Prisons are meant to do three things. First, they are meant to keep dangerous people out of society. The Hannibals of society can't just be slapped on the wrist to stop them from killing. They need close monitoring and very individualized help. Second, they are meant to punish people to show them that they can't hurt others. Drug users often just need a quick slap on the wrist via a ticket or prison if the ticket cannot be paid in order to learn their lesson. Lastly, they are meant to rehabilitate prisoners back into a harmonious way of life so that they may return to society.
The last one serves the smallest portion of this trio, but when I think about it, rehabilitatin should really be the highest priority. Most prisoners get out of prison and then they will logically become our neighbors. I don't want my neighbors being simply criminals who were put in a box and punished for a while. That'll just make them angry and more likely to rebel again!
Punishment, pilar two, is a precarious topic for me. I believe that any act of force is wrong. A punishment is an act of force. An executioner is a murderer even if he is a legally sanctioned one. With that in mind, it's important to not punish too severely. Not only because the punishment soils the punisher, but because our animal brains fear punishment. I don't want my neighbors too scared of excessive punishment to do anything out of the ordinary. For revolutions require us to be bold.
Being alone is necessary for all of us. As a teacher, I can't tell you how many times the right move is to step back and let the student struggle alone. Sometimes it is to vent frustration, sometimes it is to let them to piece things together on their own, sometimes it is simply to give them a break. Whatever the reason, we need that solitude (rarely more than a few days) to regulate our faculties. For solitude to work though, it requires direction and meditation.
Given these three pillars, the image that comes to my mind is a mother whose two year old is testing her boundaries. The child will pull her hair and literally throw shit across the room because he does not know that these actions are not politically sanctioned. She must punish him gently, yet firmly enough for him to see his error. She will likely separate him from the world of play and put him into a world where all he sees is his actions. He thinks about his actions and sees the error of his ways because mom told him not to and mom knows fuckin' everything. He knows now not to pull hair and throw poop. He doesn't yet know that throwing poop and THEN pulling hair is not ok in this particular room, but he's 2, these things take time, my dear reader.
Now schools seem to have these same three pillars. First, we keep schools separated from the rest of society. Second, they punish students in order to show them the right way to learn. Third, they work towards habilitating students towards being lifelong learners (or a societal slaves). We have every pilar intact. The details on each side mirroring the other. They both have regimented hours of varied activities, serve atrocious foods, are patrolled by wardens, are buried in bureaucracy, are heavily monetized. One fragmentalizes rehabilitation into therapy, psychology, civil service, isolation, rest, activity; one decimates learning into Maths, Languages, Science, History, Art.
Schools and prisons were designed by the same architect. Something is wrong here. When I see the image of the mother disciplining her son, I do not see that image mirrored by our revolving door of a prison system. The structures of our institutions, both physical and in systems designs, are a mirror of our inner heart. Our core, our heart, mirrors that of our faulty prison system. If we can change the heart, change our inner structure to one of oneness, harmony, and sustainability, then our physical form will soon follow into the shape our heart manifests for it.