Interview of a Prison Warden

Gurudeva introduces a prison warden who gives a talk about the dangers of drugs and distribution, assuring prison and jail time. Prison is not a pleasant place. substance abuse, domestic violence, assault, dysfunctional homes, are all tied in together. The physiological damage from the designer drugs, brain damage, walking zombies, are put forth. People use drugs as an anesthesia to forget the past, to deal with their problems. Counselling can only do so much-the key is the family and in many cases something is missing in the family, love is one of these crucial elements. Many questions are fielded and answered. Eventually perpetual users become dealers so that they can support their habit, designer drugs are very expensive. Drug abusers are willing to risk anything including their families. The warden describes the approaches used including Eastern approaches to treatment. Offenders are led to help them understand themselves. Gurudeva thanks the warden for this world wide recognized approach to this growing problem.

Unedited Transcript:

Today at Kauai Aadheenam, November 9th. Welcome everyone in Cyberspace. Welcome to the Cyberspace Ashram, on the garden island of Kauai. More questions are coming in. So we have interviewed Warden Neil Wagatsuma. He is the head of the KCCC, Kauai County Correctional Center. In his own words, we will see what Neil has to say in answer to more of these questions. There is a lot of interest out in Cyberspace from many countries.

Neil, let us hear what you have to say to these very fine people who are very interested in upholding the law.

Warden Neil: We are seeing more and more cases where it does not matter what kind of status you have in the community. But, the courts are very, very keen to the dangers of drug distribution. If you are caught selling, the chances of you getting prison or jail time is very much assured. Today, the courts realize that we have a very epidemic type of problem here and they cannot really use double standards, so to speak. So, they are becoming very strict as far as the sentencing.

Well, our philosophy is that if you do not want to make an effort to change, then get prepared to be housed in a facility that will meet your constitutional rights, but will not appease you, will not give the type of traditional prison privileges like TV, snacks, and cigarette smoking. We have options over here for inmates that want to make strides to change. Our philosophy is that we don't want the inmates to come back. The way it is now with society, we find more and more people from all walks of life, coming in through our back door. So, we want to make sure that the ones that we house over here do not return. Or, we try to minimize their return, because we are prepared for the flood of new offenders. Especially, with this drug use and with family abuse cases also. I believe it is over eighty percent. I can tell you that from substance abuse, it is over eighty percent. Substance abuse ties in with their crime. Thefts, family abuse, domestic violence, assaults really ties in with substance abuse.

Here we see a lot of all different types of crimes, from murder to driving under the influence. But a lot of the crimes, criminal acts are tied in with abuse of substances and drugs. I don't think people realize the damage, the physiological damage, from these new 'designer drugs'. Especially 'crystalmethamphetamine', or 'ice', or 'batu' as they call it. There is a large portion of inmates in Halawa who they consider walking zombies because if you look at a scan of their brain, they will show you a lot of holes that cannot close. People used to say that chronic alcoholics lose brain cells. But with 'crystalmethamphetamine', the damage is so much greater and so much faster.

I guess there is a whole bunch of reasons why they use drugs. There are a lot of people who use drugs recreationally, they never get caught. But in our prison population, we see a lot of individuals who have come from dysfunctional pasts, broken homes. They have had a lot of pain, a lot of betrayal in their lives and drugs, kind of, serve as an anesthesia to all of their problems. You know, a lot of them are filled with self-pity about their pasts. Some people are able to use the adversity and rise above. Many of these people go back to the short-comings in their pasts and use that to continue using substances.

Arumugaswami: How do you keep kids off of drugs?

Neil: That is where the families come in. You know, we can only do so much. I mean, even outside agencies - police, counselors, school teachers can only do so much. But actually, the key is the families. I think that a lot of people with kids that use drugs are those that are searching out for love. There is something missing in the family. That is why they search out and go with their friends. I mean, everyone goes through a period of rebellion and where the peer group becomes more important than the family. But in families where there is good communication, good understanding, and a lot of honesty, they usually come back. They know what is right. But, in those families where the crucial element is missing, they search out. Unfortunately, they look for love in all the wrong places.

Arumugaswami: How do kids get the money?

Warden Neil: You know, everyone can tell you that if you have a strong drug habit, the only way that you are going to be able to feed the habit, is eventually from dealing drugs. That is the only way you can feed your habit. It becomes a real vicious cycle. There is no way, because it is a very expensive habit. You know, they can resort to burglarizing, to thefts and what not. But, dealing is actually the way to sustain your habit. That is why it is so dangerous because then, everyone who wants to use is dealing. Then, you have more and more people getting caught in this vicious cycle.

Well, it is interesting with these new 'designer drugs' because they are so addictive. In the past, you would have people who smoked pot once in a while. But today, we see more and more people getting really caught in this web. (and) They are really out of control, to the point where they are willing to risk losing everything. When they end up in here, they almost hit rock-bottom. We see more and more people who come in here, who hit rock-bottom in their lives. So, as far as occasional and as far as heavy use, we are seeing in our facility over here. The ones we see are the ones who are very heavy users of drugs. Yeah, they are willing to risk everything, even their families.

Our lifetime stand is a training center. It is based on a triangle of honesty, compassion, and discipline. We utilize some Western para-military concepts for order and for discipline. But, we use a lot of Eastern concepts. We use a more holistic approach to helping offenders. We try to help them rely more on their conscience. We try to re-channel their passion and the power that they have and try to have them understand where they stand in life's bigger picture. Our whole focus is this.

We always say that society is breaking down. Society is breaking down as far as the morals, family values and standards. You know, we can hire many more police officers, many more counselors, many more teachers. But, if we don't really change the families, the heart of the families, then we can only do so much. What we try to do with offenders over here is help them come to understand themselves, their past, their present and to look at their future so they can go back into their families and lead by example. I know this sounds controversial, so to speak. But, we feel this is an effective way of counter-acting this trend that is happening.

Gurudeva: Neil, we want to thank you for your statements today. We really appreciate this and I know you have a very unique program here on the island of Kauai, and it has been recognized worldwide. Thank you very much, Warden. Mahalo.