Process and Reflection

Design Process

We began with researching the history of prison systems, and how they supported mental illnesses, and utilized prisoners’ time in cheap labor. Using this background, we developed our concept to include such concepts, incorporating our statistics regarding the incredibly high percentages of mentally ill in prisons due to eradication of insane asylums, and scarcity of physiatric care facilities.

This led to our concept development, of harnessing the creativity of various perspectives found in different mental statuses.

We continued iterating through how the information would lay out in the context of the catalog and the roster, deciding on following the same format as the actual DSM editions that currently exist. Using their text as a starting point, we began adding in our own content, with descriptions and formulas for various forms of creative output.


Our experience in creating this project was both enlightening, and informative. I had previously known very little about the varying mental disabilities, and how they were categorized in this particular system. I had also known very little about the actual statistics of mental illnesses in prisons, and the means by which they have been addressed. The project opened a large set of questions revolving around morality, and methods of aid ranging from extremely viable, to completely abstract and borderline cruel. It was an excellent experience in both learning and exploring.

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

Refined Concept

Our critique is on the abuse of prisoner labor in our present day system, but reflected in a system for the mentally disabled. With the concept of companies using the unfortunate circumstances to their benefit by purchasing cheap rights to the creative nature of the mentally disabled. By doing so viewers are able to see the flaws without be clouded by the fact that they are criminals. A museum based display of capitalization on the mentally disordered and then carrying it down into the present day problems with cheap prisoner labor, can show the potential direction of companies getting involved in corrective facilities.

The items in the museum will be a progressive dialogue of the history of how the system began and its methods, as explained from 10 years after its establishment. The timeline of the museum begins in 2040 when the system was fully developed and quickly eradicated, and continues to explain the history from our current day, 2015, through to the cause of its collapse, comparing similarities to the cheap labor forces of our current day prisons.

We are going to provide digital documentation of objects mixed with some physical objects for the museum. Each item will be accompanied with a description and time stamp. These objects will include;

-Introduction of the collapse of the future system

-Past labor objects, such as license plate


-DMS codes


-Creativity tool

-Creativity extraction tool

-Closing of the System

Poaching Creativity

Jails became a primary home for mentally ill/insane.

Over 50% of prison inmates have a mental health problem, yet they only make up 11% of the general population. However only 1 in 6 Jail inmates receive any mental treatment. Hospitals do have psychiatric wards, but they are overcrowded and rarely readmit patients due to the lack of funding and extreme costs to the hospital.

We are creating 3 part project of objects used to exploit creativity from the mentally insane found in facilities such as prisons, jails, psychiatric wards, and other institutions. To do so, we are developing a “catalogue” of the various types of mentally ill, which companies can receive and review. From there, they have access to a roster of inmates at these various institutions, to choose what forms of creativity they desire. These institutions, and inmates in turn are provided psychiatric aid which is lacking in prisons as of now, but will be funded by these companies purchases, as a dual use of also funding discovery of the database they seek. We are focusing on the ethics involved in exploitation of “cheap creativity,” similar to that of current cheap labor in prisons, and the incentives behind companies and organizations supporting a cause of “funding psychiatric aid in institutions,” that are actually have entirely different underlying incentives.

 Our artifacts will include:

Museum of 2nd Attempt

Deliverables in museum format showing evolved system

 DSM-IV Codes: Catalog classifying creative capabilities

-Catalogue of various mental illnesses, as listed by the DSM/IV

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 Register: Statistical review of disorders in different areas

-Roster/categorization of various mental illnesses “available at each institution”

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Creativity tools: Different items that would promote creativity

Extraction Tools: Looking into an abstract tool that would make the creativity tangable

 -A form which will extract this creativity level. This could also hold in the form of drugs, or closer toward the concept of torture devices found in past insane asylums.

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Poaching Creativity

We conducted research on various methods and advice on fostering creativity, which we could then use to create methods to siphon this creativity from the patients.

“Keep making a ruckus”

There is a certain thrill that happens when you do something new for the first time, and the biggest way to keep excitement and creativity is not to fall into comfort. Utilizing the thrill that comes with the unknown is a great way of sparking new thoughts and innovation.

recapture child-like delight in taking a risk

“We spend 70 percent of our time on core search and ads. We spend 20 percent on adjacent businesses: Google News, Google Earth, and Google Local. And then 10 percent of our time should be on things that are truly new.

-Eric Schmidt, Google CEO

There are also multiple sites listing methods of creativity aid, many of which we could maneuver into “methods of extraction” used in the insane asylums.

“Keep making a ruckus”

the ins There are also enhancement drugs people can use (along side the more illegal creative drugs…) to promote creativity and outside thinking, as well as lucid dreaming.