A new prison has been constructed in Canberra, Australia that is built upon the principals of restorative justice.  The Alexander Maconochie Centre is an attempt to truly rehabiliate incarcerated people.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide has produced an insightful story about the new prison, which Austrailian corrections Minister John Hargreaves says was designed in a restorative manner because:  “We want people to realise that the facility is here to help them change their behaviour, to change their ways and become valued members of society.”

Carlos from the U.S. wrote a comment to the story about the new prison, which is typical of many concerning the harsh treatment of people in prison.  He says that the prison is like a five star hotel and basically that incarcerated people should be treated badly because they have treated others badly!

My comments to Carlos are:

Carlos I’m sorry but you have been getting ripped off if your five star hotel experiences have only been like this new prison!  Unlike you I think Hargreaves should be applauded.  I work in prisons and at one time defended Hawai’i’s State prison system in lawsuits.  I have also visited prisons in many different countries.  90% of American prisoners return to our communities after imprisonment.  Right now most U.S. prisons are creating more dangerous criminals.  Please read The Lucifer Effect by Phil Zimbardo and  Dreams from the Monster Factory by Sunny Schwartz.  If we want to rehabilitate people we need to begin by treating them how we expect them to treat others.  It’s time we tried being humane like this new prison is trying, and see if we can turn out some humane people instead of people who are over 70% likely to be right back in prison a few years after their release.  We need safe communities and we need government to spend public funds on eduction, health, etc., and not on creating criminals with inhumane prisons.

Treating imprisoned people humanely does not mean we condone bad behavior.  It means we want safe communities and we want humane community members.  What is it going to take for policy makers and the public to understand this simple reasoning?