60 Minutes did a story on Pelican Bay, the “supermax” prison in California that locks away the most dangerous inmates. The story revealed the Big Rocks thinking that is needed for transformative change.
Pelican Bay’s security housing unit is solitary confinement known as the “SHU.” Inmates and advocates have long denounced it as state sanctioned torture.
Indeed, what researchers and observers found was that the conditions, the environment in the SHU was making the inmates worse than they were going in.
They realized the practice of relying on solitary confinement didn’t work due to the negative impact on the offenders.
During the story, I kept hearing, the inmates are in pain and they are suffering.
Somebody finally realized that you couldn’t reform people through punishment or fighting force with more force. Scott Kernan, the director who runs the prison system in California, says we are learning that the practice of solitary confinement is out dated. We’ve known for years it doesn’t really work.
California’s SHUs now hold 80 percent fewer inmates than just a few years ago. You could call that progress….a bit of enlightenment.
It has taken a long time but we seem to be learning that fighting something only energizes the other side. We are finally looking to see the human first, before the deed, the crime or the behavior.
Here’s Scott Kernan, the director of California’s prison system. “When I first came in, that person was the enemy. Now, 35 years later, I don’t view the inmates as my enemy. They’re people. They’re all going to get out and be our neighbors. Why wouldn’t we spend the resources and create an environment so when they come out, they’re better people than when they got here? I just think it makes all the sense in the world. It’s common sense.”
Small thinking like forcing someone into submission has given way to the BIG ROCKS —Insight, understanding, awareness—this is transformative folks!
Read the director’s words again and see the depth of his new insight, understanding and awareness. He’s shifted from disciplining to investing, from creating dissonance to creating resonance and the results speak for themselves.
Where could we use more of this transformative thinking in our lives?