I assume the technology for anti-depression drugs will keep improving. That seems reasonable. And I assume that being in jail would make the average person depressed. Prisons have healthcare for the inmates, and depression is a legitimate health problem. Here's the dilemma: Do you give a prisoner drugs that will make him happy despite being in jail, or do you have an obligation to keep him depressed? After all, you don't want people thinking that committing a crime will improve their happiness whether they get caught or not.

I expect some quibbling about the definition of depression. I understand there is a big difference between the debilitating form and the type where you are sad for a perfectly good reason. But if your reason for being depressed is a long prison sentence, that reason probably won't pass for years. And if you are having suicidal thoughts, that is generally considered a sign of the serious type of depression. I have to think most people with a long prison sentence entertain the thought of suicide. At what point is it ethically appropriate to treat prison-induced depression?
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Dec 7, 2008
so years ago aq study was made a hord core jev. pen. it was found that almost all of them had brain damage or illness. this was not a deep look. it was out in the open. its hard to say if drugs have made the pins they way they ate or not. but tvshoes people who can coup with live. so is it a health issue, if what so do we do. what every one is doing is not working well. many on the job say the older rehab pens were better to work in. but getting hard is cheaper
Dec 2, 2008
Personally, I think that this should be a two-way street. I mean, jail time with those who are over-depressed(ie, people who actually regret their actions), might be filled with certain anti-depressants so they could be cured.

On the other hand, psychopaths and sadists, pathological evil-doers and retards are just going to sit quietly at jail and relive beautiful memories/revel in the fruits of their labors. Obviously not the point of jail. So why not spoon-fed them super-depressants(if there is such a word) so that they will crack more easily??

So the happiness of people in jail(or more accurately, the lack thereof) will be more or less evened out, thus insuring fairness for all.

On a totally unrelated point, here's my view on drugs:

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Nov 29, 2008
Prisons may already be giving antidepressants to the prisoners - I don't know. If so, I bet it's to make the jailer's jobs easier and not the inmates lives happier.
Nov 28, 2008
rwiedeman Nov 24, 2008

You got it all right about how the drugs work and what they don't do. It makes me sad to think that many folks believe they're "happy pills". Effexor (TM) [venlafaxine, an SNRI] sure as shinola is not a mood elevator, despite what Wikipedia says. Barbiturates and alcohol used to elevate my mood and make me happy. They are what I call "happy pills" and "happy juice".
Nov 28, 2008
Webgrunt: " I've suffered from clinical depression for 30 years, and the old MAOIs did make me sedated and numb, but the SSRIs (Prozac, in my case) just lifted the depression and made me feel normal. Now I'm happy when things go my way. I still get sad when sad things happen. I still feel depressed when depressing things happen, but when I'm not on Prozac I feel horrible and want to die pretty much all the time no matter what. I could win the lottery and it wouldn't even help a little."

Another amazing coincidence! Maybe we are the same person -- but I hated Prozac and haven't gained 200 pounds, so maybe not, except from time to time. I didn't take an MAOIs, just the tricyclic imipramine, but now I'm on Effexor and feel just like the normal angry guy I used to be before I was laid low by clinical depression. Better living through organic chemistry!
Nov 26, 2008
On this topic I remember a book I read in 1996, "The Lion of Wall Street" by Jack Dreyfus. I wrote in my notes on the book, Financial Genius and compassionate spirit. I might have gotten that from the reviews.
In one section of his biography he wrote he wanted to alleviate the mental anguish of those in prison who could use beneficail drugs. (My summary)
With his connections he was able to get an audience with Pres. Reagan. The president seemed very open to the idea during his presentation. (Federal Prison system). No action or policy was forthcoming. The right wing of the party was not ready to allow an enlightened policy toward criminals. His conclusion.
Nov 25, 2008
Feed the prisoners with as many anti-depressant drugs as they want - as long as they're locked up and not out breaking into my house or stealing my car, that's good enough for me.
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Nov 25, 2008
How about this, Scott :

Depressed prisoners may have antidepressant drugs
AFTER their victims have received FULL compensation
until the time they have repaid their debt to society.
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Nov 25, 2008
There is one important point that no one has brought up yet. Our prison system is not filled exclusively with guilty people. By some estimates, there are 250 thousand wrongly-convicted people in our prisons and jails.

Any question about how to treat prisoners has to start with the assumption that at least some of them are innocent.

See also: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row
Nov 25, 2008
It kind of depends on which side of the "purpose of incarceration" argument you are on, punishment or rehabilitation. I am a rehab guy where possible, and a keep society safe guy when not.

If you're on the punishment side of the argument, though, maybe you'd support giving them drugs that make them feel even worse. We could call it Negzac, or...no, wait - conzac!
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Nov 25, 2008
Unhappiness is not depression. Depression is an ailment, not a state of mind.

Antidepressants do not make unhappy people happy.
Nov 25, 2008
I would say no to the drugs.

When you go to prison, all the common worries of life and work and supporting yourself are gone. You have little to be depressed about, except for the consequences and experience of imprisonment, which is in many cases the idea.

If it turns out those drugs are addictive, and the best way to get them is to go to prison, than you create an even bigger problem.
Nov 25, 2008
i doubt prison is intended to cause depression, so yes to the drugs.
Nov 24, 2008
"Do you give a prisoner drugs that will make him happy...?"

Anti-depressants don't make you happy. If they did, kids would take them for fun, and they'd be sold on street corners along with crack and heroin.

I speak from experience.

In fact, if your brain chemistry is normal, they don't do jack, except maybe give you a headache (or a seizure). They are (almost) a self-prescribing drug: If you take an anti-depressant and feel better, you were probably depressed. If you feel nothing, you're fine, at least in terms of seratonin / norepinepherine / whichever neurotransmitter the drug addresses. (They're not all the same.)

A prisoner on anti-depressants would not be in a state of bliss. He'd still know he was in prison. He'd still be afraid and angry and all that. The difference? He'd probably sleep better, perform better at his job, and have a reduced urge to kill others or himself. That's about it.

People need to understand what the drugs are for, and what they can (and can't) do, before forming a credible opinion. In my experience, including reading this post, it's clear to me most of the public -- even the smart folks here -- don't understand how anti-depressants work.

And just to stave off the obvious comeback -- the kids who go nuts and shoot up random people/kill themselves did not do so because of anti-depressants; they did so because they suddenly quit taking them, which is much worse than never taking them at all.

They're serious drugs. But they don't make anyone happy.
Nov 24, 2008
I'm with the "First of all, what is the point of a prison?" folks here, and I personally think it's probably easier, cheaper and perhaps even more ethical to make them a place to just keep the Bad Guys away from society rather than a place to punish or rehabilitate people.

I don't really speak from a position of experience, moral authority, or unique insight, it just seems to me that neither punishment nor "rehabilitation" work as well in practice as they do in theory.

So yes, I'd let the prisoners have anti-depressants.
Nov 24, 2008
The question is akin to asking "should witches be dunked for one minute or two?"

The whole concept of prison, as practiced in the United States, is an anachronistic remnant of our medieval past. Prison should not be torture; yet that is primarily how we view it, and how we implement it. Witness how extra-judicial prison-house rapes are not viewed with horror, but as an implicitly accepted component of the jail sentence, and even as a socially acceptable punch-line.

We, as a country, need to figure out what we're trying to do with prison. Making prison "so horrible they'll never want to go back" is a non-starter; if you go down this route, you'd better keep all prisoners in for life, because they'll be feral PTSD animals after a few years of this treatment.

I suggest that we focus on making prison a rehabilitative experience. And rehabilitation is not a one-size-fits-all process. For some petty offenders, a few weeks or months of hard labor (long enough to deter recidivism, short enough not to make them a psychological cripple) might be rehabilitative. For the lower end of the felony scale, I've always wondered if a few years of living essentially as a Buddhist monk might not make a real difference (with heavy emphasis on solitude and meditation training). For a true psychopath who can't ever be safely released into society, warehousing under humane conditions might be the only answer.

Any number of other treatment and rehabilitative programs are possible, but there seems to be no popular or political will to pursue this. Instead, we follow the same failed model: take entry-level criminals, incarcerate them in a hyper-violent environment where they will learn no legitimate skills (but plenty of criminal know-how), where they must join a gang for their own protections, and where they will learn no behaviors that will help them better better deal with civilized society. And we're surprised when ex-cons re-offend. Heck, we *trained* them to re-offend.
Nov 24, 2008
You have to first ask the question - what is the point of imprisonment:

1. Punishment
2. Rehabilitation
3. Keep social outcasts out of society

If society's answer is going to be all the above, we have some big time confusion in terms of how imprisonment should be conducted because there can't be one size that fits all. Else, our justice system should be able to segregate prisons, prison terms and sentences into each of the above, with the justice being meted out correspondingly meeting the requirements of the purpose
Nov 24, 2008

I've long enjoyed Dilbert, but I have to ask. Do you like awake at night thinking up stuff like this? :-)

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Nov 24, 2008
HumilityRocks wrote:

"I think prisons should be (as far as possible) self sustaining. They should grow their own food and do work to pay for the salaries of all guards (and overhead costs) of time there. If someone can explain to me why this isn't fair, I'm happy to listen."

While certainly fair, I don't believe it is very practical. Many inmates are functionally illiterate or have behavioral problems that make it difficult for them to hold jobs outside of prison, much less inside. Any jobs they could do in prison would be very low quality and not worth much to society.

Most high quality jobs (that could indeed produce revenue) are difficult to come by in prison. They could involve high capital costs (with uncertain return - think prison riots), or dangerous equipment (consider the safety of corrections officers), or competition with companies outside of prison (think politics), or high skills (rarely found in prison). In some cases, it could take one corrections officer to supervise two or three inmates at work, which is not a good way to make a profit (although the corrections officers' unions would love it!).

There are doubtless a lot of other problems. Working while in prison is certainly a good idea, at least for some inmates, but I doubt that prisons will ever be self-supporting.
Nov 24, 2008
I think one could just look to the similar issue of homeless people trying to get arrested so they can have shelter, medical care, food, ect.... But clearly not all homeless people do that, enough to make it an issue, but not to change the system. Would your anti-depressant filled jails be the same way? Still a deterrent, but an upgrade for some people?
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