Sourcing Previous Work in Prisons and Mental Illnesses


Our concept centers on the history of mental illness aid within prisons, and how the system developed, functioned, and progressed. 70% of prisoners have some form of mental illness. Using this statistic, we developed a system in which prisoners are given the psychiatric aid they need, funded through companies who invest in the program to receive the output of creative levels of entrepreneurship found from prisoners, specified by their mental status.

The system is optimistic in its intent to provide aid to those who could not previously afford or access it, as well as give purpose to their time in prison, utilizing the entrepreneurship found in prison life today with makeshift methods of DIY with the little resources they have. However, the system holds a darker side in the alternative motivations of its funding. As we tell our story of the system’s history, we progress through the change from focus on prisoner-patient care for the mentally ill, to a system resembling the cheap labor exploitations corporations hold on prison labor, coupled with taking advantage of the mentally ill. We explore the range of cause and effects such a program could have on our current day prison systems.


Through much of our research, we have found a few articles that truly embody the statements our project highlights.

  • Tech Reform in Prisons

This article by Baratunde Thruston, titled “It’s Time for Tech to Embrace Prison Reform,” advocates for utilization of those in prisons to both diversify the workforce in technology, and to shake the current costs of letting these people rot away in jail cells.

This is mutually beneficial to both the prisoners and society in lowering the cultural disconnect after release, and he believes that it will help reduce recidivism in reintroducing fellow previous prisoners to society and immersion in tech. The entrepreneurship of prison life itself proves the resourcefulness of these people that could provide profound impacts on society’s tech immersion.

“Well, in [a prison] environment, innovation and iteration are happening out of necessity.” He then regales me with stories of inmates creating tattoo guns out of tape players and heating water without a microwave. In prison, terms like DIY, makers, hacking, and minimum viable product come to life every day.

We have focused our storyline in a similar pursuit, to explore what could happen if such resources were given larger consideration.

Many other articles have proved beneficial, looking into:

  • Path to Freedom

Very good video depicting prison life, and meditational techniques that can be used within prison culture.

  • Utilizing the Arts for Mental Illnesses

This followed a similar vein in using theatre as a tool for mental illness. The Theatre of the Oppressed is a now world-renowned framework using roleplay to explore new possibilities, with the belief that, if we start by observing our actions and interactions, we can then go on to do things differently in the future. Other forms of the arts are also used at the Nise de Silveira hospital, producing work that has been critically acclaimed and exhibited in museums.

“Plato and Socrates believed that poets and priests could commune with the gods through accessing a kind of ‘divine madness’, thereby identifying the source of creative inspiration and insanity as one and the same, and the ‘mad artist’ has remained a persistent motif in many cultures, from Vincent van Gogh to Kanye West. Eccentric behaviour is indulged, encouraged or even expected in creative people, who enjoy a privileged position outside of the normal rules of society, and who often play up to this idea as if to underscore their untrammelled creativity.”

This research also helped source many of the reasonings behind some of the mental illnesses we chose to focus on, and the creative outlets they produce.

Seen this way, madness might be a blessing of sorts, a kind of portal into a unique vision of the world.

  • Curing vs. addressing mental Illnesses

  • What Solitary Confinement Does to the Brain

  • Tools for the Brain


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