A New Scientist article on Prisoners Psychology goes on a jaunt into the deeper realms of human behaviour today. The reason being that it ties in nicely with the how we work with others, which ultimately emits from us in all sorts of feel-good factor ways and through the response we get from others contributes to our quality of life.
Marc Bekoff has been visiting Boulder County Jail in Colorado for the last 10-yrs (New Scientist – 03.21.09) teaching Animal Behaviour and Conservation Biology The course is part of Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots program is one of the most popular and made more so by the fact that inmates have to earn a place.
What has been discovered is that prisoners respond well to the animals on the program in various ways:
- They feel less judged than they do with other people
- They have greater empathy with the animals
- They have more trust than with people
And simultaneously they are able to articulate their own animalistic behaviour that has led them to where they are.
They are taught that even though animals are aggressive and competitive, there is also a lot of compassion, cooperation, empathy and reciprocity. Bekoff explains “these behaviors are examples of wild justice and this idea makes them rethink their own behavior.”
He then shows the inmates examples of pack animal behaviors that support one another, such as wolves, and how they work together for the better outcome of the herd.
The Follow Up
Bekoff has found that after release from prison, many of his students have gone on to do great things they would not otherwise have thought within their grasp, it has made such a difference to them. Some have gone back into education, some have donated money to conservation projects and some are working for humane organizations. One person even went on to receive a Masters degree in Nature Writing.
The upshot is that by using some creative psychology, people who’ve been dismissed by society have an opportunity to change and become contributing and responsible members of society instead, in other words it’s a proper reform programme.
Well done to Marc Bekoff, the prison and the program for thinking outside the usual box and enabling people, who for whatever reasons, having strayed outside of societies accepted boundaries, have found their way back to a contributing role and thus restoring their self-respect and confidence. Brilliant!
Marc Bekoff is Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of books including Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals.