Norway Voted to Decriminalize All Drugs. Should America Follow Suit?

Norway’s decision to push drug felons through treatment is a huge step forward.

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How Theater & Philosophy Rehabilitate Prisoners Better Than Harsh Sentences

Here's what Israel Guillen learned about life by studying 8 hours a day during his 22-year prison sentence.

Being "tough on crime" doesn't work. Former inmate Israel Guillen is proof that what does work is nurturing people's sense of humanity through philosophy, theatre, and teamwork. Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actors' Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them training to understand and manager their emotions. With an incredibly low recidivism rate of just 10% among her students, Williams' experimental idea has proven its worth and now operates in ten prisons across California, which is where Sabra Williams met former inmate and Actors' Gang student Israel Guillen. Israel recently shared his personal story of what he learned throughout his 22-year prison sentence at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.

Prison Dehumanizes the Incarcerated—The Prison Project Brings Them Back

California prisons are about as off-off-off-off Broadway as it gets—but that's where the emotional tools of theatre can make the biggest difference to people's lives.\r\n

In the last 35 years, California has built approximately 22 new prisons, and the state has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. The US's prison industrial complex has been called America's human rights crisis. So is it possible for prisoners have hope for their future? How do you retain your humanity in an inhumane system? Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actor's Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them the emotional tools needed to heal from the trauma of being incarcerated, and all the events of their lives before that. That was the start of the Prison Project, and a decade later it is operating in 10 prisons across California. How well has it worked? It has transformed prison yards. It has built bridges between gangs. Participants have just a 10% recidivism rate and in-prison infractions have dropped by 89%. Engaging in the safe and playful space of theatre is a way for incarcerated people to engage with their emotions, often for the very first time. The entire prison community is deeply interwoven and affected by each other, so the Prison Project is developing a program for correctional officers too, who are often highly traumatized by their experiences, and have highest suicide rate of any job. Sabra Williams runs us through the Prison Project, and introduces former-inmate and student Chris Bingley to share his personal story of reconnecting with his humanity while in prison. This video was filmed at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.

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Good Investors Make Money. Great Investors Create Value.

The finance sector often lives up to its bad reputation, but here's how a 2000-year-old piece of wisdom can help rehabilitate the way people and corporations think about money.

People have a bad impression of finance, and that's mostly worrying because its often justified, says Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai. The sector is in dire need of rehabilitation, and there are several ways it can be done. The first is to realize that turning money into more money is a shortsighted investment. To play the long game, the system needs to focus on and reward value creation, which drives innovation and the economy. The second is to demystify finance (which is what Desai's new book The Wisdom of Finance is all about). Desai explains that finance got into its current state because it's more complicated than it needs to be, which makes it harder to control, given the general lack of understanding among the public. To remedy that, Desai taps into the brain's own strengths: humans process stories much better than they process logic, so narratives from history, literature and philosophy can be used to teach and demystify finance. As an example, the The Parable of the Talents from the Bible teaches value creation as well as a finance textbook can. The philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce can teach risk management and insurance. Mel Brooks can teach fiduciary responsibility. Finance has become demonized, but it's not a system that we can live without. It's becoming more pressing than ever to make reforms that increase value in society, rather than wealth. Mihir Desai's most recent book is The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return.

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This Restaurant Rehabilitates Ex-Cons Better than Prison

Rates of crime and recidivism in America are very high. One Cleveland-based French restaurant, however, leads the way in helping ex-cons to thrive and not reoffend after their sentences.

Chef David Waltuck with a few students at Edwins restaurant in Cleveland. (Image: Edwins Instagram @edwinscle)

Of the 200+ former inmates who have trained as cooks at Edwins over the last few years, none has reoffended. The Cleveland-based French restaurant is reportedly the only American high-end restaurant to employ ex-offenders for a majority of their staff. And the food they serve is top-notch. For example, writer Douglas Trattner wrote in Cleveland Scene:

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