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01.02.94 Concord State Prison Psilocybin Experiment


Concord State Prison psilocybin Exp.
From: the ticktockman)
Newsgroups: alt.drugs
Subject: Concord Prison Psilocybin Rehabilitation Project
Date: 2 Jan 94 20:17:26 GMT

[quoted articles deleted -cak]

Here's the original citation, FWIW:

Leary, T., Metzner, R., Presnell, M., Weil, G., Schwitzgebel, R., & Kinne, S. A change program for adult offenders using psilocybin. Psychotherapy,1965.

Although I don't have this article handy, here's a pretty good (although brief) summary, reproduced without permission, from "Psychedelics Encylopedia", pp. 241-242:

"Three Psilocybin projects were set up in line with Leary and Alpert's specialty, the psychology of 'game-playing.' In early 1961, after initial psilocybin investigations, the Leary group began working in nearby Concord with convicts in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for young offenders. It was hoped that psilocybin could help prisoners 'see through' the self-defeating 'cops-and-robbers game' and become less destructive citizens ...

The six volunteers grew in number to thirty-five over the next two years. Each underwent two psilocybin experiences during six weeks of bi-weekly meetings. Although the subjects were not very well educated, they were able to detach themselves from their everyday roles and 'confront themselves,' recognizing constructive alternatives to their formerly violent and self-destructive behavior patterns. The question was what would happen to these prisoners upon release. Would the insights gained from two fairly heavy doses of psilocybin help them to lead useful and rewarding lives? Or would they soon be headed back to prison? Dr. Stanley Krippner, who also was given psilocybin at Harvard, ... summed up the results:

Records at Concord State Prison suggested that 64 per cent of the 32 subjects would return to prison within six months after parole. However, after six months, 25 per cent of those on parole had returned, six for technical parole violations and two for new offenses. These results are all the more dramatic when the correctional literature is surveyed; few short-term projects with prisoners have been effective to even a minor degree. In addition, the personality test scores indicated a measurable positive change when pre-psilocybin and post-psilocybin results were compared.

Although this psilocybin experiment included a lot of 'tender,loving care' and ** no control subjects ** [emphasis mine], it established a sound basis for hope. The results warrant at least one controlled study."

Also from _PE_, p. 243: "Second Annual Report; Psilocybin Rehabilitation Project: All the professional work on this project was volunteer. The expenses for clerical assistance and salaries for ex-inmate workers were covered by generous donations from The Uris Brothers Foundation, New York, and the Parapsychology Foundation, Eileen Garrett, President ... Applications to three offices of the U. S. Public Health Service requesting support for continuing this project were refused ... The project was designed as a pilot study -- necessarily exploratory -- since little was known about the long- range application of the substances."

And here (again, reproduced without permission) is an article from the MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) newsletter  of Winter 1992 (vol 3, #4):

"A Long-Term Follow-Up to Dr. Timothy Leary's 1961-1962 Concord State

Reformatory Rehabilitation Study

by Michael Forcier, Ph.D., Social Science Research & Evaluation, Inc. and Rick Doblin, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Two follow-ups were conducted with the inmate participants. A short- term follow-up occurred a mean period of 18 months after the first treatment. Twenty-four subjects who participated in the program were paroled within 10 months of first treatment. Of these 19 (77%) showed evidence of good adjustment while five were returned to prison during that time. The recidivism rate was 23% compared to an expected 65%. A second, longer-term follow-up occurred roughly 3 years after the first treatment and all 32 inmates participated in the project. Of these 32, 27 had been released while 5 were still confined at Concord. As of January 27, 1964, 11 (41%) of the 27 released inmates were still out of prison, 13 (48%) had been returned as parole violators, and 3 (11%) were reincarcerated for new crimes. At this follow-up, the actual rate of recidivism was 59% as compared with an expected rate of 56% for the Concord inmate population as a whole. However, it was also expected that recidivists would be equally divided between parole violators and those committing new crimes where in actuality, those returned to prison were predominantly parole violators."

MAPS currently has a project underway to conduct a 30-year follow-up study with all 32 inmates (if possible); my understanding is that it currently lacks the funds to do this.

the ticktockman

Psilocybin: Concord Prison Follow-up

A unique psilocybin experiment was conducted in the early 1960's under the direction of Timothy Leary, Ph.D. Dr. Leary had obtained permission from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to administer psilocybin to volunteers in Concord Prison who were nearing the time of their release. The experimental hypothesis was that psilocybin could catalyze a peak experience that would help the prisoner to break out of the cycle of antisocial behavior, thereby reducing recidivism. This behavior change was supposed to take place as a result of the action of psilocybin to open the prisoners' eyes to the consequences of their past behavior and to connect them to an inner source of spiritual strength that would empower them to rewrite the scripts of their lives and resist the temptations to commit additional crimes.
Over the course of the last several years, Michael Forcier, Ph.D. and I have been conducting a long-term follow-up to that experiment. We obtained permission from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and the Governor's Office to review the criminal history records of the original participants in the study. Our review of the records was completed in 1995. We learned that the experimental subjects had a long-term recidivism rate no better than the average base rate for recidivism for inmates at Concord Prison. This meant that the psilocybin experiences alone were not sufficient to reduce recidivism. We noted that Dr. Leary acknowledged the limitations of the psilocybin experience in an early paper he wrote about the experiment and recommended that the psilocybin experiences be supplemented with post-release group support meetings and halfway house living arrangements. After Dr. Leary was dismissed from Harvard, support for these arrangements dissipated.

Ex-Prisoners and the Ex-Professor
MAPS budgeted roughly $2,500 to support the long-term follow-up study to the Concord Prison experiment. MAPS covered the expenses for a meeting that took place on January 20 at Dr. Leary's home in Beverly Hills. Present were Dr. Leary, Gunther Weil, Ph.D. (one of the primary researchers in the original study), myself, and two of the original subjects. The purpose of the meeting was to tape record the comments of the subjects concerning the impact of the psilocybin experiences on their lives along with the reflections of Dr. Leary and Dr. Weil on the lessons that can be learned from the experiment. These personal statements will be used to supplement the empirical data of the subjects' overall recidivism rates.

Good Friday Experiment
Longtime readers of the MAPS newsletter may recall that I conducted a twenty-five+ year follow-up study to the Good Friday experiment, a study conducted in 1962 by Walter Pahnke, M.D. under the direction of Dr. Leary. That study experimentally tested the hypothesis that psilocybin could catalyze genuine spiritual experiences in people who were religiously inclined and who took the psilocybin within a religious context. The results of the Good Friday experiment confirmed its experimental hypothesis while the results of the Concord Prison experiment did not. This difference illustrates the distance between a religious experience, which can be catalyzed by a drug, and a religious (moral) life, which requires much more than just a drug experience.

Coincidentally, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the Good Friday experiment in Berkeley the night before the meeting of the subjects from the Concord Prison experiment. Also on the panel were Rev. Mike Young, one of the original subjects in the Good Friday experiment who contributed an article to the last issue of the MAPS Bulletin, Bob Jesse, founder of the Council on Spiritual Practices, and Rev. Karla Hansen, a Unitarian minister.
Need for New Research

As many of the MAPS readers may have heard, Dr. Leary is suffering from cancer and is quite close to the end of his life. I imagine it must be somewhat reassuring for him to know that two experiments that he conducted over 30 years ago are still of interest to people after all this time. What makes me sad is to realize that the two experiments he supervised, each a classic in its field, have never been replicated or refined despite the promising results of the Good Friday experiment and the suggestions about ways to improve the results of the Concord Prison experiment.
To the extent that it is able, MAPS will work in 1996 to expand the field of psychedelic research beyond the investigation of the medical uses of psychedelics to include studies that will focus on the role that psychedelics can play in religious experience and behavior change.

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E-mail:   Rick Doblin, President
Nicole Tavernier, Director of Operations
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