Archive for the ‘Serving Time’ Category

 

Recently, I was asked what could I do to help with being in the process of healing and grief from the recent event that has taken place in my life.  I responded that I could look for ways to find faith.  At that time I can say that I was feeling real low in the faith department.

I was given several books, out the blue, that related to someone’s experience about faith.  None of the books that I read really hit home for me.  One of the books that I read was a story of a girl that escaped the Rwanda Genocide called, “Led by Faith”.  It was a very impactful book, but didn’t t speak to my story and what I was looking for.  I have received emails where others mentioned Nelson Mandela and his plight.  A good story but I have read several books by him and it didn’t t seem to be what I was looking for in terms of finding a little more faith.

One day out of the blue I get an email from someone very dear and important to me asking me if I had ever read the book Mans Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl.  I replied that I had, and that it was a very good book that I wouldn’t mind reading again.  This person had no idea that I was looking for ways to find more faith so I will say that this is an example of the Law of Attraction. The person responds that someone had bought me the book and that I would be getting it in the mail. I was actually excited to get the book again while actually looking for a message.

When I got the book the forward to the book, it is a recent edition, was profound in discussing Dr. Frankl’s purpose for this book. I want to write a little bit of what caught my attention, inspired me and gave me more hope and faith than I have had in a long time.

First, it is important to know that Dr. Frankl’s doctrine of logo therapy is “curing the soul by leading it to find meaning in life.”
Dr. Frankl believed that life is not primarily a quest for pleasure or power, but a quest for meaning.

In the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” This seems to be his theme as he goes on to describe the prisoners that gave up on life.  Of those that gave up on live are those who had lost all hopes for a future, they were inevitably the first to die.  They died less from the lack of food or medicine rather than from the lack of hope, lack of something to live for.  By contrast Dr. Frankl kept himself alive and kept hope alive by summoning the thoughts of his wife and the prospect of seeing her again, and by dreaming of lecturing after the war about the psychological lessons to be learned from the Auschwitz experience.

Dr. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning:  in work, in love, and in courage during difficult times.  Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.  Dr. Frankl writes that a person,” may remain brave, dignified and unselfish in the bitter fight for self preservation, or he may forget his human dignity he becomes no more that an animal.” He says that only a few prisoners of the Nazis were able to to the former “but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate.”

Profound words spoken by a man that was beaten and tortured. It is further mention that “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you respond to the situation.  You cannot control what happens in life, but you can always control what you will feel and to about what happens to you.”

Upon reading these few pages of the opening of the book it became clear to me that in the end it is I who have the control over what ultimately happens to me.  I can be bitter and resentful or I can continually look for ways to find hope, faith and gratitude. I have always known this and have even applied it in certain cases but I have never had to apply this concept of logo therapy at this level.  Looking for ways to cure my soul while in a bitter battle to maintain sanity.  All of this is a journey, a quest if you like, to find that place where I can summon that inner strength at any given time and during any given situation in a dignified, respectable and healthy manner.

I can not tell you what it is like to be in a concentration camp similar to the ones that Dr. Frankl was held captive in, but I can tell you how it feels to be treated in a less than dignified and respectable manner.  I can tell you that in here I am not referred to as Talib but as 11030007, at the end of the day that is who I am and everything about my existence in here is referred to by that number.  It is labeled on my clothes and all the other property that I own here.

I can tell you about the modern Capos and about the struggle to stay alive amongst a group of men that are all for self.  I can tell you about the mental torture that exists here and how many men succumb to it.  How many men have I seen give up hope in the midst of their struggle.  I have had friends literally hang up and kill themselves.  As they reached the point where life had no meaning.  Without meaning there is no reason to live.  “He who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW”.  This is where I was stuck at and life started to look meaningless.  The big WHY is what I wrestled with and as a result of not knowing WHY I lost sight on HOW.

What I have realized in my quest for more meaning, faith and hope is that sometimes the WHY is not important, as the WHY may be outside of ones control.  If that is the case do you let that stop you from forward progress? No because the WHY has to be what you have inside of you and not what others do or don’t do, we will never understand that question.  My goal is to create and live my own WHY so that I can control the HOW. The HOW I respond and feel.

This is how I gained a little more faith!

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Free Prisoner

It has been a while since I have written anything and I just want to share the reasons why. It has been a long time coming now and I am now about to go back up for parole, next week hopefully. I have been asked many times about how do I feel about being this close to home, if I make parole. It is hard to really say what I am feeling right now. I can describe how it was the first time that I went before the board.

When I went up the last time I was told that I was parole eligible and asked if I had an address to use in the event that I make parole. I was left speechless and it took me a minute to think of the address that I would use. Well, I didn’t make parole and was given another three years to do, what I am finishing up on now.

It was a surreal feeling when I was told that I would be recommended parole just as it was a surreal feeling when I was denied and told to do three more years. Now, I know that you may be thinking, “what is three more years after you have done so much time now?” Well, it is not the time, amount of time, it is the mindset that one has to go through in order to do the time.

I believe that there is a lot of institutional behaviors, thoughts and habits that one must shed before going home. Behaviors, thoughts and habits that are needed to survive within prison.

What roles am I talking about? Well, there are many roles that one has to play and I will try to give you some examples. One thing that seems to be noticeable is how possessive guys can be. Not only are they possessive they will take your life for some of these possessions. Things such as small as a spot on the floor. There are five TV’ s on the unit and the units are open so that means that it is like being in a crowded room all the time. They give us plastic chairs and guys come out in the morning and put there chairs in what is “their” spots on the floor. To move a guys chair is disrespectful and one will get hurt for this type of disrespect.

To move a guys shower stuff that is hanging on the shower door is a act of disrespect and one will get hurt about that. Another thing is that one often has to go to the showers in tennis shoes or boots, in the event that something breaks out. One has to be ready at all times for what ever may happen. Or what about not being able to take a nap during the day while the cell doors are unlocked. Or having to defecate with one leg out of ones pants. To get caught using that bathroom with both legs in your pants can cost you your life. It is hard to defend yourself when you are sitting on the toilet so you have to make sure that your legs don’t get tied up in your pants.

There are many roles that one has to take on in order to survive in here so to be told that I may be going home I felt that I needed to shed those roles and step into the role of being a law abiding citizen. A person who don’t get crazy stares for walking around in slippers. A person who don’t have to walk by a dying person and act as if nothing is going on. I think that has to have been one of the hardest things to adapt to. To see a guy getting stabbed to death and to have to walk away while hearing the screams and pleas of a dying man. To wake up everyday and to see the bloodstains from the events that have taken place over the years. It use to be hard to sleep at night when I was in Lorton. Lorton was open dormitory and there was always action going on. When the dorm lights went out the predators came out.

Well those are the skill that I didn’t want to take back to the free world with me so when I went to see the parole board the first time I thought that I was done with having to deal with all of the stuff that one has to deal with in prison. When I was denied parole I was stuck in between two worlds and it was hard to readjust to having to do three more years. That was the hardest part of that process. It was like day one all over again.

So this time around I think that I am hopefully but that is about it. I mean I would love to make parole and come home but the reality is that until I am actually released I have to stay focused on doing time. This is a tragedy for those guys that can’t get out of these roles, easily. They take the prison mentality home with them and the prison mentality is criminal therefore it is easy to result back to crime. That is the state that many find themselves in when they can’t switch roles.

I think that I will be alright as long as I can tell the difference and keep in my head that it is just a phase and that one day it will pass.

“It was once said that the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering in to its prisons.”

When it come to corrections there are four major goals that are primarily used to achieve a reduction in crime and recidivism, these goals consist of:

1.Rehabilitation-which stresses the re-socialization or reformation of the offender through institutional or community programs.
2.Incapacitation-which seeks to reduce crime through the actual physical restraints of the convicted offender.
3. Deterrence- which refers to the notion that the punishment of the offender serves as an example to the rest of the society.
4. Retribution-which refers to the correctional policies that are predicated on two principals:
(a)individual responsibility
(b) proportionality, meaning a convicted offender deserves to be punished because they are responsible for committing a specific criminal violation, and that the punishment must be proportional to the severity of the offense committed.

If these are the goals of incarceration there are certain elements that must be considered, in order for these goals to be met.

1 If rehabilitation is the goal of incarceration sentencing polices must involve flexibility and the goal has to reflect the characteristics and needs of the “individual”offender.
2 If incapacitation is the goal of incarceration it is expected that the goal to reduce crime and recidivism is met but using a system of sentencing based on legislative’s or the courts desire to keep of the streets those offenders who might otherwise engage in criminal behavior off the streets.
3. If deterrence is the goal of incarceration it may cater more to the side of the public and society, as they seek means to inhibit criminal behavior through these exemplary sanctions, therefore making the needs of society precedent over the needs of the individual offender.
4. If retribution is the goal of incarceration it would require a relatively inflexible sentencing system and little discretion would be permitted at the sentencing stage.

Often times what is overlooked is that there are very few direct links to crime and incarceration. Other than the one who commits crime eventually is incarcerated. Crime is a result of, and depends on, social conditions such as poverty, underemployment and urbanization, Currently incarceration polices respond not to crime but to political climates and legislative intent. The get tough on crime model has not worked and has been proven to be ineffective in reducing recidivism. Actually, there has been an increase in crime, violence and homelessness each year since the war on drugs began, or what is commonly now called “the get tough on crime”, policies have been used to address this issue.

Statistics show:

Between the years 2010 and 2011 violent victimization increased from 4.9 million to 5.8 million, an 18% increase.
1. Assaults, which account for 86% of all violent victimizations increased by 22 %
2. Total domestic violence increased from 1.1 million to 1.4 million in 2011.
3. Domestic violence increased from 4.4 million in 2010 to 5.3 million in 2011, a 19% increase.
4. Intimate violence increased from 3.0 million in 2010 to 3.3 million in 2011, a 9 % increase.

Crime is equated with social disruption and its perpetrators are a threat to the dominant culture. The role of the criminal justice system and especially prisons, is to protect societies lawful and the values of society. So the mindset is that if rehabilitation doesn’t work there is a primarily reliance of incapacitation, deterrence and retribution, which has become a cause to the overcrowdedness that exists in prisons today. It has been proved that incapatictaion, deterrence and retribution has not reduced criminality or recidivism, often most prisoners will leave prison in a worsened condition than when they entered.

What is recidivism and how is it defined?
*Recidivism is defined, by some, as the relapse of an individual into criminal activity based on re-arrest for new offenses that lead to incarceration.
What is Re-entry and how is it defined?
*Re-entry (often associated with recidivism) is the process of releasing prisoners into society , where plans for inmate’s transition, into society, are addressed. To help them develop the skills needed to live free of crime, to help them maximize the time they spend during incarceration and what its expected upon release.
So, if recidivism is associated with re-entry and it has been proven that incarceration doesn’t reduce recidivism nor protect the public, the question becomes, why is there an increasing flow of tax dollars in building more prisons when it could be used to developed more effective programs geared towards re-entry? one of the current strategies to reduce recidivism includes building more prisons and imposing harsher sentences, even though these methods have been proven to be ineffective. The sad reality is that tax payers are paying lager amounts of money to build more prisons rather than trying to find more effective and efficient ways to address this issue.

According to the Justice Mapping Center, www.justiceatlas.org.  “In Pennsylvania, taxpayers will spend over $40 million dollars to imprison residents of neighborhoods in a single zip code in Philadelphia, where %36 of the households have incomes under $25, 000.”   In an article that is posted on my blog, called the Million Dollar Block.   It speaks about places that spend more than a million dollars each year to incarcerate residents of a single block.  You can visit my site to read these articles.

The agencies that have changed the trend some and have seen bits of results in the area of reducing recidivism are the agencies that utilize what is called re-entry courts, which are working well and have had much success in reducing recidivism. Reentry courts consist of a system where the courts collaborate with probations and parole to accommodate some of the needs of the ex-offender.

A recidivism rate of two-third ( as of now the rate is 70%) clearly shows that something is amiss and some of the offenders are not being adequately prepared to return to society. This is often due the the lack of funding that is needed to develop the appropriate programs needed to better prepare and equip the offender.

10’s of thousands of Americans are released into the community from prison and jail every year and very few of them have the basic resources needed to stay out of prison. Sadly, often prison conditions make it easy for offenders to reoffend, as the basic necessities that most of them do not have out society they are provided in prison.

There is a need for access to services, including education, job training and job placement. There is also a need for substance and alcohol abuse treatment before and after release. Half of state prisoners and one-third of federal prisoners in 1997 reported committing their offenses while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yet, among those who had used alcohol or drugs in the month before their crime, only %14 had received treatment since their admission into prison.
Many offenders have limited employment history and/or no experience needed to perform certain jobs. Some of these limitation are related to illiteracy as well as the lack of work training skills need to achieve self-sufficiency. Yet, few receive these services while in prison. Not necessary because they are not offered these skills but sometimes it is due to lack of enthusiasm.

How can this be addressed?

1. By redesigning the methods which are currently being used to address these issues.
2. Implementing and redesigning programs, as well as building facilities that specialize in the needs that are that are closely associated with crime and recidivism reduction.

The BOP has been looking for more ways to address some of these needs.  Here at this institution some of these steps include, but are not limited to:

1. Mock job fairs where one of the requirements is that the inmates learn how to write resumes and cover letters.

2. Partnerships with the local halfway houses and probation departments to speak to the guys about the realities of what to expect upon release.

3. The BOP also has an Inmate Employment Information Handbook that contains a list of the agencies and information that will be needed upon release.  This handbook is free and accessible to every BOP inmate.  Here at this institution we keep that information on hand and available to whoever wants it.  

4. A Career Resource Center where the inmates can gather information needed to obtain birth certificates, social security cards and other identification related information.  Information which is critical in gaining employment.  

One of the most important points that I want to make is how education is connected to the problem of recidivism. At least 70% of all people incarcerated have not completed high school. Out of this group %16 have not high school education at all. %40 are functionally illiterate, meaning that they read below or at the 5th grade level., %19 are completely illiterate. In the population of adults in America %21 are functionally illiterate and %4 are completely illiterate.

Studies show that education and recidivism are related because inmates with at lest two years of college education have a %10 re-arrest rate, while the national re-arrest is about %66. Despite the conclusive evidence the education has a direct link to crime, poverty, incarceration and recidivism education as a means of solution is often overlooked.

Education provides for employment, important to successful re-entry. There are two main systems in our society, Penal and Educational. When one fails the other takes its place. Those that adjust and do well in the educational system almost never find themselves in prison. Those that learn the importance of education while in prison almost never re-offend. Which is why furthering my education is so important to me, as well as advocating the importance of education on all levels, as a means to address these social issues that exist within our society.

Also attached to education is self worth and value, It is through education that one learns life skills, social and other proactive skills needed to stay connected to society. One also learns essential skills that will be essential to avoiding prison in the future. Lack of employment is one of the major reasons for committing crime. Lack of employment is often due to lack of education, in the communities that are more commonly associated with crime and low income.

It is through education that one learns their role in society. Many offender often return to communities that breed fragmentation and negative influences. Poverty  crime and ethnic disparity can create an imbalance in these communities therefore the community can no longer positively influence those that reside within it. The order of the day becomes survival. One begins to not only think this way but act out these roles as a means to survive. They begin to believe this is the role that they are supposed to play in life, as crime has now become a way of life for them. it is through education that this cycle is disrupted, and one learns to understand their roles in the greater society, and not just in one small destitute community.

(Would it be safe to say that what people learn in this community they practice in prison, and what they learn in prison they practice in the community?)

So that I am clear here let me go on the record as saying that it is important for those who have committed crimes to be punished, accordingly.  Therefore if incarceration is a reality of our society lets deal with the issue so that there becomes less of a need to use it in areas where it may not benefit and becomes more of a financial burden.

Along with the four goals of incarceration that are used today education has to be included as one of these goals. Not only does it have to be a component but the process of education has to start at an early age.

1. These components have to place a serious expectation, which members of the above communities can learn and benefit from education.

2. There has to be an upgrade tin the educational system at the early stages of development. Many people from these communities have been deemed unteachable and unlikely to learn. This is why of the when they enter into prisons they do not understand the value of education nor can they make the connections as to why it is important to have and education in order to remain free.

3. There has to be a broadening of opportunities and possibilities that are achieved through education. It is not enough to tell them, but to show that and continue to show them amd continue to reinforce the ideas, concepts and beliefs.

Although for some members of these communities going to prison is a given, and often considered normal, it is never too late to change. So as this stage the focus had to be on developing needs based programs, for the offender, specialized for their needs. These steps have to be taken earlier and also be workable and realistic. This plan has to focus on accountability, responsibility and be designed to set goals that will aid in the re-entry concerns that the offender must meet in order to remain free.

*The BOP has what is called an ISDS (Inmate System Development System) yet one of the concerns that I have with it is that the process of developing the plan can often come too late.  What do I mean?  The process in developing that plan needs to start at admission, at the very first jail that the inmate lands in.  It is often the case that this plan doesn’t start to develop until the inmate is sentenced and sent to their designated institution and often they have been exposed to other outside influences that may steer them away from starting the process of re-entry at an earlier point of their incarceration.  The earlier the better.

I strongly believe that investing in therapeutic learning communities and institutions, are a better investment of tax dollars, and would aid in addressing the needs that must be met to reintegrate into society. The intent and focus of these communities and program would be the acceptance of responsibility, restorative justice and meeting the educational and rehabilitation needs.

Without these programs and living conditions there is a higher chance that many offenders will fall victim to a certain type of prison socialization. The subculture that we call prison politics. It is a way of life that one has to adapt to in order to survive within the prison system. The subculture often breeds hostility, anger and resentment. Inmates often suffer extremes bouts of depression and anxiety. In some case there is a need to confine them to special housing units where they are locked down 23 hours a day depending on the time of year it could be for 24 hours at a time. I have experienced this type of solitary confinement many times during my incarceration. The SHU is used as a mechanism to modify inmates behavior. There are some of us who can withstand being locked down at lengths at a time, but there are more that can not withstand the hole. The longest time that I have done in the SHU at one time is 16 months.

These conditions and this subculture can deaden the emotions that are needed to be empathetic to the experiences of those who are harmed as a result of crime. Empathy is an important aspect in the process of change and transformation.

One of the programs that I helped to develop and facilitate here is a a program called “The New Beginnings Program”. It is a program that focus on many of the pre-incarceration issues which often lead to prison m as well as many of the post incarceration issues which often leads one back to prison. There are several components to The New Beginning Program some of them being:

1. Crime prevention – where the realities of crime and its roots are addressed. We discuss the importance of living a productive and responsible lifestyle, free of crime. Thorough increasing awareness of certain social behaviors and conditions that contribute to crime and violence.

2. we discuss thinking barriers and tactic use that complements the criminal personality. so it is here that we work on correcting think patterns.

3. we focus on substance and alcohol abuse awareness, as well as lifestyles that are equally addictive and dangerous.
4. we also have a mentoring and coaching component.

The New Beginnings Program is based on the concept that, if a person is willing to make the choice to change there are three concepts that can be applied to their lives for what we call transformation to work.  Those three concepts being:

1. Relationships – the developing of positive and productive relationships that nurture growth and development.  This is where coaching has been very effective.

2. Reframing – changing the way that one views life on a whole.

3. Repetition – getting into the practice of doing these things over and over again

The most important and critical component of this program is relationships, and the goal of this program is to stress the importance of building, mending and fostering healthy positive and productive relationships.

Another and very important program that is in the developmental stages is a program geared and focused towards preparing guys for the transition back into the family.  One of the most critical components in reducing recidivism is support, family in particular.  This is an area that is often overlooked.  How is the person going to be received back into the home?  What transitions and changes does the family have to make to accommodate the person back into their lives?  I know that there are many accommodations needed upon my release; the question now becomes is my family ready to meet the man who left a boy?

Another project that I am currently involved with is a project that I have going on with a Dr. Patrick Williams, founder of The Institute for Life Coach Training and co-author of the book Becoming a Professional Life Coach. What we are doing is finding ways to incorporate Life Coaching as a means of intervention in the area of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. We are looking for organizations to network with and work with to achieve this goal.  This is something that is most important to me.  This is where I focus most of my attention and why I designed the RECONSTRUCT PROGRAM.  My focus is in the area of Juvenile Justice.  Please visit Coaching The Global Village to read more about this project.

I came to prison as a juvenile and I will tell you that they system has it all wrong when it comes to that area. I am not talking about juveniles being charged as adults but the treatment of juvenile and the expectations for them to act and think as adults once in the system.  So, my goal is to get involved with others that need first hand education on this issue.

One of the projects that I wanted to do was a project called the first 365. It is a documentary that recounts the first year after my release. How does a guy that came to prison a child and leaves a man after 20 plus years adjust to a new world. I can not imagine a world with computers while you can not imagine a world with out one!! So how is the re-entry process for a person such as this. This is something that I have, unsuccessfully, been trying to get others involved in, making and filming this documentary. If push come to shove I will do it on a I PHONE, because the message needs to get out there and people need to see it.

One of my future plans is to use my experiences, expertise and skills to work with wayward youth, which to me is the ultimate recidivism reducer.  Get them before they get here.  I really want to focus on the concept of relationships and Life Coaching.  I also intend to work in the field of re-entry and with ex-offenders.

In closing, I want to say that this is a societal issue that concerns us all and that to fix any of it requires that those who share the common goal of changing what exists today collaborate and work together to get the job done. These partnerships are essential in more ways than one.

As I get closer to coming home I ask myself, What makes me so different from the statistics that I just mentioned?  I ask myself who is really invested in, no only, my transition back into society, but also the transition of the other men that will be released from prison, who may have the same potentials that I have if not more.  I am fully confident that I have the tools to succeed, but what concerns me is not my capabilities but the willingness of others in extending the hand of opportunity needed in order to use the skills that I have to make a difference in a problem that will be just as much mine one day as it is yours now.  My goal and the question of what I am going to do becomes clear.  That is get out and become a citizen regardless if others are willing to help me along the way.  I am going to ask myself, Have I left something behind that is worthwhile, something productive?  Did I leave prison, making a difference and what have I done to become part of the solution?  The question now becomes what are you going to do?

today i had an interesting discussion about what it meant to be an ex-offender. the discussion came about from something that Michelle Alexander mentioned in her book The New Jim Crow. she made reference to the different ways that people find themselves back in prison. she mentions things such as being late for appointments to see parole officers, not being able to find employment in a timely manner, and other things that can lead one back to prison. she makes good points, but being incarcerated i have to say that all of this depends on the individual and how badly they want to stay out of prison.

one of the things that seems to get in the way of guys getting out and staying out is that they are not transparent with the people that are involved in the transition process. what do i mean by that? in order to gain the trust of someone you have to be trustworthy and in order to build the trust that is needed to have a healthy and working relationship it means that one has to be willing to be vulnerable. the recently released person has to know that the other people involved are going to be a part of his/her life for a determined amount of time and that it is in that persons best interest to develop trustworthy relationships with others.

i have seen so many guys go home from prison and i have heard many stories and excuses as to why they are back. but do you want to know what i have yet to hear??  that is the truth!! yes i hear a lot of excuses but never the truth. getting out and staying out is two parts and the sooner that people understand that the more successful they become.

although these are things that are true there are other issues that i think about when a person is released from prison. these are issues that i also believe play a big part in the high recidivism rate, and that is mental health issues that i don’t think are taken into consideration when dealing with ex offenders.

the memories of the actions that they have committed in the past is something that people have to live with every day as they try and readjust into society.  i think that this is a issue that needs to be addressed at some point by the individual. the guilt and the suffering that they carry with them day in and day out, as they try to come to terms with the things that they have done in life, along with the pressures and the stress that come with going back into society, can have negative mental repercussions.

unfortunately there are not that many programs that deal with this issue of mental health for ex offenders. not dealing with these issues can be the fuse that leads one to commit often more violent crimes. as one talk about re-entry one has to wonder about the mental state of some of these people coming home.

i use myself as an example. i know that to some extent i may have some issues, in terms of the mental states that i have had to put myself in over the years. to be able to sit in a 8 by 12 room with the lights on 24 hours a day for a year straight, being let out that cell for 1 hour and not being able to go outside and get sunlight during that year takes some mental manipulation to get through. the worse part of that is having to go through that with out a time line of when this is going to end. to just have to sit there and wait. or to be shackled, belly chained and handcuffed, not being able to use the bathroom, defecate, eating cheese sandwiches for 8 days while being transported across country to another prison. or to be on a time table where an experiment similar to the experiment of Pavlov and his dog taking place everyday. where they ring a bell and you are expected to respond. to have to fight that and stay strong mentally takes a lot. if a person such as myself can say that yes i am messed up in that regard, to a certain degree, what about the person less mentally strong than i consider myself to be.

also there is a sense of hopelessness for some people that are getting out, as some of them think that they belong here in prison. this shame often leads to low self esteem, which lead to carelessness and reckless behavior. if the general opinion is that when one has been incarcerated, there is little hope for this person, and the reentering person constantly hears this, he/she begins to believe this.  The reentering person begins to expect this when they are released. it is as if every one convicted of a crime has a life sentence because the collateral punishment never ends.

it is frightening to think that there are some people that think that they belong in prison and that they function better in here. what is worse and more frightening is that some don’t even want to break the cycle. as solutions are sought to fix this problem i hope that some one looks into the area of mental health. because there are more mental health patients here than criminals!!

Related Post: My First Night in Lorton

for what it is worth i consider myself to be one of the fortunate guys here in prison as i have family that supports me and comes to visit me, at least once a month for 2 days. there is something that i want to say about these visits and what i find to be interesting. the thing that sticks out the most is the number of women that come to visit these men. it is sad to see the elderly women that come to visit their sons and other male family members. it is also sad to see the mothers of these guys children lug these kids into these institutions as they try to keep a dysfunctional family together. it is heartbreaking to see, at the end of these visits the children, cry and cling to their dads and brothers. it is a unique experience to see these guys that are supposed to be harden criminals try and relate to these children and get frustrated when they can’t relate to them.

today there was this guy that was trying to relate and talk to his daughter and she refused to communicate with him and she ran off to the bathroom with tears in her eyes. as she is running off crying the father yells out for her to come back and as she ignores him he says.” why are you mad at me? i didn’t do anything!” wow!! is what i thought. did he really say that. that he didn’t do anything as if him being in prison and not part of her life wasn’t enough! i have had many moments where i have gone through things and say to myself that this is can never happen again, incarceration. but at that moment that was the saddest moment of my incarceration. i think that it was because i can see the long term effects of that moment.

when i am sitting in that visiting hall all i see is the broken families and worn down women that come week after week. they endure tremendous pain to get in here, as they have to be able to clear security and that is a degrading feeling to have to endure yet they endure just to see that son, husband or brother not knowing if this will be the last time seeing that person. what i don’t see is the homeboys and the street partners that these guys are always bragging and boasting about. i get so tired of the ‘my man this and that’ i never hear guys talk about their kids and how proud they are of them for what ever achievements that they may have accomplished recently. to see that guys place more love and concern for a table in the mess hall, or a chair, and the other things that i have seen guys get hurt over is a shame. as they reps these blocks and gangs while their children suffer is a shame. to see the next generation of dope dealers and crooks and future inmates is a sad thing to see. but that is the reality of it.

Michelle Alexander talks about racial disparity and things alone that nature but the sad truth is that there is not a system that can put more black people in prison and harms why than the family system, because this is where it starts. if the family system is broken the rest is bound to go down hill. as i know for a fact that what ever crime and delinquency that people learn, they learned from someone that was close to them, it was somebody that looked like them. this person looked them in the face and told them that whatever it was that they were about to do was alright. that is the sad truth! rarely do i hear them telling their kids that this is not cool and to not be like them. they make it alright to be here. all that does is removes the fear of incarceration and when there is no fear there is no limits to the acts which they may commit. and the end result is right here!

it was once said that education was the true liberator. when i use to hear this as a youngster i use to blow this statement off. growing up was hard in the sense that for some reason it was preached and shown that the more ignorant you are the cooler you were. we have essentially made ignorance a part of our culture. look at the shows that are portrayed on tv, via real tv. if this is a reflection of our society and a representation of what it means to be a successful american than we are way off the mark. even right here guys get caught up in these shows and have all of these dreams and ideas that life is going to be that way for them upon release. it is as if you can not get a slot on tv if you don’t act like a fool or immoral. not one to pass judgment, that is not my thing trust me, but i must say that there has to be a concern as to what it is that is we are teaching each other, this is not a younger generation problem but one that transcends all cultures, races and age groups, ignorance.

people ask me all the time how did i do so much time. and at what point did i have a paradigm shift in the way that i thought and acted. there were many factors that took place but the most liberating thing that happened to me was that i became educated. see that doesn’t mean knowing everything or having a degree etc. what that means is that you decide to become educated in the role that you have to play in life. this role is different with every individual.

incarceration can come in various forms and the worse form is to be incarcerated mentally. which is to imprison yourself. see i am here in prison physically and have been for 20 years but i have been all across the world and back many times. to liberate your mind from bondage is the most liberating thing that one can do for him/ herself. and that is achieved by way of education.

how and when did it happen for me? i recall the time and the moment clearly. i was in a supermax prison where we were locked down 23 hours a day and 1 out the cells to bathe and use the phone. i stay here for over a year. the first week i slept as i didn’t know how long i was going to be there. during this time i began to really ask myself what did i want out of life and what was i going to do with my life if i ever got out of prison. after a while i could not sleep any more. i was tired of sleeping. if i wasn’t sleeping i was working out, fueling the anger that i had built up in me. i was up to about 2500 push ups and sit ups. i would do sets of 100 until i was exhausted. i got tired of doing that. i got word that my stay was going to be extended and indefinite. what a blow!! it was at this time that i asked myself what the hell does it mean to be free. and how in the hell can i be in prison and further in prison, the hole!! i knew that there was one thing left and that was to become liberated by way of education. i had get something that they could not take from me. and that was whatever i stored in my brain and heart!! so i started to read! i read one book after another! not only did i read but i analyzed the stuff that i read. i started to learn arabic and eventually became fluent. but the thirst to be liberated was not quenched and i had to give in to that urge to learn so i learned spanish, which i am fluent in that as well. so that is another half of the world that i have been exposed to! this has changed my world view a great deal, speaking foreign languages.

so what is the point in all of this. as we talk about change and what can be done to facilitate it. EDUCATION!! this is where it starts and it is a LIBERATOR!!

yes i truly believe that one has to be educated to be liberated. see yes i have been physically in bondage for many years now but it is nothing compared to those who are trapped within other types of bondages. those that may have mental health issues, addiction issues, ecomincal issues etc. there are others that i consider to be far worse than i am. yet the one thing that can free a person is education about the issues that are holding them back from not enjoying life, or is contributing to a poor quality of life.

one of the jobs that i have here is i am spanish G.E.D tutor and i see the regret on many guys faces as they struggle to read basic sentences or do basic math. the a big regret that they have is that they didn’t learn how to do this when they were younger. but that is not the biggest. the biggest regret is the reality that there are not that many options for those how can not read and write out there in the world and that at minimum a G.E.D is needed to gain meaningful employeement. and as that sink in the reality is that the only option that they have leads them back to the seat that they occupy now. crime and that life, to those who have no education, seems to be the only option that they have and accept.

so it is safe to say that without education the road is going to be harder than what one may think right now. if there was one thing that i could tell anyone today, old/young, black/white, male /female,rich or poor, would be to never underestimate to power of what it is and means to be educated! everything that exist around you from the computers that you use to the cars that you drive to the prison cell that i occupy for now was designed by way of someone who was educated in that field of study. for the good or the bad education is the key. to be able to fly from the east coast to the west coast is a luxuary that many enjoy. can you imagine life without airplanes and the other modes of transportation that we enjoy. a friend of mine was telling me about a train that runs from upstate ny to nyc in little to no time. we are talking hours from nyc. i couldn’t imagine that because when i left that didn’t exist, but someone had the insight to do that and i sure that someone profited along the way.

so my point is i would tell everyone to not underestimate the power of education and to seek all ways to become better educated, in all areas of ones life. this will increase one quality of life and make life more enjoyable and easier. to the youth i would say that the are building prison at a rapid pace and what you may not know, because of lack of education, is that they get the estimate numbers to build prisons based on the number of kids drop out of school. so for every kid that drop out of school they build a cell for him/her. it seems to be the common thought that if you can not think for yourself we will put you were somewhere else will think for you and tell you what to do. NOW HOW IS THAT FOR EDUCATION!!

Continued from previous entry My First Night in Lorton

so here i am in this new world without a clue as to what is next. so they bring me my first breakfast of eggs and waffles. i hear guys starting to get up in their cells and talk amongst themselves about the current events of the prison, and trust me the talk was not one that you would have at your dinner table. after i eat i strip down to my underwear and lay down, staring at nothing. these cells were about 8 by 10 and fairly small. so am laying there in this hot ass cell in my underwear listening to these guys talk about everything from rape to murder. there had been at that time a recent killing and as a result a lot of tension n the joint at the time that i got there. so the time is passing but to me it doesn’t matter what time it is the only thing the matter is the night and the day. the day that the sun rises and the day that the sun sets. that his the only thing that i am thinking about. as the day passes i begin to count the cinderblocks in the cell, this is how i found enjoyment for the next three days. on the third day i fake chest pains just to get out of the cell and the co says be cool today is the day that you go to population. so i pack my stuff and he pops the door and sends me out. he says that you are going to 7 dorm. do you know where that is at. i say no and he says just walk to the end of the walkway and turn left and go upstairs. that was it. nothing else. so i brace myself and step out on the walk, and all hell breaks loose. it is a recreation movement and chaos everywhere. i had no idea what to do. out of no where i see a guy that i know and he says to me he talib what is up? where are you going to. i say to 7 dorm and he says cool i am in the same dorm and we let me help you with your stuff. so he grabs a bag and i grab a bag and we are off to 7dorm. we get there and there is this big black metal door and he starts banging on the door, as if there was a secret code for entry. the co comes to the door and opens it and we step in. she says go and find somewhere to sleep. and that was that. i walk through the entry way and was surprised that no one paid me any attention. they had become so use to the intake shit and that whole thing that there was nothing new about it. at the end of the day the question was none of this matters if he can’t survive the dorm area. there were 140 people in this dorm and all of them were violent offenders, mostly of the younger crowd with sentences of 30 years and better. the minute that i stepped into the dorm area it hit me. the first song that i heard blaring through an old grey radio that belonged to a guy, who at that time had 33 years in prison and was on his 60s was the song makes me wanna halla by marvin gaye. “makes me wanna halla and throw up my hands” i find a bunk and sit down and put my head in my hands in a effort to hide the tears of anger, frustration, and fear. it was a warehouse of black men, and only black men, living in the most archaic and inhumane conditions that i had ever seen. i get up and walk through the dorm and see a few familiar faces and socialize for a few. the next thing that i know it is  night time. or the time when the blue light comes on. that is the time that the main lights go off and the night lights that are blue come on. this is the appointed hour when all hell breaks loose. i laid in bed that night thinking to myself that i could not go to sleep tonight. not the first night. no not the first night. so i lay in bed dozing in and out until i can no longer fight it and fall off into a light sleep. than all of a sudden i hear this alarm go off and i jump out of my sleep and look around. i see flames and hear screaming. there was the smell of burning skin and hair in the air. so lurch up and sure enough there was another guy in flames. he had done nothing wrong to no one but there was another guy in the hole that wanted to come to that unit and for that someone had to go in the hole. so they set fire to this guy to get him out. that was my first night in general population!