Friday, August 5, 2011

Crime and Punishment and Ayahuasca

No matter how horrible something someone has done they deserve a fair trial and if found guilty, fair, equal and safe incarceration.

"I hope they get what they gave when they get to prison. THAT would be justice."

This really is not justice. This is revenge. And while it is an understandable and common emotion, it is for that reason that we must use cooler heads to reason about crime and punishment. If you wish anything to happen to someone in prision other than lawful incarceration (and if we had a lick of sense, intensive and mandatory education & psychotherapy) then you are part of the proverbial problem. Please do not encourge further violence, not to mention the continuation of the rape culture that we often see in such discussions. Wishing someone to be beaten or raped is absolutely never acceptable. If any form of corporal punishment is to be included in our prisons it needs to be based on strong science and carried out with strict safeguards for prisoner safety.

This is like the parent who slaps their child to the ground screaming "Don't HIT Other Kids". I know you probably don't mean to and maybe you don't really even mean that you hope they are abused in prison - but you said it. And I think it's important to take note our own reactions to situations.

Otherwise, you might find yourself or your loved one in prison someday, even if they are innocent (yes that happens, all too frequently) and the environment in which you fostered may come back to haunt you.

I would also like to open a discussion on something more controversial that has been bouncing around in my head for some time.

Proposal A: Mandatory education for all violent offenders. You should not be eligible for parole or release until an educational course has been completed. Education should include expanded fundamentals (reading, writing, arithmetic, basic logic, reasoning, and critical thinking skills, ethics) as well as a vocational track. Courses could be adapted to different ability levels. I think the link between

Proposal B: I have come to strongly suspect (based on scientific studies, but I admit that further study is needed) that psychotherapy with the best psychotherapeutic drugs known to man (I refer to: psilocin/Psilocybin mushrooms, dimethyltryptamine/Ayahuasca, mescaline/Peyote, LSD, ibogaine/Iboga, MDMA, and THC+CBD+CBN+THCV+CBC+CBL/cannabis - which are also sadly the most ignored at the moment) should be made available to violent prisoners under the care and direction of a physician and a psychiatrist - with exemptions if contraindicated for medical reasons. Participation should be voluntary, but early release/parole conditional on completing such a program. In other words, we should find proper motivations for people to participate but not strap then down and force them against their will.

This would not be 'fun, getting high time', this would be difficult and emotional work. If you have never experienced a fully psychoactive dose of one of these medicines then you really cannot even begin to understand (and yes, I have, exactly once and it was >30 years ago and rarely does a day go by that I don't still think about it). The course of the program should be determined based on science and the diagnosis of the psychiatrist and the safety ensured by the administrating physician.

There are, as always, many ethical considerations that must be addressed before we undertake such a program. This article is a very nice overview of the landscape:

One important difference is that I'm not suggesting therapy to be used as a punishment, but rather an opportunity for someone who is likely otherwise trapped by their own pain and despair into a life of crime and resulting in suffering of both victim and culprit.

Here are a few references related to why I believe that this type of therapeutic approach could prove fruitful. This is NOT comprehensive of all the things I have read over the past 30 years, I will probably add more as I go. If you have links you think are relevant feel free to add a comment. I don't claim using these medicines is a miracle cure in a pill, the person still has to do the difficult work. The medicines simply enable access to states of consciousness that are not easily otherwise accessed. States which make it more difficult to hide from our problems. States which can flood the mind with emotions at an intensity level we cannot imagine from our normal state of consciousness. And the studies show that these intensely joyful (and sometimes fearful) experiences CAN result in long-term positive behavioral changes.

Successful Outcome of a Single LSD Treatment in a Chronically Dysfunctional Man
by Gary Fisher, Ph.D.

Treatment of Childhood Schizophrenia Utilizing LSD and Psilocybin
Gary Fisher, Ph.D.

Peyote Use in the Treatment of Alcoholism in the Native American Church
by Krystle Cole

Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Ayahuasca [list of links]

Griffiths RR, Richards WA, McCann U, Jesse R. "Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual experience". Psychopharmacology. 2006;187(3):268–83. or
See also:

Griffiths RR, Richards WA, McCann U, Jesse R. Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later

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