prospects and most likely have large debts for which they went to prison to begin with. It may be a gilded cage, but it is still a cage, and still limited in its use and abilities by the overall functioning or indeed the dysfunction of the society that ends up populating its buildings. It is still a bandage, but a bandage we can learn from, whose values come from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: the rights of human beings, therefore, being the starting point from which to work and not profit or cheapness or anything so absurdly slavish as the US, UK or Australia's private prison enterprises. As a species, we have to understand that the desire to see others imprisoned is simply the same violence that we see in crime. The punishment we inflict on prisoners is the same violence we claim to be condemning by acting in that way. Above all, it needs to be realized that prison isn't there to solve any problems. It's another outgrowth of violence and systematized power and control. To solve crime, to live in a non-violent society is to live in a society in which prisons are eradicated. We concentrate our efforts on the positive therapies that prevent violence, and at the same time strive for a society that prevents violence from the outset. To do so is to solve the prison issue. [Applause] To base a physical institution on human rights is to seek the physical modification of that edifice in line with human needs: sunlight, space, social interaction; to base it on function rather than form requires the ignoring of the balance sheet in favour of the successful function of the system upon human beings and not the bottom line of some corporation that benefits some small section of society's populace that happen to be working for them at that time. Of course, it's not their fault, is it? The whole point of this is that they're also prisoners of the debt system which is then used and systematized and creates the prison system. Above all, to solve the problem of crime is not to build more prisons like is continually said on those Question Time things, any more than the solution to a disease is to spend more time in a hospital building, rather than treat the illness that is debilitating, obstructing and undermining the body. The solution to disease is the eradication or healing of its non-functioning elements. The solution to the disease of crime and the illness of society is a ground-up reorientation of social function to halt the consequences of social malfunction, or what we call crime. Until then, we change nothing until we change ourselves and what we value; and we make it known. Currently, we service problems as cheaply and as forcefully as possible. As such, prison is a cheap service of a problem not a correct fix to our issues of crime. Broadly speaking, prison is the social distillation of our attitudes to the human mind and the individual. One day, if our cultural assumptions and economic principles grow to a solution-oriented scenario with respect to social cohesion and true sustainability, our future population will look back at our era with arguably more horror than we now look back on the prior societies of torture and brute violence like we did at the beginning of this presentation, for we had the scientific understandings of what works and we did not act upon them. I want you to feel the gaze of future humanity looking back onto our era now, looking back onto when you were alive. Place yourself in the future and look now, backwards, with the horror they will feel. Until we become the groundwork for that future population, they will not stop looking at us in horror, disbelief and with regret and pathos, for they will understand us better than we understand ourselves and our prisoners now. For them, indeed, we are all prisoners. Now, thank you very much, I'd like to thank all the speakers who spoke here today. [Applause] They do it for free! They do it because it's fun. I'd like to thank all of you for having come along. It's very kind of you; it is not taken for granted, ever. We are going to go down the road to a pub! Please join us. It's only about 300 yards away on the other side of the road; it's on a corner. Sorry, I've forgotten the name of it. We'll be there all night, drinking and answering questions and asking you questions, as well. Thank you again. [Applause] Thank you, Ben.

Video Details

Duration: 38 minutes and 5 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: TZM London
Director: TZM London
Views: 271
Posted by: ltiofficial on May 13, 2012

In this London Z-Day lecture, the modern incarnation of the prison system is evaluated at its root value set, and core functions.

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