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A hopeful approach for the future of international relations.

Redirect teen rebellion towards idealism and self improvement.

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Our student activities and curriculum materials instill an environmental, cultural, and global perspective, and integrate various academic disciplines.

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Archives 2002:
Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003:
Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

Art and Politics
Living the Good Life
Teaching Teens
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Archives 2004:
Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Seven Part Series on Global Consciousness
Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All

Archives 2005:
Vol. 4, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Standing up for Humanity
Unity in Diversity

Thought and Imagination
Imagination and Healing
Lessons of Katrina
Intelligent Design or Evolution

Archives 2006:
Vol. 5, Numbers 1-12

Read past articles including:
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-Violent Political Change
Sustainable Development
Legalizing Torture
Living Without an Enemy
"Fast Food" is really "Slow Food"


Featured Articles about Responsibility, the Future and Consciousness:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Conflict, Harmony and Integrity
Human Programming and Conflict
Non-violent Political Change
Living Without an Enemy
Protecting Children: Words and Deeds

Featured Poems:

Making Friends
The Sounds of an Empty Promise
Mama's Tears
Wake of Distaster
March Madness
Take Heart
Kabul Update








July, 2007
Vol. 6, Number

This Month's Article

Criminal Justice — Part 2:
“The Ethic of Custodianship”

People who respect themselves and others would never be criminals. When people do a crime they must be given the opportunity for rehabilitation and they must be helped. Instead our criminal justice system brutalizes people and strips them of the very human dignity that would produce positive change in their lives and make them contributors to society.”

Criminal Justice - Part 1:
"Triumph of the Powerful over the Weak", Vol. 6, No. 2

The main question in dealing with crime — in prevention and rehabilitation — is “how do we cultivate the consciousness of belonging?” A person that feels like they “belong” is on the path to self-improvement, commitment to the common good, and self-esteem. It is the task of society to make all citizens feel like they belong, like they have a stake in the welfare of society. The main purpose of any human being is “custodianship.” This is an awareness of taking care of people, the community and the environment.

The definition of “criminal behavior” as “the violation of the ethic of custodianship” would be more useful than all the laws on the books. For example, corporations that destroy the environment in pursuit of profits would be deemed “criminal.” If they had a sense of belonging they would act responsibly for the betterment of the environment. The ethic of custodianship would transform political priorities to protect and serve the common good, and to make a quality of life a possibility for everyone.

As stated in the article Criminal Justice - Part 1, criminal behavior and aggression “are symptoms of social failure.” How can we call our culture “civilized” when it produces criminals in positions of corporate and political leadership as well as in the streets? The common denominator of all the stripes of criminal behavior is the lack of the consciousness of belonging and custodianship, which causes actions based on selfishness and alienation. This results in either the desire to exploit or the desire to hurt.*

In one sense, the degradation of our environment and the threat of global warming are the result of a lack of the consciousness of custodianship, hence “criminal.” All people, all industries, all governments ought to be custodians. The earth seems so vast that our sense of “belonging” has given us the attitude that we may use its resources and dump our waste without considering if it hurts our earth. Our sense of “belonging” is only recently making us aware of our responsibilities. If we act to our planet as custodians we will not harm it and we will rehabilitate it.

In respect to people in prisons, are they just the waste of our society, or do we have a responsibility to rehabilitate them too? If we are to be good custodians then the road to rehabilitation is to make custodians out of prisoners also — to make them feel they belong.

In the previous article on criminal justice, I emphasized that negligence is a form of cruelty. “Cruelty may take many forms. Less obvious than outright brutality and abuse, are the more subtly insidious forms of neglect, exclusion, injustice, or simply not meeting people’s needs.” Prisons are humiliating and degrading and perpetuate the causes that produce criminal behavior in the first place. Prisoners are outsiders — they don’t belong.

One of the most effective programs for rehabilitating prisoners has been prison gardens. An example is a project at Rikers Island Prison, run by James Jiler for the Horticultural Society of New York:

“This place is about transformation,” said Jiler, who specializes in urban ecology and urban-design projects. “The students [inmates] learn that if you can transform this environment, you can transform your life, yourself. We try to use the program at the gardens to help people build self-esteem.”

2nd Chance
Audubon Magazine 05/2005

Of the many articles on the positive impact of gardens on people, it is most relevant to view the impact on prisoners, since they are the ones who society has given up on and whose crimes were largely the result of coming from an environment that lacked nurturing. Gardens in prisons are reported to teach important life lessons, to teach skills, to teach responsibility, to improve relationships, to put inmates in touch with nature and to produce a new sense of hope.

“Today, at the state corrections facility in Elmore County Alabama, inmates are cultivating a new garden behind prison walls. They plan to send the flowers they grow to local nursing homes and services for the elderly. "I've never really started something and carried it all the way through," said William Kizziah, one of several inmates who works in the garden.”

Flowers in Purgatory—Gardening Projects in North American Prisons

Justice in our world today would be to give all humans a chance to be custodians of our planet. That is impossible in conditions of war and civil conflict. To be a custodian one has to first be a custodian for oneself and one’s family. People must take a stand against the injustices that are preventing people from having normal lives. Then those who are fortunate to live in a prosperous society must also provide resources for those in need.

Injustice, exploitation, damaging our natural environment, and harming other people are the most grievous of crimes today. Since our planet is at risk, since whole populations and nations are at risk, our leaders must act from the ethic of “custodianship,” otherwise they are basically criminal. We need to rehabilitate our planet and society and make our leaders human. Perhaps a pre-requisite for a position of leadership would be to plant a garden.

*This generalization is about social causes and excludes psychological or subconscious causes, which is another topic.

© 2007 Richard V. Sidy

Read: Criminal Justice—Part 1: "Triumph of the Powerful over the Weak"


Read Articles Related to Gardens in Prisons

Audubon Magazine 05/2005—2nd Chance: A novel prison program
in New York uses nature to teach inmates about life's larger lessons

Doing Time in the Garden: Life Lessons Through Prison Horticulture

Gardens in Prisons

Community Arts Network: Essays for Arts and Corrections

YES Magazine: “Seeds of Change

Flowers in Purgatory—Gardening Projects in North American Prisons


You may email this article by using the link below: 


Contact us with your comments about this topic

Archives 2005
Volumn 4
January: "Standing up for Humanity"
February: "The Wake of Disaster" – a poem
March: "Unity in Diversity
April: "Life is Calling"
May: "Entertainment" – a poem
June: "Thought and Imagination" part 1
July: "Thought and Imagination" part 2
August: "Imagination and Healing"
September: "Malice or Neglect? – Lessons of Katrina"
October: "Protecting Children"
November: "Intelligent Design or Evolution?"
December: "Building with one hand, destroying with the other"
Archives 2006
Volumn 5

January: "Conflict, Harmony, and Integrity"
February: "Satyagraha or Soul-force and Political Change"
March: "I Know I'm Not Alone - Wisdom of Michael Franti"
April: "Human Programming and Conflict Part I"
May: "Human Programming and Conflict Part II"
June: "Soccer Diplomacy"
July: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way
August: "Parallel Universes"
September: "The News is not New"
October: "Legalizing Torture"
November: "Living Without an Enemy"
December: "Fast Food is really Slow Food"

Archives 2007
Volumn 6

January: "State of Fear"
February: Criminal Justice - "The Powerful Over the Weak"
March: "Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival"
April: "March Madness"
May: "No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind
June: "Personal Ecology"
July: Criminal Justice - "The Ethic of Custodianship"
August: "Exploring the Mind - part 1"
September: "Exploring the Mind - part 2: The Poetic Mind
October: "How Much Pain Can We Stand?"
November: "When Languages Disappear"
December: "Is it Enough to be Tolerant?"

Archives 2008
Volumn 7

January: "Beyond Ideology: Politics of the Future "
February: "Beyond the Bush Years"
March: "The Imaginary Economy - Part I
April: "The Imaginary Economy - Part II
May: Questions from Prison
June: "iGods and Connectivity"
July: "Energy Independence"
August: "Tribalism and the 2008 Elections
September: "Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice"
October: "Have We Been Willing Slaves?"
November: "Are We Ready for the Future?"
December: "Are we done learning from pain?"

Archives 2009
Volumn 8

January: "Awakening"
February: "When Sacrifice is no Sacrifice"
March: "The Good New Days"
April: "The Power of Metaphor"
May: "The Conflict of Mythologies"
June: "The Time is Right"
July: "The New Anarchy"
August: "The Art of Living"
September: "Outrage"
October: "Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?

November: "Effect of the manufacturing culture on the American Psyche"
December: Who are the Real Game Changers?

Archives 2010
Volumn 9

January: The Music of Place
February: Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
March: Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity
April: Why Do People Serve?
May: Decentralizing Food and Energy
June: Beyond Reading and Writing — Ecological literacy
July: Organization or Organism?
August: Fear and Cynicism = “Inter-fear-ance”
September: Are we afraid of our "Better Angels?"
October: Choosing Our Battles
November: Meeting the Need
December: A Living Canvas

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