Last month we launched the independence challenge and asked you to submit ideas that help someone become more independent and feel more free. Our winning concept comes from James Christenson of Minneapolis.
James presented an organic farming program that helps prisoners rehabilitate and stay productive. Taking a more empathetic approach to imprisonment, his idea helps individual prisoners heal through nature while they give back to the community. It's a win win.
Serving a true need
It's an idea worth exploring when you consider that the US leads the world in incarceration rates. Did you know 25% of the world’s total prison population is on America soil? What's equally concerning is our high rate of re-entry, which stands at a 76.6%. That means that most American inmates return to prison within 5 years of release (1).
Rehab & Prevention
James mentioned how we should take note of how Nordic countries, such as Norway, (among the lowest incarceration rates), are designing their facilities. The “open prisons” concept found in Sweden (2), focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
James called his innovation “The Organic Self Sustaining Prison” and imagined turning vacant lots and rural plots into open environments for inmates. Depending on their crime they’d have their own little cabins. They could take part in horse therapy or a Farmer’s Market exchange, or they could cultivate honey bees.
Why it works
Redesigning prisons this way would have a big impact with a rippling effect. Inmates would be made to feel like part of the community while they serve their sentence, rather than isolated from it. They’d be able to learn new skills, stay productive and active, and even earn a fair wage.
James’ innovation took into account the inmates’ wellness. His “Healing through Nature” tagline greatly contrasts the realities of prison today, where access to nature is virtually inexistent. At the organic farm, the inmates would be able to connect with nature to heal, thus serving their time and reentering society with a more peaceful mind.
We hope to see American prisons redesigned in our lifetime. We love that this idea could break a vicious cycle. It's important we keep inmates healthy, productive parts of our society rather than disconnected, forgotten prisoners, thanks for reminding us that James!
Other great ideas from the challenge:
Patrick B designed a service that helps displaced families find safety and sponsors. His idea was inspired by the shared economy powered by brands like Uber and airBnb. It all starts with a request, and much like the New York delivery model, the service would connect people to people, or temporary location, or safe food. It'd be a shared effort, with many providers and individuals serving the whole so that no one bears the full burden alone.
Patrick J. was inspired by his friends' Farm to Table concept and took on the challenge to redesign a restaurant that acquires no waste. As each family leaves their table the left overs are assessed and staff would compost food scraps for the backyard garden, purify liquids, and grind up bones and shells. They'd serve certain teas and organic drinks that are safely used in the garden, never poured down the drain.
Danielle A. created a mobile app and data algorithm that helps young girls speak up about harmful images they see on the media. It's called the "No Other Me" app and would allow someone to press their app icon whenever they see negative, unhealthy or disturbing portrayals of girls or women on TV, advertisements or other media. Offenses would be tracked, allowing for investigations to launch, improved policies and possibly cancelled shows. This concept helps girls feel safe and more empowered to stand up to sexism and body shame.
Abbey S. designed a playground fit for abled and disabled kids. It included an awesome castle with a ramp inside! It also featured side by side equipment that allows for mobile kids to play with differently abled kids. It also featured a sweet lollipop game and a swing that a wheelchair can roll onto.
Heatherlee explored a "Get out of Class Free Card" for kids who struggle to focus and learn in traditional classroom settings. When a student feels bored or can't pay attention they simply get up and raise their GCF Card. They'd go to an "Alt Learning Room" where they could learn their lesson plan through different means, such as watching videos, building something, conducting an experiment, science, art etc. They'd return to class to explain what they learned and how. This allows students the freedom to explore learning through different styles, while empowering them to teach others.
Thank you for participating!
We loved hearing about your ideas and hope you continue iterating. In case you missed it, here are some scenarios you could consider designing for. Pick a problem and take an hour to reimagine a better way. Better yet, print some out and do some power sketches with a small group.
Be sure to tweet at us about the ideas and conversations you have. Have fun, and stay tuned for the next challenge!
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