School and Prison Reform
School and Prison Reform
The "Created Equal" statement in the Declaration of Independence can be interpreted to mean we are each given a mind for knowing and choosing. Obviously we are not of equal intelligence, nor do we have access to equal opportunities. However, we can each learn to understand and appreciate something or someone, and we can each choose to commit to something or someone.
Appreciating and committing to is a good definition of love. Hence our most democratic action is learning to love!!! Sometimes it is as challenging for the genius as it is for the mentally retarded. Frustration is often common to both. Indeed, the meek will inherit the earth.
Reconciliation thru Restitution, not Punishment

(learn to earn)
Our Goal in seeking Restitution is to require that the Convict teach US! how to deal with his crime. He is the expert! He has spent more thought and energy on his plans and techniques than anyone. He is in the best position to consider and propose counter measures, and we are remiss in judgement to turn him back into the Community, capable and willing to out-smart us again!
We can readily understand the importance of this Community Restitution when we consider such felonies as Credit Card Fraud, Identity Theft, and Savings Manipulations. These crimes undermine our confidence in Government and Neighbor, causing us to become cynical and suspicious. Business suffers, public service suffers, and Community spirit disappears.
On the other hand, focusing on Restitution encourages us to take a proactive position on education and skills training. Otherwise the Convict will say he cannot make any form of Restitution because he can't do anything. Certainly he must read and write to teach us his crime!
Now we have a direction, now we have a mission --- to provide our very best Instructors and our very best instruction, on video tape, in Study Cells, for each and every convicted Felon. We provide this service because we know it is the right and just thing to do. Whether or not the Felon agrees is his choice.
The differences are fundamental between Restitution and Punishment. Punishment says, "I hate you", and everyone and everything (Convict, Guards, Citizens) is infected with this hate. Restitution says, "I hate what you did", and here is how WE can reconcile - a very positive element of hope.
Restitution will focus on us, and our preference to do what is right. Our goal is Community survival.
With a focus on Restitution, the Convict is concerned with restoring Himself, his Victim, and his Community. This means getting his life back in order (he has lost his job, his friends, his driver's license, etc.), being able to pay fines and damages, and teaching us how to prevent his crime.
Why is a training mission appropriate in our Prisons? Because a majority of our Felons are young males of poverty background who have dropped out of school. In fact, several studies show a greater than 80% correlation between excessive absences in the 5th Grade and Prison by age 18.
Why are Convicts especially capable of self-training from videotaped instruction? Because, as a group they have the special qualities of independence, self-reliance and confidence. They are clever, shrewd and demanding, and they are exceptionally adept at statistics and probability. Their past efforts and energies have simply been mis-directed.
In fact, I say the Criminal is smarter than I am. I need your help to deal with him. Our Community survival is at stake. We must deal from technical strength, while offering him our best effort to reconcile. Let's NOT let the criminals take away our Country, like we took it away from the Indians! Our responsibility is to strength and vigilance.
The History of Punishment falls into three categories: EXILE - get out of town and become someone else's problem. EXECUTE - torture, maim, kill. And, EXTERMINATE - ghettos, punish whole groups to reach the guilty individuals.
We exile, not knowing how to correct; we execute out of fear and anger; and we exterminate out of helpless frustration or concern for losing power.
Study Cells provide the route to a minimum standard of behavior for us all.
* * * * *
How do we reason toward Restitution? What is the legal-intellectual precedent?
Our Declaration of Independence provides the fundamentals when it states, "All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." This is our argument for the Gifts of Free Will (liberty) and Intellect (pursuit of happiness) that make us a rational animal, above all other animals.
And what do we know about this Creator?
Jews, Christians and Muslims all accept the Scrolls of Moses in the Bible. In chapter 3 of Genesis, after the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the Creator calls to them, "Where are you?" He is not asking behind which bush. He is pleading, as every concerned Parent has experienced, Where are you in OUR relationship???
This shows his loving vulnerability and concern. His creatures have turned the gifts of Intellect and Free Will against him. And yet, "Where are you" shows both respect and a desire for Reconciliation.
How very sad that Adam should reply, "that Woman you gave me made me do it", and for Eve to prefer talking to the serpent. Not unlike the usual prison excuses.
How do we approach the Study Cell philosophically? This is easy, because our best thinking and practice over thousands of years is summarized in our United States Constitution, often called the Civil Bible of Americans. It describes personal responsibility for our actions, and majority rule for our Laws. I can impose any rule on myself, but only majority rules become the Law.
Thus from the historical disaster of punishment, the idealism of Theology, and the practical Philosophy of our Constitution, we find that teaching ourselves and others to learn to love is a fitting Purpose for Life.
The Study Cell is uniquely equipped for this learning to love. Obviously the videotapes cover skills and counseling in a wide variety of choices. But much, much more critical and important is the personal video camera for learning about myself!!! It becomes practical for me to privately record my conversation, and play it back several times. I can meet my real self --- perhaps for the first time! I can begin to understand myself with compassion, like a Mother, and encourage myself to take control, like a Father. These conversations are unique in that I cannot help but be absorbed in the subject matter, the body language, the tone of voice, the sincerity, etc. etc. Much like identical tuning forks or Identical Twins, when one calls the other responds. What I tell myself is taken much more seriously than what I hear from others. This self-reflection, or reflective self-awareness, is a spiritual gift of the soul, making each of us unique, important, and irreplaceable. This is the secret power behind the Study Cell concept. The Constitution says I am responsible for ME, and the camera teaches me who I am and what I want to do with my life.
Our motivation for Early Intervention, Self-Training, and Monitored Work Release follows from three key observations:
1- No one commits murder as his first felony. Criminal behavior is progressive.
2- No one, regardless of mental capacity, puts his hand on a red hot stove.
And,
3- The Criminal is readily identified by his taunting language, "So what! What are you going to do about it?"
Early Intervention requires our responding to excessive 5th Grade Absences. Self-training in the Study Cell is what we are very proud and capable of doing about it. And, Monitoring with a handcuff beeper keeps the Parolee continuously aware of our concern, and our ability to re-arrest.
The immediate Court advantages of a Restitution focus are to remove the burden of deciding minimum sentences, probation, and the Death penalty. Handcuff beepers help enforce no-contact decrees, to curb domestic violence and terrorism.
Individual Study Cells provide skills and stimulate curiosity (the most powerful source of energy), while preventing prison rapes and beatings.
The additional benefits to our Community are food rations and shelters for those temporarily down on their luck, monitors for Hunters and Hikers as well as Alzheimer Patients, and a hopeful retreat for those dealing with depressing mental illness.
And, it makes sense to offer to every Citizen the benefits we provide for Convicts, namely, minimum health care, minimum standards for education and training, and thus equal opportunity to share the American Dream.
How Wonderful!!! Thru our Prisons, we can use our technologies to offer all Citizens of all ages, and of all mental and physical capacities, more and more choices and control over their lives.
Leonard H. Beck lenhbeck@aol.com
March 11, 2002

Contact: lenhbeck@verizon.net

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