today for the first time a conversation took place here at the institution, (which i will leave anonymous) that surrounded reentry. conversations such as what is reentry, its purposes and what efforts can be made to make it work. the idea is that there has to options or alternatives to incarceration. what are these options as it concerns the ex offender. ideas where exchanged and for the first time, in my incarceration, there was a realistic conversation between inmates and staff. a conversation where areas where specified and identified as a cause of recidivism. one of the points of discussion was the importance of education. this is a point that i can not stress enough. that the key to all of this is education. it is a lack of education that really is the core of the problem that we face with our criminal justice system, and actually as a society on a whole. it is through education that we learn to grow and develop real solution to address a problem that will effect us all as a society. whether you are effect by being a direct and actual victim of crime or you are effected as taxes are raised to deal with the increase of the prison population. as of now the FBOP is operating on the same budget that they operated on last year and budget that they were at least 130% in spending. so if there are 30,000 more new prisoner added to the institutional count that means that there are going to be significant cut backs this year. the main goal of any intuition is security so if money has to be pooled to secure the institution that means that other areas are going to suffer, and most likely these will be the areas that deal with education. so with that being said we are going to send already uneducated people back into a society where they will be left to deal issues that pretty much contributed to the initial incarceration, lack of education. so it is a no brainer that education is a key factor in the problem that we face today with incarceration, crime and punishment. so it was refreshing to hear that there is a needed emphasis on education. another topic that came up was the importance of pooling resources and networking, between inmates and outside organizations. it is the inmates who can better describe the exact needs that they have. and not some generic plan set by someone who may have a job to do but do not understand the best way to do it. i think this is the most key factor other than education that has to be implemented.
20 years ago the idea of reentry was non existent. we were in the lock’em up and throw away the key era as a result of the war on drugs. the things that i have acquired in prison were things that i had to learn on my own.
what do i do and what have i learned? i speak 2 foreign languages, Spanish and Arabic, fluently. i have a certification as a substance and alcohol abuse technician. i have several accredited hours towards a degree in psychology. i have organized and facilitated many inmate led groups with in the institution that are geared towards corrective thinking and behavior modification. currently i am facilitating a group called the new beginnings project that deals with issues such as the importance of emotional intelligence, restorative justice, parenting and education. these are only a few of the issues that we deal with in this group. other groups that i have organized consist of parenting and fatherhood, the impact of crimes on victims and conflict resolution. one project that i have been a part of is a group called ‘coya’ concerned offenders for youth awareness. which had the concept of the scared straight programs that exist but with a different angle. there was more emphasis on relationship building than scaring. the point here is that there is a effort that is being made amongst the inmate population, those guys that want and have decided to change. yet there has to be a initiative to foster better relationships between the outside world, the world that they will be returning to. according to statistic of all the people incarcerated 90% are going to return to the free world. you have a say in how they return!!