Religion and Cult Infographic

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/20082958-religion-and-cults

This infographic I have created represents what I’ve learned on cults and religions for the past couple months. In it, I answer a few of my inquiries such as “What is a cult?”, “What is a religion?”, and “What’s the difference?”. I can now successfully answer those questions with ease!

This is my second time creating an infographic, and I do think that I’ve improved! I really enjoy using this type of media to represent my learning and would definitely do it again.

References –

  1. http://www.workingpsychology.com/cult.htmlhttp://www.humanreligions.info/what_is_religion.html
  2. http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/mysticism/world_religions_populations.html
  3. http://guff.com/whats-the-difference-between-religion-and-a-cult-is-there
  4. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aiia/aiia-top10cults.html
  5. http://youthandreligion.nd.edu/related-resources/bibliography-on-youth-and-religion/cults-and-new-religious-movements/
  6. http://history1900s.about.com/od/1970s/p/jonestown.htm
  7. http://www.history.com/topics/jonestownhttp://koreatourinformation.com/blog/2014/08/01/religion/
  8. http://michaelbluejay.com/x/how-cults-recruit.html
  9. http://www.csj.org/studyindex/studycult/cultqa.htm
  10. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/specialreports/564076-hezbollah-in-numbers
  11. http://en.protothema.gr/statistics-us-notes-a-surge-in-foreign-fighters-joining-isis/
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra%C3%ABlism
  13. http://heebmagazine.com/its-official-ufo-worshiping-raelians-are-no-longer-zionists/55304
  14. http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ufo-religions
  15. https://isene.me/2013/07/28/scientology-positive-negative/
  16. http://www.forum.exscn.net/showthread.php?34064-Scientology-stats-are-UP!-)
  17. https://whyweprotest.net/threads/the-big-list-graphs-and-analysis.120569/
  18. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2009/03_04/2009_04_27_PewResearchCenter_ChangesIn.htm

Dianetics

Book discussion.

Synopsis: Excellent. Well spoken.  I got an understanding of the entire book in less than 2 minutes.

Explained Scientology and its accompanying philosophy well.

Most important things learned:

  1. Felt like reading a science fiction book.  It made no sense.  Learned that that Scientology is a cult.
  2. Learned that people really need to be in help to subscribe to it.  They are so desperate that they think it will help them.  Scientology is meant to help you be a better person (their mantra), but that is not what has happened in reality.  All of this speaks to human nature and how fear and greed still rule many of our decisions.
  3. How it is marketed – targeted to the desperate.  Very smartly done.  Example: their website is all about humanitarianism, but it has not played out that way.  The philosophy is not logical, and thus the practice of it has failed.
  4. Cult leaders. Why join?  Charisma?  We can’t see why we would join, but we can’t overtly see the followers reasons for engaging with cult leaders.
  5. From her experience, it is so underground.  She could not find the book anywhere, had to find a PDF.  So secretive, only place to buy the books is at the churches.  It feels like they are hiding something.  Emma finds this strange.  Scientology is well known, but information is limited.  Even in the book “Dianetics”,  the information was very limited and general.
  6. L. Ron Hubbard, the author, was a science fiction writer.  This book felt like that.  Emma feels that the book was not cohesive, nor logical.  If it is  the basis of a religion, it feels more like a science fiction book than a religious book.  This book is considered the bible to Scientologists.  Emma think it should explain more as it is very vague.  She would never want to join something without all the information, but this is what people are doing.
  7. The more you pay, the more valued you are.  It seems that money is the number one thing that they care about.  The organization fought hard to create a religion so they did not have to pay taxes.  That was the sole purpose of the founder.  There are many fabrications.  Hubbard made himself out to be a hero, but he abused his wife and children.  Not encouraged to find information sources outside the church.
  8. They claim to be non-profit, but there revenues are huge.  The leaders are living in mansions.

Physical Literacy Assessment

3 -4 times a week on the bike for 40 minutes.

Start slow, gets faster – interval training.

Started in January.  Reports that it is getting easier.  Still working on physical improvement – leg strength and lung capacity.

Goal is to be fit and healthy.  Reports that diet is good – healthy – no gluten, dairy, and very little sugar.

Still thinking about how to apply the training to a specific physical skill.

As Emma has just begun to develop her physicality on the bike, she is just starting to get results.  I have informed her to be patient and stick with it, as she will for sure get results in the next month or two.

Weekly Assessment Meeting

Happening Now:

Make up course – will have things to post for Maddy for assessment.

Will be done section B by spring break.  The rest of the course is about working on people.  Needs to apply.  Ex: makeup for mature skin.

Plan to be done the full course by the end of the school year.

Assessment for Scientology:

Look for writing structure, organization, readability, flow, not repeating the same details.  Also, storytelling ability – when done reading the piece, are you satisfied – learned something.

Still reading Dianetics.  Done by beginning of March.

Started the infographic on cult vs. religion.  Will be done by the end of month.

Meet with Jessica to discuss science related inquiry.

Idea for a quick film – drawing tablet, photoshop, voiceover – for a final product for film course.

Need to find connections/develop deeper questions with religion/cults and greater society and government.

Needs:

None.

 

Everything I’ve learnt on the Church Of Scientology

Throughout the past month or so, I have been doing some intensive research on the church of Scientology. The thing with Scientology is that not many people actually know what it’s even about, including its members. Think about what you or the average person knows of the organization. Science? A creepy cult? Tom Cruise and John Travolta? Those were my thoughts too. So I took it upon myself to learn about where it comes from, what they practice, and all their dirty little secrets.

The church of Scientology was founded by a struggling author by the name of L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. Hubbard would write a wide array of science fiction novels and short stories, and actually holds the record for most books ever written and/or published, about over a million. He wrote day and night as at the time they would only pay writers one cent per word, and he needed the money to survive. After resigning from the U.S Navy in 1950 due to “war injuries” that later on turned out to be a total lie, Hubbard wrote one of his most iconic and important pieces of literature – “Dianetics – The Original Thesis”. This book is the basics of what Scientology is, if you can even understand it. The “movement” shall I call it, was a fad that was popular for a short while and then everyone just lost interest. This propelled Hubbard to create a new movement, which we know now as Scientology.

An interesting fact about Scientology is the reasoning behind why L. Ron Hubbard wanted to create a religion in the first place. In his 20’s, he would gather once a week with fellow authors living in the New York City area and they would discuss each other’s books and mingle I guess. A conversation had come up by Hubbard stating that he was dreading to pay his taxes as he could barely even afford it. A friend who overheard him piped up and told him as a joke that he should create a religion, as religions do not pay taxes. Being the man he was, Hubbard did exactly that.

As I understand, most Scientologists actually do not know what their religion preaches before spending years and lots of money to find out. I learned the basics of it in about an hour by googling it. The true backstory of Scientology (or Dianetics) is that billions of years ago, a galactic alien overlord named Xenu created 76 planets orbiting the stars with civilians similar to how our human beings were in the 1950’s. Apparently, these planets were severely overpopulated, so Xenu or whoever brought these beings to planet earth and dropped them in a volcano near Hawaii. Great population control technique. The theory is that each human being is comprised of Thetans, which is like a soul. It is believed that all our troubles, issues, anxieties, addictions etc are bad thetans that we absorbed at birth from those people that were tossed in the volcano ages ago. And the practice of Scientology is meant to rid you of your bad thetans so that you can live life to the fullest and be your best self. No, this is not the plot line of an episode of Doctor Who.

To liberate your inner thetans, they have a process called “auditing”. Auditing sessions happen to each Scientologist weekly/daily and are sort of like a twisted therapy. What basically happens is that an auditor will ask the Scientologist questions such as “Do you have a present time problem?”, “Is there anything you failed to reveal?”, “Is there anything you have been careful of?” and so on. A machine created by Hubbard called “E-Meter” which is strikingly similar to a lie detector is used by an auditor during this procedure. A small screen with “rise”, “set”, “fall”, and “test” and an arrow is used to indicate whether the person is being honest with their auditor or not. Similar to a simple lie detector, you hold the two metal cans which apparently monitor your pulse and brain waves or something like that. Through lengthy periods of questioning and answering, the auditor is supposedly able to find thoughts and memories from your past thetans (lives) and once they are rid, you are able to live a much happier and fulfilled life.

Auditing is really expensive. The church tends to amp up the price and time of a session each time, meaning that you could pay from $75 to $10,000 and up for your sessions. Another part of auditing is that the more you do it, the more seniority you gain in the religion. Once you reach your highest state possible, you become an Operating Thetan (OT). An OT is described to be in “a spiritual state above clear” meaning that you have full control over your physical and mental state. There are eight OT levels which one can achieve, and each one gives you more information on the backstory of Scientology. All auditors are OT’s and have much experience in the church. The average hourly wage of an auditor is an approximate $14.44 and is a career for many people with high OT levels in the church.

There are many career options inside Scientology, with the most popular one being the Sea Organization (Sea Org). The Sea Org was originally created in 1967 as a private navy for Hubbard to basically be his staff on his crusades through the world’s oceans. When you join the Sea Org, you are obligated to sign a “billion-year contract”. It is possible to leave the Sea Org, but breaking that billion year contract is pretty tricky. Sea Org members belong to Scientology in a sense like how nuns belong to Christianity. They are responsible for many things, from organizing all activities and gatherings in the church to cleaning and hard labor. Sea Org members are forced to live, eat, sleep and coexist together in designated buildings by the church. They are paid very little for their services, and have a long history of being abused and wrongly treated by people of power in the church.

While we are on about abuse, let’s talk about David Miscavige. The snake of all snakes. This man is the current leader of Scientology, as well as Tom Cruise’s best friend. He wasn’t really appointed by Hubbard or anyone but with much backstabbing, lying and abuse he weaseled himself to the top. Being born into the church, Miscavige became a deputy to Hubbard during his teenage years. One year after Hubbard’s death (1987) Miscavige became the official chairman of Scientology. But with a big fancy important title comes a lot of drama. David Miscavige is known to have a pretty slimy reputation. Many ex-Scientologists have come out with their experiences on being abused and publicly humiliated by Miscavige, who seems to never hold back. He is described as a cold hearted man who will do anything for money and success who holds a very believable facade for all his devoted fans who worship his existence. His wife, Shelly Miscavige, has not been seen publicly since August 2007. There are many theories as to where she is and what her husband has done to her. Much effort has been put in to find her whereabouts, like when ex-Scientologist Leah Remini filed a missing person report to the LAPD, was closed and classified as “unfounded”.

Most religious groups tend to dislike it when their members leave, but Scientology REALLY dislikes it. Similar to herpes, depression, and glitter, once you’re with Scientology it’s pretty hard to get rid of it. When someone decides to leave the church, they are treated like a convict. Scientology says that you are allowed to leave whenever, but once you’re gone it is against the rules to communicate with your family, friends or anyone who still is in the church. There are endless stories of mothers and fathers not being able to see their children ever again, or best friends being forever separated because of this rule. If you do happen to try and secretly communicate with them, you will eventually be caught and kicked out too. In Scientology lingo, this is called being declared, or being a suppressive person. Once you are declared the entire church shuns you and treats you like a criminal, as Scientologists think that being declared means that you committed a crime towards the church.

The church, Miscavige in particular, is so incredibly concerned about their image and bad press. Any little speck of bad PR needs to be removed, from a blog post dissing their practices and people to the popular tv show South Park making an entire episode mocking them. Many people and their families have been stalked and harassed by Scientology employees for spreading negative news on the church.

Recently, many Scientologists of importance have left the church and have been using their power to expose it. Celebrities such as Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman (both ex-wives of Tom Cruise) have left, as well as Leah Remini who is now working on the exposure of Scientology and using her fame for good. With the help of Mike Rinder, also known as the former senior executive of the Church of Scientology, Remini has created a tv docu-series on her’s as well as many other victim’s experiences with the church. Her goal is to educate people on what truly goes on at Scientology and to eventually shut it down. Leah Remini and Mike Rinder aren’t the only ones who are working on exposing Scientology, as many other networks, journalists, and everyday people have been spreading the message during the last few decades that the Church of Scientology is truly despicable.

Today, the church of Scientology allegedly has over 10 million members worldwide (although recent studies show that the number is a bit closer to 40,000). There are many churches (or Organizations as they call them) throughout the world, but the most notable ones are the flagship church in Clearwater, Florida and the Pacific Area Command Base in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles has the largest amount of Scientologists worldwide, making their presence a lot louder there. The Church of Scientology also managed to have an entire block named L. Ron Hubbard Way, which is where the Hollywood organization is. 

There is also a “celebrity center” in Hollywood, which is where the religion’s biggest asset goes; the celebrities. Whether you know a single thing on Scientology or not, almost everyone knows the celebrities who are or have been linked to it. The two biggest names in Scientology are actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Hubbard’s main interest it seems was to gain new and popular celebrities to his religion, as who doesn’t want to copy their favorite actor or musician?! The celebrity center is everything and MORE you would expect for their precious celebrities. I myself have driven past it, and to be honest I was absolutely captivated by the stunning white castle-like building with gold trim that they oversee.

Scientologists everywhere believe that someday, somehow, their savior L. Ron Hubbard will come back from the dead (or wherever they believe he is) and continue his oh so needed work. In each Organization, a beautifully decorated and personalized office awaits for Hubbard so he can get back to work as soon he comes back. There is also an empty mansion in Western California awaiting his return, just in case he needs somewhere to live too.

Learning about the Church of Scientology has been really interesting, yet also very disturbing. I am glad to have gained this knowledge, and I certainly do know now that no matter how awful my life is, I will never become a Scientologist. I’ll just watch from a far instead.

 

References –

https://wikileaks.org/wiki/Church_of_Scientology’s_’Operating_Thetan’_documents_leaked_online

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography_of_Scientology

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/what-is-scientology-and-who-was-l-ron-hubbard/

http://www.mikerindersblog.org/10-million-scientologists-where-are-they/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Scientologists

http://tonyortega.org/2013/08/07/prepare-to-be-audited-claire-headley-takes-us-through-scientologys-arc-straightwire/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_Thetan#OT_VIII:_Truth_Revealed

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Chris Shelton (YouTube)

https://www.salaryexpert.com/salarysurveydata/job=scientology-auditor/salary

http://www.xenu.net/archive/so/

http://exscientologykids.com/sea-org-2/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Miscavige

http://www.scientology.org/david-miscavige/biography.html

http://exscientologykids.com/glossary/

Mid Year Assessment Meeting

Goals:

Emma feels like she has made a lot of progress since September.  She feels that she has achieved goals.  Since it is her 3rd year here, Emma understands how the school works.  She is highly self-motivated.

She has gone more in depth into crimionolgy – cartels –  and has done deep learning there.  She is now moving towards cult and religions and is doing strong inquiry.

Make up quest – how to do makeup on people (making them feel comfortable)?  How to work in the industry?  How to be clean and safe? Emma can see things that she has not seen before.  She is taking an online professional course.  Emma now looks at people and can see how they can better themselves.  Ex skin, eyebrows, etc…

She is reading more.  Listnening to podcasts.  Reads a lot of articles.  Improved finding worthy sources.  Also made improvements in writing – especially over the course of the last few years through providing better exmples and backing up her ideas more fully.  When writing about her passion, she gets better results.

Math is going well.  Generally understands it.  Making progress.  It has been worse.

 

Future:

Become a certified makeup artist.

More make up learning in general.

Learn more about cults – especially Scientology.  Compare/contrast cults  and religion.

Looking at forensics for science.

Doing work experience with a mortician.

 

Structures/support:

She can’t think of anything specific.  Just keep checking in weekly.  Already a highly independent learner.

Structured plan of everything that needs to get done course-wise by the end of the year.

 

Feedback:

Needs more help organizing herself.  Break things down into smaller tasks.

Diversify further in her makeup portfolio representation.

Keep track of sources and cite them properly.

Read more books.

Improve persuasive writing.

 

Wed, Feb 1st Org and Assessment Meeting

Happening Now:

Unit B Master make-up Course- almost done!

Scientology/ Heavens Gate Cult- What is the difference between a religion and a cult? Questions and Research are strong, Emma is able to check her sources and find reliable information, because of the subject it is dangerous to pursue primary sources.

Reading- Dianetics, from the creator of Scientology

Fitness- I feel good, I am enjoy it, I have this routine, where I put on some noise, some Fresh Prince, and Bike, usually 40mins.

 

 

Future Focus:
Working to words completing Learning Activities, Decide on course of action and get started
-potentially a podcast, info-graphic

Think about how these systems impact society, how these beliefs influence peoples actions.

 

NEEDS:

Help Brainstorming Learning Activities- Jake Today
Arts Assessment from Maddy- 9:30am Mon, Feb 6th

 

Inside Out Challenge

This is was my contribution for the #insideoutchallenge created by an Instagram makeup artist (@lilmoonchildd) in effort to create awareness on mental illness. The challenge is to recreate what your mental illness would look like to you inside on one half of your face, with the other being normal.

I struggle every day with depression and anxiety. Every moment of my every day is taken over by my mental illness. This causes me to not be able to do simple things that most people take for granted such as ordering a drink at a coffee shop, having a conversation with someone, going to a certain place, etc. I will literally wait outside a Starbucks, looking in the window, and walk in once a line of at least two people has formed to get in to take my order, as I need to read the menu for what I want and need time to prepare myself. Which reading it sounds really stupid and insane, but I physically and mentally cannot do it any other way.

My life is restricted because of this, and I miss out on so many opportunities because my anxiety forces me to not be able to. It feels like my brain and thoughts are in a prison, and I have no way of controlling them or getting out. I don’t find myself sharing this with many people because it is very difficult for those who have never dealt with any sort of related issues to comprehend what it’s like.

People usually say “just relax!” or “you’re too young to have anxiety!” which really hurts. We live in a society that conceives mental illness as something that is scary and wrong, therefore it is ignored and stigmatized.

I did some research to make myself sound smart, and found out that 1 in 4 people worldwide will have a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Currently, more than 40% of the world’s countries have no mental health policy, and over 30% have no mental health program. That’s really sad. I believe that it is so important to help educate our friends, family, peers, the general public and ourselves on the basics of mental health. Being mindful on how to treat someone dealing with mental issues and knowing what it is can make a much bigger positive impact on someone than you would think.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Throughout my entire life, I have always had very ambitious and large dreams of what I want to accomplish. In my mind, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about living a “normal” life, living in a “normal” place and working a “normal” job. I’ve always seen myself as the CEO, and not the employee. I think a lot of people think I sound pretty conceited because of this. But it isn’t my fault I aspire big.

I get asked A LOT about what I want to do with my life once I graduate high school. And it’s not like most people even care, or that it’s their business what I plan on doing with my life. But I think being a makeup artist is a very non-traditional career, so people tend to be more inquisitive about it. If someone tells you that they plan on working with law, it’s usually pretty easy to guess what their career will look like in 10 years. Unless they plan on becoming the next Judge Judy.

It’s really annoying when you tell someone your life plans and they stomp all over them. It’s a pretty recurring event for me. I have gotten to a point where I usually don’t talk about them much to people because I always get told: “Oh, how are you gonna do that?” “Well, it’s good to dream!” and the classic “Wow, but you’re so young! I’m sure your ideas will change once you become an adult”. The truth is that most people find it hard to see a 16-year-old girl living in a mansion in Bel Air, working as Kim Kardashian’s personal makeup artist and part-time best friend in the near future. So I’ve stopped telling everyone what I want to do, and I tell various fabricated lies instead. When I get asked the golden question, I reply with “Hmm, I don’t quite know yet”. Even though I’ve really been looking at apartments in Los Angeles for the past year or so, and thinking about my future is what motivates me to continue living.

I believe that many adults have absurdly low standards for teenagers and their future. When I do tell people that I have my future pretty well planned out, they usually are very surprised. Which is sad to me. Because the truth is, a large majority of teenagers graduate high school and go to college to get a degree they’ll never use. They get some standard job and live an average life. That’s what our society seems to perceive as “normal”. There is nothing wrong with that. But why aren’t adults pushing and encouraging us to do our best and make our dreams become reality? As a human being, you have the power to do anything you want with your life. Nothing is impossible. Sure, it might not be easy, but the only thing that holds you back is excuses and those you make up.

If I knew that I could not fail anything, I would probably just continue doing what I do now. I have many aspirations that I would like to achieve in my lifetime, and failing has never crossed my mind. I am confident in myself, and I’ve always known that I can do anything if I work hard enough. I think the biggest cause of my motivation is to prove everyone wrong once I do succeed. One of my most favorite quotes is by RuPaul. In one of his books, he wrote: “Even when I was down, I treated myself as a star, and eventually, the rest of the world would catch up”. I live by this every day. I continue to work hard and push the limits, so I can realize my dreams. Because I know that if I don’t do so, and just live an average and normal life, I will regret it.

The world’s four most unusual prisons

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Nelson Mandela

 Every year that our planet circles around the sun, we discover and learn such incredible things. Each second, our planet earth is evolving and growing in ways that we may never truly understand. Brilliant inventors and gifted human beings innovate breathtaking ideas and creations each and every day. Humanity is becoming more and more accepting, aware and informed on how to save, help, accept, create and inspire to make our world a better place. But good is not always a symptom for bad. We live in a world with large amounts of hatred, evil, and despicable crime. Hate speech, murder, assault, bullying, exclusion and discrimination are some of many things which our race unfortunately deals with. And more than often, victims of these heinous crimes are likely to repeat them. Half of the world’s prison population being approximately nine million people, is held in the US, China or Russia. Known for their severe incarceration rates, the US are the world’s highest, at 724 American citizens per 100,000 which are in prison. The smallest rate of imprisonment lies in San Marino, one of the world’s smallest countries which resides in Europe. Their total of inmates are of two people. It’s very apparent that each country has many different tactics when it comes to dealing with criminals, but what are they? Why are some countries so criminally populated, and others not? As you read along, we shall explore four innovative penitentiaries across the globe to get a better understanding on their shocking tactics to help diminish crime as much as possible.  

Prison 1 – Halden Prison, located in Halden, Norway

 Described as “the most humane prison in the world”, Halden Prison doesn’t sound too bad to me. Despite being maximum security, the grounds of this penitentiary have been described as modern, cheerful, safe and overall quite pleasant by many inmates, staff, and reporters which have spent time there. A bit over one million dollars have been spent to decorate the prison with exquisite art, photography and lighting which is displayed everywhere through the place to bring happy and inspirational vibes to the inmates. Holden’s goal is to help rehabilitate their convicted rapists, murderers and kidnappers during their stay so once they’re released to the world, they will know how to live a successful life out of crime. The maximum sentence given in Norway is 21 years no matter what crime has been committed, so many inmates are motivated to become better people because they know that they aren’t spending life in prison. This tactic seems to be working quite well, considering Norway’s prison population is a mere 3,874, ranking them the 129th spot in the global imprisonment scale of 223 countries. As the Norwegian Correctional Service like to say, “better out than in”.

 To help the inmates adjust to society better when let out, the prison offers daily cooking lessons and lets them prepare their own wholesome meals. Meal time is always spent together, with the inmates as well as the guards. The guards spent a large chunk of their work day with the inmates. They are encouraged to participate in games, sports, conversations and most daily activities with the inmates as this creates bonds and trust between guard and inmate. The guard’s official job description says they must motivate the inmate “So that his sentence is as meaningful, enlightening and rehabilitating as possible”. Although I cannot seem to stop using the word “inmate” for this situation, that word has no meaning at Halden. Instead of inmates or prisoners, they are referred to as pupils. There is a strong sense of equality and trust in this penitentiary, which is Norway’s key technique when it comes to crime.

 Another interesting aspect of this prison is how much fun and learning the inmates seem to be having there. The establishment features a professional recording studio with music teachers so that inmates that take an interest can find a new hobby, and produce some music. The studio has some of the most professional and hi-tech music making software there is. Inmates and even guards are encouraged to further their musical talents, and there has even been an album made by various members of the prison. The kitchen is always open for any aspiring chefs to try out a new recipe, since all inmates must cook their own meals. Despite housing many of Norway’s most notorious killers, everyone is allowed to freely use the cooking utensils, such as very sharp knives and forks, and even scissors. They also have full access to a large variety of even sharper tools during woodworking and construction seminars. Sitting around in jail for years on end can really gain you a couple pounds, so they have a large gym with lots of exercise equipment, and even a basket ball court. If you happen to be more into nature, the prison itself is actually surrounded by the “blueberry woods”, a Norwegian type of majestical forest. It consists of blue-­black spruces, slender Scotch pines and silver-­skinned birch trees which grow over a thick layer of blueberry bushes. These beautiful trees hover over the prison, and create a beautiful ecosystem which is very healing and therapeutic to everyone in the surrounding area. “Nature is a rehabilitation thing now,” said Gudrun Molden, an architect of the prison, to the New York Times in an interview. The forest provides a lovely place for inmates to take a walk or jog, sit and play cards with a friend, read a book or to do some art. Getting fresh air and exercise can help the inmates release any tension or stress going on, and make them overall happier and calmer people. Something else which the administration believes to keep the tension down is that the majority of their guards are female. Apparently, since this is a male only penitentiary, having female guards helps make it a positive and peaceful environment for the inmates. Officials have said that the male inmates often refrain from picking fights with guards since they are of the opposite gender, and they feel like it would be disrespectful to bother a female. This is one of the many reasons as to why there are barely any fights at all at Halden.

  With all their fancy decor, state of the art technology, and overall quality that this prison has to offer, you’d think that they must be in some serious debt. But since Norway’s incarceration rate is fairly low, the costs remain very manageable. It has been said that if the United States jailed their citizens at the same rate as Norway (which approximated is 75 per 100,000 residents, compared to the U.S.’s roughly 700 citizens per 100,000) they could easily save at minimum $45 billion a year. According to a survey done by the Vera Institute of Justice, the average U.S. taxpayer pays $31,286 a year per inmate, as of 2012. The study which was conducted among 40 states, approximates the country’s prison costs at $39 billion annually. Although it may be smaller, Norway is definitely winning in the money category. It is no secret that the U.S. is and has been in debt for a while now. Perhaps the rest of world needs to take a try at Halden’s uber liberal policies, since they seem to be the most humane and successful ones.

Prison 2 – Maricopa County Jail, located in Phoenix Arizona, United States of America

 Comparing this prison to the one in Norway makes it look like an absolute hell on earth, ran by the devil himself. Known as “America’s toughest sheriff”, Maricopa County Sheriff and warden Joe Arpaio is not someone to mess with. Arpaio has somehow managed to be the longest serving elected sheriff ever in Maricopa County, after being voted in on six different elections. His methods are strict, tough, inhumane and quite crazy, but to him that’s how it must be done. After comparing the prison, in Sheriff Arpaio’s words, to “a concentration camp”, you would think that criminals in Arizona must always be thinking twice before committing a crime so they don’t end up there. This is true, considering Arizona, which is a few thousand people short of the same population rate of Tennessee, has shockingly less crime in their state. An approximate scale of the annual violent crime rates by state shows Arizona to be ranked #16, compared to Tennessee being #3. If these statistics are true, it seems like Joe Arpaio’s techniques might actually be doing some good? But what good is keeping crime rates low in your state when you’re torturing a large sum of human beings to do so.

 Maricopa County, a small county located in Phoenix Arizona,  has six different incarceration sites, with all of them seeming to be averagely common prisons which run as you would imagine a prison would. With the exception of one of course; Tent City. Created by the notorious Joe Arpaio in 1993, this 7 acre piece of land holds a maximum of 2,176 inmates in a lovely outdoor setting. These minimum to medium sentenced male only convicts who are almost all awaiting their trials get to go camping every day of their sentence in the hot days and cold nights of Arizona. But this isn’t your usual state park campground. All inmates are housed in your typical korean war inspired, military-esque olive green canvas tents. Arpaio, who will go through any lengths to save a penny, decided to use tents as housing instead of actual buildings because he thought it would save the country a whole lot of money. The tents are unheated during the winter and uncooled in the summer, which sounds quite unpleasant if you look at the typical weather Arizona has to offer day and night. The warmest it’s been at tent city was in 2011, a whopping 145 degrees fahrenheit, nearly 30 degrees over their usual. When asked about what he was planning on doing with his roasting inmates by a reporter, Sheriff Arpaio replied “What am I going to do, take them out of jail because it’s too hot?”. Despite being in the toasty warm desert, a typical night in Arizona year round can easily go below 0 degrees. In effort to warm up, inmates can wrap themselves in their designated paper thin sheets of bubblegum pink fabric that they call blankets. Yet another genius idea from Arpaio, the inmates are properly equipped with a full array of pink coloured apparel varying from their uniforms, underwear, bedding, towels, and whatever kind of “decor” they have in effort to try and “humiliate them”. Another great quote from our beloved sheriff, “why give them a color they like?” since people still believe in the gender stereotype that men are all repulsed by the colour pink. I doubt it really bothers too many inmates, considering they have much worse things to worry about such as being in prison and living in tents.

 If anyone in Maricopa County thinks that they’re getting a chance to sit back, relax, and do nothing for their prison sentence, they’re wrong. Each inmate has a designated job such as food factory, housecleaning, training, equipment services, and election balloting. Everyone is forced to participate in hard labor each and everyday in the sweltering heat. And while doing so, they are constantly being peered at and viewed. Tent City is one of Arizona’s most popular tourist destinations, believe it or not! Tours of the grounds are offered daily to the public, which take groups all around the prison (in safe areas barriered off with fences and heavily armed guards of course) to get a taste of prison themselves. They even have a gift shop selling replicas of the beloved pink t-shirts which inmates wear to make a bit of extra profit. Not only is this a popular site for tourists, but the media as well. News teams and reporters are continuously standing outside the prison in order to crack something out of Arpaio, who seems to be a loose cannon especially when he does something controversial. His string of accusations include racism towards latino inmates, human abuse (an obvious one), his strong views on illegal immigration and many more shady things. Many people support him and many do not, but it’s safe to say that his inmates would probably hold a grudge against him for a while. It makes sense that such a controversial place would be ran by such a controversial man.

Very recently, Sheriff Arpaio lost his bid to run his seventh term in Arizona due to the latino voters of the state being fed up with his antics. This means that the sheriff duties and job of being the warden at tent city shall be given to someone else in the near future. Whether the next person assigned at the job will continue tent city or rebuild an actual prison is unknown so far, but I am certain that many inmates in Arizona are quite excited. A large sum of the population in Maricopa County hope that they can bring back a bit more kindness and civilness to their location, now that they’ve finally rid themselves of the proclaimed “Donald Trump of Arizona”.

Prison 3 – Aranjuez Prison, located in Aranjuez, Spain

One of the biggest woes of going to prison for many people around the world is leaving behind their children. Many parents have no significant other or family members to take care of their children so they end up alone or in foster care. Others leave them with a suitable guardian they do know that more often than not are probably worse for the child. In the United States, an estimated 809,800 inmates of the total 1,518,535 held in the country’s prisons in 2007 were parents of minor children, or children under the age of 18. Research has shown that most children who have parents involved with crime end up committing felonies themselves. In case you didn’t know, the average person does not allow inmates to keep their children with them. It makes sense considering the average person in prison is considered dangerous, and not suitable to be around small children. But there is an exception. Aranjuez Prison in Aranjuez, Spain contains 36 cell units for families with children under age three to reside in with their parents. Once the child turns three, they are taken away from their incarcerated parent(s) and returned to relatives (if there are any) or social services. The spacious cells contain cribs, toys, a double bed for the parents, a small bathroom and windows facing the outside of the prison. There is an outdoor playground for the children to play on, and doctors who come twice a week to visit each child and parent to assure everything is alright. With such luxuries, you would think that any inmate in Spain, let alone the rest of the world, would give almost anything to be there.

Every inmate wakes up at dawn for roll call and goes back to their cells at dusk. Except at Aranjuez, they have children with them. When an inmate decides to apply at this prison, they are observed over a two month observation period to prove that they’re suitable to live together and raise a child. Sex offenders are not eligible for the program. Once proven, they go to court to finalize the deal. Being the only prison in the world like this, it has a lot of mixed reviews. Many psychologists and pediatricians think that children should not be in jail, no matter the circumstances. The first three years of a child’s life are said to be when they learn and change the most, so many experts are concerned that they will be impacted negatively in the long term. Others find it crucial for the child to establish a bond with it’s parents at such a young age, and think it helps the parents as well. But even the incarcerated parents know it isn’t the ideal place to raise a child. But it beats being separated from your child. Often, parents will get so accustomed to their comfortable lifestyle in the prison that once their three years are up, they’ll try to get pregnant again just to stay at Aranjuez as long as possible. It isn’t easy to leave such a comfortable environment, especially once they get used to having their children and significant other surrounding them daily.

  

Prison 4 – San Pedro prison, located in La Paz, Bolivia

Usually, when someone is sent to prison it is because they’ve done something proving them incapable of being in a community. Prison is a place for people to be kept away from society, being often left alone or with very little interaction with others. San Pedro prison or El penal de San Pedro in spanish, is located in La Paz, Bolivia. A few police officers guard the outside of the prison, but inside it is completely ran by inmates and populated by over 1,500 male criminals.

This prison is ran quite similarly as a small town or city would in our society. Leaders, guards and people of importance are voted in by inmates. Their entire community runs on our world’s most important thing; money. You pay for your cell, food, personal belongings and basically everything you’d need to survive. There are of course jobs to be had, like in any place, to earn money so that you can survive. Some of the jobs they offer are grocery or food stall clerk, hairdresser, laundry, carpenter, shoe-shiner, real estate agent and TV and radio repairman. A job is essential in San Pedro if you aren’t wealthy, since housing in the prison varies from $20 – $5,000. Some inmates also have children and their wives who live with them on the grounds to take care of, which isn’t cheap either of course. Like in the “real world”, there are more luxurious and comfortable housings to live in if you can afford them. If you have the money, your stay here could be lovely. Another money making tactic is competitive sports. Every sector of the prison has a football team that competes in weekly tournaments, with bets of more than $20,000 a year from the wealthy inmates. This gives athletically inclined inmates a chance to make quite a lot of money by doing something they love. San Pedro is definitely a huge culture shock to learn about, especially compared to a traditional prison.

Let’s not sugar coat it. South America is very well known for their abundant production of cocaine. They have the perfect climate and resources to produce, sell and ship out millions of tons daily to drug addicted citizens all over the globe. Being the continent’s bread and butter, the many jobs needed in the drug industry are employed by their residents. Children, adults, elders, and you guessed it – criminals. Keeping the best for last, San Pedro prison’s main income is from the drug trade. Approximately 80% of the inmates there are being held for drug related crimes, with most of them being addicts and users. Cocaine is produced behind the jail’s walls and sold by the prison’s dealers to other inmates and the public to feed people’s addictions and reel in the cash. Poorer inmates who cannot afford the luxury of powdered cocaine can buy “base”, the leftover residue from the manufacturization of cocaine. Despite being far cheaper, base is much more addictive and dangerous to take than regular cocaine since it contains the toxic chemicals that are cooked out of cocaine. Needless to say addicts do not care what they take as long as it fulfills their craving.

With drugs and money always comes crime and murder. Inmates have said that there is an average of 4 deaths per month due to natural causes, “accidents” and murder. San Pedro has a strict no abuse towards women or children policy, and when those rules are violated said offender is publicly murdered by a leader in the prison. Since many women and children do live with their family member in this prison, it’s a recurring thing to see conflict and violence involving them. In 2013, a 12 year old girl living in San Pedro reported her pregnancy to the authorities, which was discovered to be a result of rape from several male family members of her’s. Bolivians were outraged as they should be, and had the last straw. That year the government had issued San Pedro to close and relocate to a more safe and secure prison, yet today it still hasn’t moved since there’s no where to put these two thousand-something convicts in Bolivia. There are many pros and cons to the way this prison works, and it definitely adds to the list of most interesting penitentiaries around the world.

These four prisons all have one thing in common; they’re completely unorthodox. But in a state of severe criminalization, desperate times call for desperate measures. I think it’s interesting how even though each prison uses extreme techniques to discipline their inmates, they are all polar opposites. Halden uses an understanding and humane approach, where as Maricopa County is brutal and quite torturous towards their people. Aranjuez gives inmates an extra luxury and San Pedro’s inmates are loose and in charge themselves. It shows how different our world copes with crime and deals with it, humane or harsh. Some places have more money and can afford nicer penitentiaries and better treatments, where as others who are poorer suffer. My research and what I’ve learned has definitely broadened my horizons on different prisons around the world and how they work. And that if I ever go to jail, I’d hope that it’s in Norway.

 

References –