In keeping to the name of this site A Voice From the Inside I want to afford the viewers and followers of the site a glimpse of what life is like on the inside. There for I thought that it would be a good idea to take you all through a 10 week Victim Impact Course as it is going on.
One of the biggest classes that I facilitate is the victim impact course that is headed by a well respected Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. It is a class that comes around once a year and due to the popularity it is often filled to capacity. This year we have 102 participants.
What I wish to do is open up the class to the viewers and followers of this site; to allow them to see what goes on during a class of this intensity, to add comments and insights and most importantly share stories and experiences that I can take back to the men. Stories of how crime and violence may have impacted your life or the life of a loved one. There is journey that has to take place for the cycle to be broken; that is the cycle of empathy. One has to be able to express empathy in order to begin to see his/her errors in life.
All names will be confidential and changed to respect that. It is important that all feel that there is a sense of respect and dignity as this process takes place. I encourage you all to pass this information on to others that you think may be interested in following this event. I know that all will not share the same views and ideas of the various issues that will come up.
Therefore, it must be made clear that these views and ideas are not to be confused as being the views and ideas of A Voice From the Inside. We do not promote or encourage anti-social, violent acts nor criminality. It is merely the intent of this site to give you a true and uncut glimpse of some of the discussion that takes place on the inside.
With that being said today is 10/3/2013 and week 1. I will try to keep it simple by logging the days of class and the weeks as the come and go. The posts may not show up until the weekend of, due to time constraints of the editor. But, it is expected that we will have the discussion up prior to the next class so that all content will be up to date and relevant. A of your comments will be address to the class at the class that comes after I receive the comment.
The name of the course is From Humiliation to Humility. There are 4 co-facilitators, along with the Professor. The names of the other facilitator are: Adam, Shane, Arturo and of course me, Talib. They have no issue about being named during the process so if there are any specific questions that you have for them, as they present, you can addressed them by name.
Some background information on what is going to be covered.
We cover all sorts of issues in this class. Issues such as what makes a victim and who are the real victims of crimes. Issues such as race, that is one issue that we don’t hide from. Also we talk about personal journeys and stories about what lead us to this place and what it takes to get out and stay out.
Some of the more specific topics and question covered are:
Are you ready to go home?
Everyone has a story of truths…good and bad. Do you understand what lead you to where you are today?
One of the models that is used by the professor is based on 5 concepts:
1. start with the truth.
2. understand your history
3. processing the criminal justice system
4. knowing the victims and
5. making tough choices
Other areas cover fatherhood, family and community etc. The course is extensive and live. The ultimate goal is to get guys to understand the need to redeem themselves by changing those anti-social behaviors that lead to destruction and chaos. As the weeks go on I will mention the core topic of the session. If there are any topics that you think should be covered you can send them to me to add.
October 3, 2013 week 1
So today we did an introduction to the course and what is expected in the class. Every time we do this class it is a different experience. This class was different in that there were more gang members in the class. There were some older guys there that were with the younger guys that are part of their organization. This is good in that the older guys are being supportive in the younger guys process of change. There was also a larger White crowd than usual, as well as Hispanics. This shows that guys are starting to come out of their shells to hear a different message.
We, the facilitators, talked about events that got get us here. This class has to be one that is based on credibility and that means that it has to be truthful about ourselves. That is the hardest part to do. Prison is a very private place and to open up to 100 guys that you don’t know can be difficult.
The Dr. talked about his life prior to coming to the be a professor. He was a drug agent for years in Fl. It is interesting to hear how he came full circle from locking guys up for a living to being a college professor. When he tell guys that they jump on him and become critical. That is normal because most guys are looking for someone to blame. But he has a thing that he does, that is very effective.
The feds have a 95% conviction rate due to the rate of what is called “snitching”, where guys turn over on there friends, family members and accomplices. They use the mandatory minimum statue to bait guys into working for them. Once they sell themselves to the the feds they are hooked for life. So, what he does is calls out the guys that have worked with the feds. He says things such as, “Don’t be mad at me because I got paid to lock people up. You did it for free.” This sets the tone of, ‘there is not going to be any bullshitting in this class. The tough man act is up.”
I usually come back with something similar. Today I gave the analogy of what a “rat” is. I was once told, “when you meet a selfish nigga look for a rat.” Meaning the only people that tell in the world of crime are those that only think about themselves. Most guys jump at the bait and say that they don’t fit that bill. I ask them about all the times that someone they loved told them that they were selfish for coming to prison. If they were asked about these questions by the ones that love them and they didn’t pay them any mind than they had to potential to be “rats”. Why do I use the word “rats” when I talk about this issue? I use it because this is the title that guys run from as it means something bad. But, when you tell people that when faced with coming to prison there are two realities; that being coming to jail and doing your time and being ok with that or being faced with the decision to become a rat or snitch etc. That is the reality of this question. Everyone knows that we are going to die, so to tell some one that the road to crime leads to death is a lie. The road to crime leads to prison and when faced with prison you have to chose to go or send someone else.
This is who I set the tone. I don’t do it to put guys on the spot but to wake them up to what it is that they all say they stand on, principal. A man of principal is not selfish and will not chose crime and its lifestyle over his family. A man of principal would rather be there to protect his family and be poor than leave them alone and unprotected, and still poor.
So, this is how the tone was set today. The other guys talked about their lives and how they ended up here. One guy comes from a family of drug dealers and was exposed to that at a young age. He had a family and left them there to be in the “game”, as it is called. He as a result of that choice he has not spoken to his kids in over 9 years. His ex-wife refuses to allow him to communicate with them.
You would think that this was enough to stop him. Well it was not enough. He ultimately got more time, caught another case while in prison, for selling drugs. The addiction to that life was so strong that prison did not quell the desire. This is a good example of how the prison system is failing. It is not about the state of the art security that they have etc. It all revolves around the will of the people that are here to change. Without that will to change nothing will work.
Shane talked about his up bringing and the death of his son since he has been in prison. He had the things growing up that a lot of guys wanted but did not have. Yet, he wanted that “hood” status and spent a lot of time with his cousins in the “projects” trying to be like them. He began to sell drugs and got caught and ended up with a 120 month sentence.
Since his incarceration his son was murdered and his ex-wife, who was also shot that night with him, was left with a bullet lodged in her head. If this bullet moves the wrong way she is at risk of dying. So he spoke about the ripple effect of his actions and these events.
Adam spoke about his up bringing and family life in the mid west. He grew up in a single parent home and was the only child. At a young age he and his mother moved to New Jersey. He lived a life that was pretty much that of a loner without much accountability. As a result he lead a very daring life that ended up with him being sentenced to 213 years in federal prison.
There were not a lot of questions because this was the first day. As the class progresses I will include those questions that sparked, created or killed discussions. I truly do hope that you all chime in and add your thoughts and feelings. It would be an honor to share with you all the experience of how a class like this is held in prison.
Well I am off for now. It is my hope that this forum creates some discussion that will open the door for education. I also hope that it may be an avenue for someone to vent their frustrations about how some of the actions of us in here has impacted their lives. It is meant to be open for all. Well I am out for now. Until next time. Peace!