Build a system you can trust

Day 13 #iWriteDaily

My prison writers learned a new word Saturday: “Panacea.”

I asked them to think of something in their lives or a situation that could use a cure-all or remedy, and write about it. (We ran out of time so I asked them to bring their pieces back for our next meeting.)

One example I gave as a possible topic was the prison system. They’ve talked about what’s wrong with the department of corrections from their perspective, and I was curious to know their ideas on how they would build a better mousetrap, so to speak.

“Build a system you can trust.” This phrase popped into my head. What could that mean?

I wonder. What would the prison complex look like if trust was an underlying girder?

Counterintuitive, right? These are criminals after all. They aren’t to be trusted. On the other hand, people tend to behave the way we expect them to.

What if their “bit” gave them a clean slate, the length of sentence an opportunity to rewrite their story? What if the assumption was that they were “trustworthy”?

“We grew up not trusting anyone,” one of the prison writers said. “We could only rely on ourselves.”

A system with trust at its foundation could apply to everyone in the system, from the director to the wardens to the corrections officers and staff to the prisoners. There would have to be trust between all the levels and between those on the same level.

The assumption would be, “I trust you … unless you prove me wrong.” Whether you have power or not in the system, I will begin by trusting you.

Maybe this is a completely foolish concept. After all, how many on the outside trust others … or themselves?

Prison becomes a place of true rehabilitation, where prisoners learn the fine art of trust, and how to discern when and where that trust is warranted, but starting with themselves.

5 Replies to “Build a system you can trust”

  1. I would love to live in a world in which human beings were mostly trustworthy. We’re imperfect creatures, and unfortunately we prove that over and over everyday. It is human nature to take advantage. Ask the Native Americans. Ask African Americans. Ask Hillary Clinton. In my opinion, criminals are in prison because they have broken society’s trust and so are not deserving of trust in prison or society until they’ve proven themselves. They have lost the right to be trusted by committing a crime along with their freedom. Just my .02. Great post! 🙂


      1. Yes – what I was responding to mostly was your suggestion that the prisons should trust the inmates from the start. To my mind once you’ve broken trust you have to earn it again. Learning to be worthy of trust again – yes, absolutely. Assumed to be worthy upon entry – I don’t think so.


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