Prison populations are a huge problem throughout the world. Prisons are expensive to run and can turn into “How to be a better criminal 101,” yet some of those who are incarcerated are among the most evil and vicious people of our societies. Do we try and rehabilitate inmates or punish them? With overcrowding it doesn’t make sense to keep more and more people in prison for longer and longer jail sentences. Money should be spent to teach the inmates to find a legal way of living outside the prison walls. The easiest way to encourage inmates is by offering to reduce their sentences if they better themselves or complete some sort of repentance for their crimes. While those are the mainstream ideas for reducing prison sentences, some prisons have some pretty out of the box concepts on what actions can get an inmate out early.
10. Knitting for the Future
Brazil has over 200,000 more prisoners than its jails were designed to hold. The overcrowding creates a powder keg of violence, murders and riots. Often the inmates rule the inside while the guards can only make sure they don’t go beyond the prison walls. While some see the present system as total anarchy, others see an opportunity to help those inside.
Job training in prison can prevent prisoners from returning to jail by giving inmates valuable skills. So when fashion designer Raquel Guimaraes found a serious lack of knitters in Brazil, she turned to Brazil’s large captive workforce. For every three days spent knitting an inmate can earn one day off their prison sentence. Called the Flor de Lotus (“Lotus Flower”) Project, the clothes that are created are sold all over the world. Inmates find the work calming, and it gives them confidence that they can find honest work on the outside.
9. Freedom Through Yoga
India’s judicial system has been described as ”near total collapse.” Over 70% of inmates across the country haven’t been sentenced and are just waiting for their chance at a trial. This huge amount of people has overburdened a system that was designed for a fraction of its present prison population. Some prisons contain over twice as many inmates as they were designed for and across the nation occupancy rates hover between 112 and 123 percent. In a program designed to free up room, tough ex-cons are learning how to control themselves through the art of Yoga. Hardened criminals can learn how to become at peace with oneself while studying yoga breathing techniques. For every three months cons participate in the stretch-for-freedom program, they can cut their jail time by 15 days. The yoga poses give the inmates a chance to learn self-restraint and burn off angry thoughts, as well as make the inmates a lot more flexible.
8. Writing Your Way Out of Prison
Back in Brazil, another idea they’re trying is based on book reports. Inmates can choose from a variety of books including classic literature, philosophy and science texts. They can write 12 reports and get a maximum of 48 days off their sentence. The final submission has to be free of errors, well written and have valid use of margin space.
7. Cleaning Their Way to Freedom
America leads the way in prisoners. It has the largest prison population in the world with over 2,200,000 people behind bars, compared with the number two China at 1,548,498 people. America also has the highest percentage of its population locked up, with 737 per 100,000 in jail. The number two country by percentage is Russia, with 615 per 100,000. It’s no wonder that Americans are looking for ways to reduce the amount of people incarcerated.
Everything in prison is more expensive to carry out. You can’t have someone come in and clean all the time because of the possible interactions with prisoners. In addition, prison cleaning is often dangerous due to the amount of hazardous substances that exist. Cleaning up bodily fluids found behind bars requires paying civilians hazmat worker wages. So Milwaukee prisons, instead of paying expensive civilian labor, just use the inmates. When cons bleed, defecate, urinate or spit where they shouldn’t, the cleaners can earn an hour off their sentence by mopping it up. One guy managed an 11 day reduction while another got 13.
6. Memorizing the Koran
Religions all over the world preach that believers can find true salvation by studying their holy books, and Islam is no exception. Hamas, the governing body that runs the Gaza Strip, has taken it a step farther. Most of the prisoners in Gaza are there from before it was taken over by Hamas. The 350 inmates are imprisoned for crimes like corruption, murder or even collaborating with Israel. Reflecting Hamas’ Islamic roots, its prison inmates can shave a year off their sentence by memorizing five chapters from the Koran.
5. Just Being Old
As you get older, your health care costs get more expensive. This is no less true in prison. Thousands of elderly people are held behind bars and are a serious drain on government resources. Some were arrested when they were 20 or 30 and have served decades for their crime but now can barely walk, let alone pose much of a threat to society. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that any inmate “65 or older who has served 10 years or 75 percent of his sentence” can apply for early release.
4. Risk Your Life Building the Czar’s Train
The Soviet Union was famous for its Siberian gulag system, but they didn’t invent it. Russia has a long history of sending its dissidents and prisoners to its frozen wastes in Northeastern Asia. To fully realize the potential of the vast Russian Empire, the Czar needed to build a railway across the country from Moscow to the east coast. Work started in 1890 and continued for almost two decades. The environment was too harsh for the laborers and they quickly began running out of workers. To rectify this they started using prisoners. Those who were in jail for lesser crimes could earn two days off their sentence for every day they worked building the train tracks through the endless forests of Siberia.
3. Getting Out of Prison to Join the Military
Up to the 1970s, Americans who ran into the law often had a choice go to jail or join the military. One of the most famous of these individuals is Jimi Hendrix, who avoided a prison sentence by joining the army. This practise has almost died out and now the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Marines all have articles that forbid joining the military under the duress or threat of jail time. The Navy, though, has no such restrictions. In 2006, when a judge told Michael Guerra to join the army or go to jail for assaulting a girl, the army refused to accept him. However, military officials acknowledge that some cases might fall through the cracks and be accepted.
2. Snitching Your Way Out
Snitching in American prisons has become so mainstream that it’s a tradable commodity. From 2007 to 2012 over 48,895 federal convicts had their prison sentences reduced for ratting out another inmate or co-conspirator on the outside. In the great tradition of American capitalism, prisoners in the Atlanta prison system have found a way to make a profit off of valuable information. When inmates get a piece of good info they can buy, sell or trade it via Atlanta’s pay-to-snitch enterprise. The info is then offered to the prison officials, who will get a payment authorized if the information is good. In one case a snitch was offered $250,000 for what they knew.
1. Fighting Your Way to Freedom
Western movies and stories from survivors of Thailand’s prisons have given Thailand’s prison system a reputation for brutality. Nowhere has a worse reputation than the infamous Bangkok Hilton, a prison in Thailand’s capital. Locals call it the “Big Tiger” because so many people die behind its gates. To ease prison crowding, Thai officials are trying out many different programs inside it.
In Thailand martial arts, especially Muay Thai, are part of the national consciousness. While other country’s children play soccer or baseball, Thai kids learn Muay Thai. Even in prison Muay Thai holds sway. In a special program set up by Thailand’s Department of Corrections, Thai prisoners learn how to fight and, when they are deemed ready, are allowed to participate in a tournament called “Prison Fight.” Inmates are paired with a foreign civilian fighter who is roughly their weight and skill and they duke it out. If the Thai fighter wins he is allowed to visit the prison warden who, after looking at his prison history, can offer time off his sentence.