Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Time we addressed the Miracles of St. Mina, depicted somewhat facetiously above (the miracles, not Mina), and whose inventiveness in the Animals Humanizing Prisons Movement (AHPM) is chief among the reasons I have personally forsaken all others. Well, that and the fact that there's a decided lack of romantic interest in me on the part of anyone over the age of eight and with less than four legs.

As you may know, there has been considerable success using a variety of animals in partnership with prison populations. Dogs, dolphins, birds, rabbits and horses have all greatly facilitated the HAB (human-animal bond) that gives rise to the possibility that those who are incarcerated might find greater pleasure in tending a relationship than tormenting it. Clearly there is a statistically perceived benefit in fostering such human-animal bonds, in that it lowers the recidivism rate by about fifty percent.

It's Mina's idea that these bonds need not be limited to the above animals. She has devised a system whereby inmates both self-identify their preferred 'totem' animal as well as ultimately are given an animal to take care of that would be the equivalent of their 'higher self.' This process of successful identification and nurture of what are often two different species becomes criteria for conditional release.

Questions abound, of course, particularly in the matter of practicalities. Suppose, for instance, some felon chooses a Komodo dragon as his totem animal of choice. One can hardly argue on behalf of the pragmatics of raising a 160-lb. flesh-eating reptile in captivity.

Mina recommends a different tack, however. She agrees it would be a cold day in hell before any prison in its right mind took on the challenges of hosting Komodo dragons. No, for Mina the point is once the 'totem' animal has been self-identified, the inmate's task is then to explore the significance of everything there is to know about the species. Young Komodo dragons, for instance, are at great risk of being eaten by cannibalistic adult Komodos, for whom their young is about ten percent of their total diet. Komodos are nonetheless able to successfully pair bond as well as bond with their human captors. Therapeutically this opens the question of which adult humans "cannibalized" the inmate. Which ones were exceptions. The idea is that the felon might be better able to understand himself through the imagery of an animal than through direct self- and other-observation.

Talk therapy has its limitations, as the picture below so reasonably demonstrates.

Yawn. Enough of Mina's miracles and now to the more distilled wonders of Jim Beam. It is, after all, 4:30 on a sultry summer afternoon. Inspires an "Ah, PM!" of my own.


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