A book by the psychologist from Lanzarote Virginia Barber uncovers the foundations of American prisons

 In Interviews, Literature, Main News, Novelties

There are classes everywhere, even in prisons. In Spain we have very popular examples of white glove thieves and living in national jails, some closed ex professo for themselves for being criminals of greater substance. In the United States there are also luxury prisoners.

For example, in the New York prison of Rikers Island have lived from Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former president of the International Monetary Fund, to Mark David Champan, murderer of John Lennon. Now the director of the Mental Health service of that correctional facility is Virgina Barber from Lanzarote, who recently visited Spain to present her book ‘Más allá del bien y del mal’ (Editorial Debate).

The first time Virginia visited the maximum security penitentiary she thought she could never work there, but after gaining experience at Belleveu Hospital and finally mastering English, the opportunity arose and she agreed to work at Rikers where, according to her data, at least half of the inmates need psychological treatment and almost 15% suffer from serious disorders, be it depression, schizophrenia or psychotic disorder. Outside the prison, among the civilian population, the percentage of people with these diseases only reaches 5%.

Barber speaks in the book of what many have termed as “the criminalization of disease.” In the USA, many of the patients of psychological illnesses have been marginalized and “has not been thought of a plan b, so many have had problems with the police,” she explains. For this reason, they have gone from being confined in the asylums to doing so in prison.

The question of evil comes into play. Would these sick people be in jail if they were not? For Barber “the vast majority if I had been born under other circumstances would not be in jail.” Although each human being is a world and each disease determines a road map in each of them. The Lanzarote psychologist relates that once she felt as one of her patients manipulated her at the same time that she showed no traits of empathy or remorse. “That’s what I would define as evil,” he says.

Virginia Barber is clinical director of mental health at Correctional Health Services of Rikers Island Prison, as well as teaching at the University of New York. Now he publishes ‘Beyond Good and Evil’, a book that attempts to shed light on the need to strengthen the mental health of prisoners within prison systems.

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