Most definitely yes!
A major part of incarceration in the twenty-first century is rehabilitating and reintegrating prisoners so that they become less institutionalised and are able to move back into society more easily.
A major reason why prisoners re-offend and end up back in prison is because they cannot cope on the outside. They are too used to everything being done for them and the world outside is too big a step. They soon hook up with old associates and the vicious circle continues.
By introducing self-discipline and a motivation to ‘do it yourself”, most prisoners will feel better within themselves and see vividly the difference between being self-reliant as against being reliant on others.
Building ones own shelter and growing ones own food is a major step towards being self-reliant. This helps to assist in building self-esteem and confidence and is a major step forward in overall independence.
The prison system will not usually allow any prisoner into a semi- independent existence unless they are either a long term prisoner who has been incarcerated for many years and is nearing the end of their sentence, or they are on a very short sentence and are deemed to have a low risk of escape.
Again, living in an isolated community would need some serious ‘risk assessments” being undertaken by prison authorities before this eventuated. The end result should be favourable to these prisoners being trustworthy and compliant in that they have been “vetted” before this occurs, and have something of a proven track record.
The very strong possibility of someone “not pulling their weight” in this environment and being returned to the harsher prison environment, should in itself, help immensely with the success of this endeavour.
A leadership structure may be developed which could perhaps work in a positive way in this environment, as against the traditional “top dog” style attitude that exists inside prison. A series of positive work related activities could boost each prisoners self-esteem, and the problems of the strong against the weak may not be so pronounced.
Each prisoner could build a good “work record” displaying not only a keenness to succeed but the ability to interact well with others.
Obviously we don’t live in a perfect world, and putting a group or groups of prisoners together will always mean conflicts of some sort or another. Where this can be beneficial is that it can be viewed as a “dry run” as to how each prisoner will be able to survive once released from prison.