The Promise of Psychedelics in Rehabilitation or A Proposed Alternative

The journey of incarceration is about rehabilitation. Those of us incarcerated either discover that our thinking errors are the root cause of our incarceration or choose to discover nothing, instead returning to society unimproved. These are the two outcomes of incarceration. There is no middle.

During incarceration, offenders learn a lot about themselves. Part of this journey of discovery involves learning how to understand how one’s actions, past and present, impact others. I know this sounds strange to free world citizens who’ve never been incarcerated. How can someone not understand these concepts? How can someone not know thyself?

However, offenders interpret the world around them differently because they see the world differently. It’s a view rooted in improper thinking patterns based on a lifetime of reinforcement — a fact well established in academia.

By the time offenders find themselves incarcerated, their defining act is a culmination of a lifetime of improper acts. Offenders share so many common psychological traits that it is possible to generalize with accuracy, and to create programs designed to address these issues.

Through intensive inpatient programming and through custom crafted programs that address specific offender thinking errors, offenders learn about themselves. Programs with titles like “Cage Your Rage” and “Victim Awareness” are examples. Cage Your Rage addresses thinking errors related to anger issues, and Victim Awareness addresses thinking errors that prevent empathy and helps the offender discover how their actions impact victims, their families, and entire communities. These two programs address the two most common traits offenders share.

There are intensive inpatient drug treatment programs, and continuing care programs, some of which continue upon release. There are even Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) options for recovering drug addicts.

However, lost in this effort to treat offenders is the ability to consistently steer them to the point of introspection, a point where offenders take stock of their lives and consider their future path. Current treatment programs are structured in ways requiring volunteer enrollment and participation. This approach to rehabilitation is mediocre at best, and the method’s failures are evident in the high recidivism rate nationwide.

To address this issue, state corrections have created “incentives” enticing inmates to enroll, such as the ability to gain an earlier release or a local benefit such as sundry kits or additional institutional privileges. While these are well intended efforts, more often they fail as offenders enroll for the perceived benefit (i.e. early release, privilege) only. Lost is any meaningful impact the program brings, and lost is an opportunity for introspection.

The path to rehabilitation always first begins with introspection. Why? Because these moments are the initial seed where offenders take stock in their lives. Without it the journey of rehabilitation cannot begin.

Introspection arrives through the causal effect of an event. For example, an event could be the constructive intervention of staff during moment of rule infraction; it can be through staff initiated positive reinforcement, like the acknowledgement of an individual’s positive efforts or actions. It could even be through therapy or counseling. It’s getting offenders to experience an inflection point that’s the challenge. Without it, change is absent. With it, offenders discover the path of rehabilitation and embark on a journey of rebirth.

As it stands, there is no single method that has high probability of successfully guiding offenders toward these moments. Most of it relies heavily on staff intervention, and in practical terms this is not realistically possible. Part of it has to do with there being more offenders than enough staff to be effective, and part of it has to do with the mandates of the states. Here in Ohio, corrections has a dual mandate that encourages rehabilitation and thus rehabilitation is actively pursued by correctional authorities at every level.

In many states this isn’t the case. These states have but one mandate: punishment. House offenders until the end of a stated sentence and nothing more. Offenders in these states are likely to find themselves spending their days outside digging ditches or working in penal industry making products like license plates and road signs, performing busy work and little else.

The Promise of Psilocybin

Today I present guest writer Scott Quimby, Ph.D. He spent 21 years as a clinical psychologist amongst offenders, assisting them through a range of mental health issues ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to anti-social and criminal attitude behaviors. His extensve experience interacting with offenders leaves him uniquely qualified to address the issue of rehabilitation. Today he proposes an alternative in assisting offenders toward the path of change. It’s an alternative that holds great promise and addresses many of the shortcomings of todays rehabilitative methods.

Quimby briefly introduces the history of psilocybin and previous clinical studies that showed the positive benefits of its use for treatment in psychotherapy. You’ll discover how the movement to use psilocybin abruptly ended some 50 years ago but has begun garnering renewed interest. Quimby then proposes a controlled study amongst selected inmates in a state correctional facility, administering psilocybin as a means of assisting offenders toward rehabilitation.

In our rehabilitation minded society, the thought of exploring long forgotten avenues has returned to the forefront. It’s my experience that new methods are needed in the rehabilitative process. I witness the daily effects of failed efforts, and the ever revolving door of incarceration. I watch men depart daily, knowing with certainty that they will return. Why? Because the path to rehabilitation never became apparent to them. It’s failure can be traced to the current approach utilized nationwide, and it’s partly due to offender lack of interest and self-control.

In today’s guest posting, The Promise of Psychedelics For Prison Populations, Quimby proposes an effective solution. I agree with his conclusions, and I believe that an out-of-the-box approach to rehabilitation is needed. I have 25 years of observational experience, and I know what works and doesn’t work in today’s approach to rehabilitation. The key to everything is to effectively bring offenders to that moment of introspection, where they then choose to embark upon the journey of change. Quimby proposes such a solution. I am happy to present his work to you.

About Scott Quimby, Ph.D

Scott Quimby has pursued lifelong interest in consciousness, religion, science, spiritual experience, and afterlife research. As a university professor for 16 years, he taught courses in psychology, counseling, mental health, death and dying, drug abuse, parapsychology, and Lakota medicine. During four of those, he was involved with Sioux medicine men on the Rosebud reservation. For 21 years in Ohio he worked as a clinical psychologist.

Quimby received his bachelor’s degree in English and religion from the University of Vermont and his doctorate in counseling and psychology from Purdue University.

He is the author of several books: Help for a Troubled Time: Examining Our Spiritual Resources (2017), and Alternative Resources For Our Challenged World: Mental, Psychic, Spiritual, Cosmic (2018). Visit his blog He enjoys the retired life in Tennessee with his wife, Sally, and their four dogs.

*Corrections needs innovative solutions that have meaningful impact with offenders. All the money, programs, and good intentions in the world mean nothing to offenders unless they’ve arrived at a point of introspection. Then, and only then, can change begin. Please share this post with others.


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