“Jails – Inmates to lead the Change by applying The Communication Model”

© TCM 2013

Currently in British Columbia, there are a number of individuals with serious mental illness in the jail system. Having mental illness and being in jail is just wrong. A person with serious mental illness should be treated in a humane and caring way and not in jails. Mental illness is not something that can be treated in the prison system. Coercive care is not acceptable for medically ill individuals.  Serious mental illness needs to be treated in a community where all individuals within the community have a sense of what serious mental illness is. For example, if all individuals within society were educated into what serious mental illness is, then this is half the battle. If all citizens within a society could identify the traits of serious mental illness, then the individual suffering from serious mental illness him/herself will feel more accepted and more liberated. This new feeling of acceptance would then ultimately eliminate the judgment or the stigma currently associated with serious mental illness today – and it would break down the walls that many people in society have regarding the misconception of serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia.

The solution as to how this can be achieved is simple. The answer resides in The Communication Model, as one system of care. The Communication Model is an intervention that all individuals can apply in order to help another individual who is experiencing serious mental illness traits, such as psychological distress, pain and agony.

The Communication Model (TCM) is intended to help society understand and help individuals who suffer from serious mental illness. It is intended to bridge the gap between stigma and understanding. The Communication Model is intended to eliminate the fear and the prejudice often linked to an individual who has a serious mental illness. The Communication Model is a Humanity Model, based on the idea of acceptance and non-judgment. The helper listens to the individual while creating an abstract drawing. The abstract drawing becomes somewhat of an impartial third party – like a witness to the interaction between the helper and the individual in pain. The Communication Model is the opposite of any hierarchy system structure. It is the dismantling of the hierarchical system structure. It is a Model of care intended to be based on full equality and a full decentralization of any kind of hierarchical power oriented system. This is the one hundred procent (100%) opposite to the current hierarchical system structure. All hierarchical systems are not optimal. In fact each hierarchical system leads to some marginalized individuals in the system falling through the cracks – whatever the system is. When it comes to seriously mentally ill individuals, who really are medically sick, this is absolutely unacceptable treatment and it is offensive to let medically ill individuals be hung out to dry by being locked up instead of receiving adequate medical treatment. Driving the Communication Model forward is the importance of the need of good medical care for example, the seriously mentally ill individuals in jail –  should receive justice and equality versus injustice and inequality; they should receive  medical/psycho-social care/ humanity care in the realm of the community in contrast to behind bars.

The Communication Model is intended to break the walls of power that have been in existence for the last two thousand years (2000 years), as it is the hierarchical power structure which, is, at least to some extent responsible for the existence of serious mental ill people landing in jail today.

The Communication Model is a model that is free of charge. There is no money transaction involved. There is no payment. It costs nothing. The Communication Model is based on moral, spiritual, ethical, personal, private and confidential values. It is based on a mutual respect, a mutual understanding, it is dignity oriented, human rights oriented, non-discriminatory, non-prejudice, non-judgmental and it is an Acceptance Model. The aim of The Communication Model is to help the seriously mentally ill receive a higher quality of life by providing humanity based communication.

In effect, The Communication Model is intended to have a Domino-effect on society. The change is intended to take place in a gradual but consistent fashion, starting in the jails and ending-up amongst all layers of society, hence changing society in a gradual and apparent progression, from the bottom up.

It is the intention to go into the jail system in Victoria, British Columbia. Here, the plan is to teach an inmate, who, out of his/her own free-will, comes to see the helper, to talk about his/her own personal psychology distress. The Communication Model would be applied. The inmate will receive up to fifty (50) sessions. His/her psychological distress will be transferred into numerous abstract drawings over the course of the fifty (50) sessions. The abstract drawings will be protected and placed in a file after each one (1) hour session. The abstract drawing is part of a confidential communication. Each session will be based on a non-judgmental, acceptance and Humanity Model. A system of care based on mutual understanding and mutual respect, and based on non-discriminatory and non-prejudicial components. What often occurs within the application of The Communication Model, is that the individual experiencing the emotional distress, often changes. Somehow the abstract drawings, deters his/her attention away from their own emotional pain and hooks into a deep dimension of humanity. It is within this deeper dimension of humanity where both behavioral change and structural change seems to occur. For example, as the session progresses, listening with empathy occurs and the abstract drawing is created, as this happens – the individual with the distress seems to shift their soul from victim-hood to one of empowerment. The shift is subtle but noticeable. The crying often stops. The violent words of aggression and discontentment change into a gentler intonation, where trust develops into a deeper confidential trust element, constituting a substantial element of pure safety. This feeling of profound safety enables a bond to be created in an ever-lasting humanistic relationship. This profound element of safety becomes the anchor and the life-long lasting rapport which enables positive rehabilitation and the openness and willingness to change – a change that is only unique to the one specific individual seeking the help – the one with the emotional distress. The abstract communication drawing locks in the bond and holds it together like glue. It stands the test of time, like building blocks for a brand-new foundation of a newly discovered self.

Throughout the following sessions, the helper will take out the abstract drawings from the session prior, providing the continuity of the memories/emotions of the previous session. Creating this continuum of care is needed to make a positive rehabilitative change.

It is the intention that after fifty (50) sessions with the inmate in the British Columbia jail system, that the one individual with serious mental illness will then be equipped to teach The Communication Model to some one else who comes to him/her out of his/her own free-will and who is experiencing his/her own emotional distress. The vision of The Communication Model is that inmate A will be able to help inmate B in a very effective fashion, and hence applying The Communication Model components learnt for the fifty (50) sessions. This application of The Communication Model is intended to relieve the tensions amongst all inmates living in the jail environments over time. Instead of fighting, becoming aggressive and acting out in violent behavior – The Communication Model is intended to alleviate the pain, the distress and the hopelessness within the hierarchical jail system structure, with special attention to the hierarchical jail system structure surrounding the inmates themselves specifically – as, within the current jail system structure, individuals with serious mental illness are considered to be on the bottom of the hierarchical rankings. This Communication Model is intended to change the power struggles amongst inmates living within the jail system through an equality based system model. One based on a peer inmate helping another peer inmate to overcome personal despair. Once each individual inmate starts to help each other as best as they can, each prison inmate will become valuable citizens of society and will start to lead by example, which would lead to teaching The Communication Model to the prisons guards and the probation officers and psycho-social care workers, mental health and addictions practitioners and doctors, and family-members – that rehabilitation amongst the so-called most deviant of individual is possible.

It is only by targeting the most unlikely to change, according to current societal hierarchy standards – that one can instigate real change within a society. The source is jail inmates. It is believed that all jail inmates, with or without serious mental illness have the ability to change, rehabilitate them selves and actually, lead productive lives. It is believed that each inmate to be a value factor to developing a more positive and a more constructive society as well as contributing to their own individualized quality of life. A society and quality of life based on acceptance, non-discrimination and emotional intelligence versus the hierarchal power oriented approach.

Written by Annuska van der Pol, BA PDD-IMHA

TCM Mental Health and Addictions Practitioner

Victoria British Columbia, Canada

P.O. Box 8825, Victoria, BC V8W 3S3 Canada


This article is based on research of more than four hundred (400) peer-academic articles in 2012 / 2013. Keywords for the research were: schizophrenia, jails, Justice System, prisons, Psychiatry, Social Justice, Law.

Example of a Communication Abstract Drawing 2013Image



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  1. Theo said:

    Looks to me as a non-expert … and should have a lot of potential benefits for every body …. hope you can get this going with some successes to build on …

    • Theo, thank you for your comment. You are right, the potential benefits for every one are high. A concept is currently being generated to get the ball rolling. Annuska

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