Blog post two, Pacholke, SPP.

Pacholke, Dan. “How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives.” How Prisons Can Help Inmates Live Meaningful Lives. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.


I decided reform in the prison system should be the next step in my project which led me to Dan Palcholke. In his TED talk, Dan Palcholke presents the idea that prisons can be reformed in order to help improve the life of prisoners and communities overall. He begun his lecture with some powerful facts, such as that we incarcerate more people per capita in the united states than any other country in the world, as well as there are more black men in prison than there were in slavery in 1850. A quick google search also brings up the fact that the united states incarcerates more women than any other country as well. I also found this interesting cartoon which is very thought provoking about the fact that “of the entire world’s prison population, one in four is imprisoned in the land of the free”. I find it ironic that America seems to pride itself in freedom, and to what degree that holds true is arguable, but the fact that America is so prideful in its freedom, yet we incarnate more per capita than any country, and have more black men behind bars than there was during slavery is very ironic to me. I think that this is a very powerful concept and shows a different side and different reasoning as to why prison reform is necessary. It also makes me question to what degree the prison system is really effective.

land of free prisonPalcholke points out that agencies that govern prisons are called the department of corrections however their focus is on containing and controlling inmates, not correcting behavior. Palcholke believes that with the changing of environments and making prisons secure, safe, and humane, it can lead prisoners to contribute, participate, and lead meaningful lives. He supports this with his own personal evidence of spending more than three decades working in prisons. Palcholke has dedicated his entire career to the reform of prisons, even creating the Sustainability in Prisons Project, a state wide effort working towards reform which includes all twelve prisons in Washington. They claim that their vision is,”not only to save tax dollars and natural resources, but also to help offenders rebuild their lives for the benefit of all.”

The essential components of the SPP are outlined on their website as follows,

“Although each endeavor and corrections institution is unique, our experiences point to five Essential Components for every SPP program:

1. Partnerships and collaborations with multiple benefits

2. Bringing nature “inside”

3. Engagement and education

4. Safe and sustainable operations

5. Evaluation, dissemination, and tracking”

I agree with Palcholke and with the goals of the SPP, and the underlying pattern and theme here is that small changes can lead to huge differences, and all it takes is a few motivated individuals to make a big difference. I think that the SPP provides a solid framework in their essential components that other programs can follow and use as an example. Over the past six years, the changes made has saved the department of corrections in Washington millions of dollars. This saves taxpayers money and overall leads to a vast improvement of the environment and lives of those involved in the SPP. This has changed my understanding of prisons overall, and gives me hope that they can be reformed and changed. What I wonder is how this reform and change could happen and how it could be implemented in Alaska specifically. I think that prison reform is one thing I will want to talk about with when I get the chance to talk to the prison guard my mom is friends with. Its very important to note that the SPP only started as an idea with no budget, and they were motivated and worked with what they had and saved money for projects and rely heavily on donations but they are very successful. This makes me think of what was discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s essay and how face to face interaction and strong ties can lead to a huge change, not necessarily a long term revolution in this case. I think that the SPP provides an example of his claim as well as supports his argument so that’s an interesting connection to what we’re learning about in class and discussing in class now. So even though in the “land of the free” one in four people are behind bars, one way to combat that is with programs like the SPP. I’d like to research more the SPP and programs similar to it and find out why they’re effective and how they can be more widely implemented.