Prison Isolation – NASA, the test has been done

A recent headline stated that NASA was going to have six men and women live in isolation for one year in a dome to simulate what they might experience on a test flight to Mars. They will not have ‘fresh’ food and if they venture outside the dome they must wear full spacesuits. The test includes how they will deal with inter-personal conflicts, poor conditions, and boredom.

Then another headline talked about two brothers who were wrongly imprisoned for thirty years before being exonerated on DNA evidence. They are both traumatized, one to the point of being hospitalized for mental hallucinations and severe depression. Both have ptsd. They endured boredom, poor conditions, rape, and no ‘fresh’ food.

I thought, NASA look no further, prisons are filled with people who are subjected to the most inhumane of humanity. There are so many stories to use for NASA’s test…the man who spent 40 years in complete isolation only to be found not guilty by DNA evidence – only to die of liver cancer three days after his release.  NASA, I have solved your psyche test for free!

Many endure, many succumb, I can’t imagine the trauma. And while guilt is conclusive for most, our prison system is a complete failure economically and emotionally. It is not about rehabilitation, it is about punishment. It breeds more crime, greater animosity, greater evil. The adage, ‘if you do the crime, you do the time’, is empty any longer, replaced by pure condemnation.

Go to any prison and ask any inmate what it’s like? How it makes them feel. How it makes them react. How it effects their brain. I don’t think it would cost a dime and NASA would have a plethora of statements to analyze.

We hear of the crime inside prison and try not to listen. We hear of the recidivism rate, and turn the other cheek. For young criminals the recidivism rate is 84%, for the entire population it is 75%. Between 1973 and 2009, the prison and jail population grew by over 700%. Most often newly released prisoners are simply dropped off at a street corner near a city, given a bus pass, the clothes they entered prison with, and a very small stipend. It isn’t like Hollywood where the babe in the convertible is waiting outside and they drive off into the sunset.

And no one wants to hear about it because we think they got what they deserved. These are not the murderers and serial killers who get life, these are the souls who committed theft and or drug offenses. And yes sexual offenders. They return to the streets without any mental treatment, and commit their crime again and again. So we throw them back in to repeat the same story. They have not gotten psychological help, educational or vocational help, and will, of course, do the only thing prison taught them…

Why? Why are prisons not different? Because it is about money. Prisons are a for-profit business and the less you spend, the more money is pocketed. The food is so putrid you wouldn’t feed it to your own dog. There are no windows, a spattering of books for a third grade level of reading, one inch pencils, no rehab, no spiritual leadership, there is nothing to do, the weight rooms don’t exist, carts dispense a comb and hot sauce once a week – for a price, a towel that is about 2’x3′ is never washed, soap is lye, and insanity prevails.

Our system decides that 13 year olds will be tried as adults. That 15 years olds will live with hardened murderers. Drugs are brought inside to quell the absolute nothingness that exists. A life is wasted. How long before the effects take hold? I guess NASA will have that answer.

NASA wants to test the psychological impact of six people living in isolation for a year? These people have something that those in jail don’t, the knowledge that its one year, the knowledge that they can decide earlier to quit, the knowledge that they can leave any time they want. And that knowledge changes the impact completely. Because it gives them hope.