Posts Tagged ‘change’

I first want to apologize to my followers for being negligent in posting. The last couple of years has taken time for adjustment. I am back now and more focused than ever. Despite the struggles and hardships I am still here. Although I have not posted anything for a while I have been keeping up to date with the latest prison reform issues. I ran across an article the other day and I thought it would be interesting to blog about it. I would like for others to pass this on, post it on your sites, face book pages, or anywhere else that may attract the attention of others.

Within the last year, there has been much talk about penal reform, reduced sentence, and changes in sentencing guidelines. Most recently Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Republican Tony Goudy (R- SC) and Democrats Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY) introduce two legislative proposals related to the federal system. The H.R 759 Recidivism Risk Reduction Act; a bipartisan legislation that uses risk assessment tools to reduce recidivism, lower crime, and reduce the amount of money spent on the federal prison system. According to the Washington Post. Chaffetz goes on to say, “It’s no longer enough to be tough on crime. We have to be smart on crime as well. States have successfully implemented those strategies. As a result, they’ve seen a recidivism drop.” Congressman Richmond chimed in on the conversation by saying, “Our criminal justice system is in serious need of reform in many areas… One of these areas is our prison and post release supervising system. We need a better approach to incarceration that use effective strategies to reduce recidivism. Ensuring that people get the right programs and activates while in prison is used to ensure they are prepared for success after their release. I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to move us closer to that goal.”

The H.R. 759 bill would allow for inmates to participate in programs that will allow them to earn good time points, while in custody. These points will be allotted based upon an inmates risk level. There will be level ranges from low to high. Low risk inmates will be allow to earn 30 days credit per month, moderate risk inmates 15 days and high-risk inmates 8 days. These credits will make them eligible for alternative custody, halfway houses, home confinement, ankle monitoring, etc. The portion of the adjusted sentence would be the remaining 15% of the overall sentence. The current federal sentencing guidelines, Truth in Sentencing, require for federal inmates to serve 85% of a sentence prior to being released. This program does not extend to certain offenders such as sex offenders, terror offenders and violent offenders. In short the federal government is looking for ways to make their more prison system more incentive based. They cut prison costs and reduce recidivism. In theory this plan is a good, at best. The question is will it work? Will it achieve the stated goals?

As we talk about federal housing it is important to talk about another type of prisoner being held in federal prisons, DC billable inmates who need to be accounted for, as talk of prison costs continues.

DC billable inmates are Washington DC’s prisoners that have cases out of Superior Court, (similar to state court). Federal prisoners have cases out of District Court (federal courts). DC’s Lorton Reformatory began closing in the mid 90’s. The last prisoner left in 200; when they closed the prison for good. DC inmates make up a large population of inmates hosed within the federal system. They are a mixture of prisoners serving sentences under different sentencing guidelines. One such guideline is incentive based, similar to the H.R. 759 bill. The main difference between the two is this particular DC sentencing guideline does not exclude inmates and two the DC guideline is a parole-able guideline. The federal system abolished parole many years ago. Although their are DC inmates sentenced under incentive based guidelines, where they would be rewarded for good behavior and program participation, those guidelines are not being honored nor applied when they have their parole hearings. These parole hearings are conducted by the United States Parole Commissions, which it the entity that handles the remaining federal parole cases. The USPC seems to be having a hard time applying these DC guidelines in many that is non punitive. There are DC inmates that have the privilege of seeing a parole board, they have meet many of the incentive requirements of the 1987 Good time Credit Act yet the USPC refuses to parole them, relying on punitive measures to justify giving them lengthy set off. How can Congress expect the H.R. 759 to be different than the DC guidelines, that are not being applied.

There is a large gap in theoretical planning and actual application of these bills that are being introduced. When they are passed they often take years before actually implementation. At that time someone is thinking of another strategy to use. DC inmates, who have the right to parole and early release are not being paroled, yet other bill are being proposed that will allow for other inmates to be released earlier, based on incentive approaches. Both, federal and DC, inmates contribute to the large amount of money spent for federal inmates. In some cases DC inmates cost more to house, up to $40,000 a year is paid to the federal government to simply house each DC inmate.

Will this new bill work? Will it achieve its goal?
Currently the recidivism rate is 70%. Meaning 7 out of 10 inmates return to crime. Recidivism is not bases solely on the return of inmates to prison but to crime and criminal behavior that leads to incarceration, subsequently re-arrest. Social scientists and others who monitor these stats have determined that crime and incarceration are not parallel. There is no direct relationship between the two. In fact according to Dr. James Austin of the JFA Institute, as it concerns DC inmates who are overseen by the USPC, in his findings, when asked to conduct a study at the request of the USPC to determine if the criteria it is using to parole DC inmates were valid. He concluded these criteria’s are significant as they serve to significantly lengthen a prisoner’s period of imprisonment by many years.

The study also looked at the extent to which DC prisoners who are housed in the BOP system were receiving programs and what impact these programs were having on recidivism rates, for DC inmates. The major findings were:
(1) DC prisoners released in 2002 who had been sentenced under the DC code (1987 Good Time Credit Act) as compared to other state prisoners had much longer sentences and served longer sentences.
(2) Consistent with other studies, the amount of time imprisoned (length of stay) is “not” associated with rates of recidivism.
(3) Most of the risk factors being used by the Commissions to assess risk are “not” good predictors of “recidivism”.
(4) An alternative risk instrument that relies on the conduct of the prisoner and programs he of she has completed while in the BOP does a better job of assessing the prisoners risk level.
(5) The Commission is also using factors (crime severity and prior records) that are not related to recidivism that are being used to significantly extend the period of imprisonment

Dr. Austin concluded his testimony to Congress by making recommendations, based on his findings. Recommendations that have not been fully applied. Some of these recommendations include:
(1) Changing the guidelines and implement a new risk instrument that takes into account the prisoner’s conduct while incarcerated (dynamic factors)
(2) Alter the current practice of extending parole eligibility dates based solely on the offense severity and history of violence; especially given the long period of incarceration for DC prisoners and the lack of relationship between length of time served and recidivism.
There should be a concerted effort to reduce the length of imprisonment and parole supervision based on good conduct and completion of programs while incarcerated within the BOP. Such efforts would include allowing release at and earlier stage of the sentence, awarding of good-time credits for prisoners who complete rehabilitative programs and allow for the period of the parole supervision to be reduced based on good conduct. Given that dynamic factors related to prisoners completions of rehabilitative programs are associated to lower recidivism rates, a study should be conducted by the Commission and the Bureau of Prisons to determine if DC sentenced prisoners are receiving the same level of services as other BOP prisoners.

He concluded his testimony by stating that the USPC Commissioner, BOP, DC sentencing Commissions, DC Criminal Justice Council and the US Attorney and the Community Supervisor of Offenders Agency would take part in the changing and implementing his findings. Unfortunately, many DC prisoners are still waiting for this study conducted circa 2007 to be implemented.

In order to determine if a new, improved, method of addressing recidivism, and offenders need, there needs to be a comparison and critique of what is currently in place, or by what came before it. If we were to change the name of the H.R 759 and read it to a group of DC inmates they would think that the DC regulations are what’s being referred to. They both share the same goal and purpose.

The H.R 759 bill is aimed at reducing recidivism (possibly so), lower the crime rate (never going to happen; as there are no concrete findings that support the claim that incarceration reduces crime), and reduce to amount of money being spent on federal prisons/prisoners (will happen without doubt). The question now is how will oversee DC’s inmates that have are allowed the same benefits and who, if applied, will effect the same same end results. Most importantly, reduce the amount of money spent on federal prisons/prisoners.

DC’s 1987 regulations are already enacted, and don’t need to be voted on. It merely needs to be implemented for those whom benefit from its application. An example would be my case.

As a young man I had my run-ins with the law. At 17 I was charged and tried, as an adult, for second degree murder. I was ultimately sentenced to 20 years to life. During the early years of my incarceration I served time with adult offenders, although I was a juvenile. Despite these obstacles I got my GED the first year of being in Lorton. Afterwards I began attending the Lorton Prison College Program, through UDC. I majored in Urban Studies. I attended UDC until I was one day selected to be shipped to a DC contract prison, Sussex II State Prison in Waverly Va.

Sussex II was a 23 and 1 prison. Meaning the entire prison was segregation. I was medium custody and due to the length of time I was serving I was automatically selected to be house in a maximum security prison. There were many DC inmates there, who had not committed any disciplinary infractions, house in segregation, as the entire prison operated as such. While there I began to teach myself Spanish. After suffering like this for a year, with no end in sight, I was told to pack up. I was next sent to Florence AZ, a CCA prison.

While at this institution I did not let the distance and unique housing situation deter me from programming. I got my barbering license along with a host of other programs. I facilitated a group call Concern Offenders for Youth Awareness (COYA). This program was similar to the scared straight programs that were popular in those days. My ability to relate to the youth earned me high accolades from the Maricopa County Superior Court Youth Probation Division. From were I received high praises and much gratitude. I had also began to learn Arabic, as I had become fluent in Spanish by that time. One night I was woken up and put on a bus with 40 other DC inmates. Off to another prison. This time it would be a federal prison, Edgefield SC.

While in Edgefield I participated in the programs offered there. I also, for two years, facilitated a class called The Quality of Life, a class endorsed by the Warden of the prison. It eventually became a pre-release requirement for the inmate population. After two years I was sent to open another prison. USP Lee County.

At Lee County I got my certification in small home improvement and carpentry. My points lowered, after 5 years, and I was sent to FCI Petersburg. While in Petersburg I got my certification in electrical wiring, and worked as a barber. After spending two years here I signed up for the Life Connection Program, a faith based program introduced to the federal system by then President, George W Bush.

The LCP, an 18 month,over 4500 contact hours of programming, focused on re-entry needs. I graduated valedictorian. After graduation I transferred, to be closer to home, as my initial parole hearing was coming up.

I arrived at FCI McKean and had my first hearing. At this hearing I was denied and given a 3 year set off. One of the reasons, needs more time to program. Unbelievable! I had spent 17 years programming and excelling yet I was told I needed to do more programming. I had taken victim impact classes, anger management classes, and other cognitive behavior courses. Courses needed to address the bad choices I had made as a juvenile.

In light of the 3 year set off, I stayed the course and continued programming. I designed a non profit program called The Reconstruction Program. A program targeting high-risk and at-risk youth and youthful offenders. I also began co-facilitating the Victim Impact class with Dr. Tony Gaskew, Criminal Justice Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. I also lead a class called Thinking for a Change. All done while teaching and tutoring Spanish GED, ESL and Spanish as a Second Language.

I was part of the re-entry team. Through this team we formulated a mentoring program targeting younger offenders who had needed extra help in the area of education. We also started a Life Coaching group and through that group I was able to help bring in outside support. An official Life Coaching course through the Institute for Life Coach Training was instituted in the prison. The founder, Dr. Patrick Williams, would become not only my mentor but a good friend. I also applied to an outside school to become a certified Substance Abuse and Alcohol Technician. I also got my Certified Personal Training certification. These two achievements were paid for out of my own money.

Three year later, 2013, I had a second hearing. I went to this hearing with the Associate Warden of Programs as my staff representative. She spoke on my behalf and supported my release. My unit team also spoke on my behalf. My family, friends, and outside supports all sent letters of support. I had a release plan, money saved, two jobs lined up and higher education opportunities. The hearing examiner recommended parole. Everyone thought it was a sure shot. The final decision was a set-off of five (5) more years. The reason. I was not deemed fit for release and my release would endanger the community. The once again claimed I had on-going criminal behavior. I have not had a write up in over 20 years.

What an incredible story. This is my story. The story of a guy that entered prison a 17 years old, who fought against the odds to not become a prison statistic, yet unable to make parole. The people who this new bill, H.R. 759, will apply to may not have half of what I have, in terms of programs and skills. One the system no longer offer the classes that I was able to take many years ago; before the system became all punitive. Yet, they will be released sooner.

My story is not the story of why we need to be tougher with sentencing. Or why we should not let guys out of prison early, violent or non-violent. This is not the story of why there needs to be a tougher enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences. It is the story of a man who has done his time, in fact more than the time of the sentencing courts. 20 years to Life with the possibility of parole if these conditions are meet; you obey the rules and remain incident free, you have proven to have made steps to turn your life around, make better decisions, and remain crime free. That is what the assumption is when dealing with sentences such as mine. Although I have fulfilled more than what would be normally required I was given more time to spend in prison. In a system that is looking for ways to kick people out in order to cut cost. What is the irony in that?

Why is this story important and significant? As the federal government look for way to cut costs, reduce crime and recidivism there are a lot of guys, such as myself, who have served their sentences, participated in programs, and are eligible for release yet the USPC Commissioner will not grant them parole. Citing non-factual reason to justify doing so.

Tax-payers are paying $320,000 for me to stay in prison longer. I am sure most members of society would say that I would be a good candidate for release. There is no telling what will happen at the next hearing. I don’t think I can top what I have done thus far. So who knows when I will be deemed suitable by the USPC Commissioner. What a waste of money. I am steady fighting, to no avail but I am fighting. Would someone make sense of it.

It is important that as lawmakers propose new bills that they ensure the ones that are in effect are being applied. It makes sense to put to use that which is already on the books. It also helps set the foundation of success for newly proposed prison reform bills. It is easier to measure success and failures along the way, too.

By all means this newly proposed bill along with the other sentencing reform polices going into effect is a good thing. There are going to be a lot of people who will appreciate the changes. I do believe that the penal system, often referred to as draconian, needs reform. I just hope that along the way DC and federal inmates get what they each have coming to them, in terms of these reforms; what the law grants them is what needs to be adhered to by policy makers. The law provides hope for many and has to be practical on all levels. Not just as a means for behavior modification.

Hopefully things will change for the better for guys such as myself and others. It has been a long time coming but change seems to be on the horizon. Let’s hope that as the pendulum seems to have, once again, swung to the side or rehabilitation that the powers to be make the right proposals so that when the pendulum swings back to punishment, as it always does, the penal reforms that are in place now will not be cut or overlooked. As it seems to be the case with DC’ prisoners.

Note: This article was taken of the blog site of Talib Shakir, avoicefromtheinside.wordpress.com. (with permission)

About Talib

Talib Shakir is a DC prisoner that has been incarcerated 23 years now. Although his sentence was 20 years to life he will have served 8 additional years before his next hearing, 2018. That is if he does not get that parole set off overturned. He is working on that now. He maintains a blog site, through his family, called A Voice From the Inside
(avoicefromtheinside.wordpress.com) You can visit him there to learn more about what him. You can also visit the site.

Talib also has specialize training as a Life Coach with a focus in relationship coaching. He has used his skills to set up programs within the institution to help other offenders. Some who are soon to be released, and others as they adjust to spending the rest of their lives in prison, lifers.

To learn more about his affiliation with the coaching world you can look up Coaching the Global Village, Founded by Dr. Patrick Williams MCC, BCC. Dr. Williams also is the founder, who now serves as the dean of training, for the Institute of Life Coach Training. Now owned by Dr. Ellen Ritter. Click on Reconstruction Program to learn more about the program he designed.

Along with coaching he facilitates other pre-release class, victim impact classes, and teaches GED Spanish (a language he taught himself, along with Arabic and now Portuguese), English as a Second Language (ESL) and Spanish as a second language. He also serves as a motivational speaker and speaks often at different institutional events.

He story is one that needs to be shared with others as when the discussion of penal reform arise. There is more to the story than we may commonly hear. Sometimes it is best to hear it from those that are on the inside. There view is just as relevant as the view of others.

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10:00 am
11/14/2013

Today I am starting the comments on the class before it takes place. I want to pose something to the viewers of this blog and to give you some of my thoughts prior to class. I do this also with the hopes of getting some feedback from the viewers so that I can share real life experiences and thoughts with the men. I think that it is VERY important that the public has a VOICE in this particular topic. At the end of the day victim impact is about you, not me nor the other guys there. It is about us making amends for the wrongs, direct or indirect, that have been bought about by crime and violence.

One of the haunting questions that I think of, as it concerns my offense, is one word. Why? I am sure that this is a word that haunts many people that have been victimized one way or another. That why is the hardest why to answer in the world. Why do you take the life of a loved one? Why did you molest and rape a loved one? Why did you steal my car? Why did you assault my friend? Why did you burn down my house? Why do you sell drug? Drugs that you know will kill my love ones and destroy other lives. These are the why’s that often go unanswered. These are the why questions that people need to hear and have the right to have answered.

I remember, early in my incarceration, participating in a victim impact class and not taking anything serious. I was thinking to myself that this has nothing to do with me. That it was a waste of time. I mean the way that I grew up all of us were victims. In fact my journey down this road began with being a victim of violence. I have lost many family members and friends to violence and the prison system. So what make these people so special. These were my thoughts at the time. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was going to be confronted by someone who was going to ask me that WHY question.

The first time a person asked me why did I kill the person who died in my case I had not legit answer, at least not one that I wanted to share. I felt it was not that persons business. At that time all I could think about and focus on was all the bad stuff that happened to me.

As I got older and began to understand how my behavior impacted the lives of some many people. When I began to understand this I did something that I thought I would never do in my life. I actually put myself out there to be asked that Why question. Not that I had to have a reason for why, but someone needed to ask why.

It was during a victim impact class that I was able to give a woman some relief, to lighten her load and guilt. I asked this lady whose daughter was killed by her boyfriend, a case that is nothing like mine, if she should could ask him anything what would it be. She said she would ask him why. I told to act like I was him, as I was locked up for killing someone, and say to me what you would say to him. Or what you would want to say to him. I will say that it was very emotional to say the least and there was hardly a dry eye in the room.

Would I want to endure that again? I don’t think so. At least not for the sake of. It would have to be a need for that person. The emotions were too strong. But, it was needed and she could not stop thanking me for allowing it to happen.

So today as I go in here I am going to ask that question. Why? Why did you do what you did? Hopefully I get some honest feedback.

6:00 pm
11/14/2013

Well things didn’t workout as planned. There was a fight so we were locked down. Whenever there is a fight or incident between races they lock us down. They lock us down for other reasons too, but whenever things are racial it is a given that we are going to get locked down. Lock downs are common and something that one has to stay ready for. I have what is called a lockdown bag.

That is a bag of commissary food that can be eaten without using the microwave. So, I have crackers, ramen soups, squeeze cheese, mayonnaise (for the cheese sandwiches that the prison feeds us during these lockdowns) and tuna. I don’t touch this bag except during a lockdown.
Lockdowns can be rough. The prison feeds bologna and cheese sandwiches, as all the cooks are inmates and locked down too. I have been in some lock downs that have lasted 45 days. This is when the whole prison is locked down. Early in my incarceration I spent a lot of time in the hole.

The hole is 23 hours locked down and 1 hour for recreation. That is the use the phone and shower, that is about the time it takes to do those things. One hole I was in had the 23 and 1 schedule set for every other day. So, I would be in the cell 48 hours and out for 1 hour. The longest time I spent in the hole like this was 17 months. When I got out I barely had legs.

 

Yesterday we were locked down due to a race issue. Well, for most of you it would not be surprising to know of the amount of racism and separatism that exist behind these walls. It is like a blast from the past. Everything is racially divided. The kitchen, the rec rooms, the TVs, the cells, everything. Whites and blacks generally don’t mix. Mexicans and Whites generally align themselves with each other. The Blacks stay to themselves, for the most part. When you go in the dining hall there are two lines. One goes to the right and the other to the left. There is an unspoken rule that the whites use the right side line and the blacks use the other line. It is so much so that guys are conditioned to follow that trend, even if one line is shorter than the other. At the end of the day it is fear.

One of the benefits of having done a lot time is that no one really bothers you. I have 20 years incarcerated, the most time of anyone in my unit and there are at least 120 guys in the unit, so who is going to say anything to me if I decide to go to the left at lunch. I try to show others that there is nothing to fear if you are sure of yourself and who you are as a person. Fear is the biggest enemy in a prison setting. Everyone is trying to use it to control. Inject fear in this environment and you are asking for something to happen.

So, due to fear of repercussion we were locked down for the rest of the day. But next week I will pose the question of why. I think that it is relevant and need to be asked. Well I am out for now. Hopefully, next week we will have class. Until next time. Peace!

Week 6: 11/8/2013

Week 6 was a different week, to say the least. It started way off course and had to be put back in to perspective. That is one of the challenges of a program of this type, or any type for that manner.

In these types of classes you get guys that think that they have it all figured out. They have read a few books and think that they have it mastered. It is one thing to read a book and another thing to apply what you read. One of the things that makes this work, or not work, is that they can say what they want; the fact is that I don’t leave with the professor. I see and hear what they do and often it does not match what they say in class.

This is one of the things that came up. See, I know what the real deal is. I know that for all of the stuff, the good the bad and the ugly, that has happened to us in life it all comes back to choices. So despite of all the horrible things that I have seen, the poverty and hunger that I have experienced, the dysfunction of my family at times. I know that at some point I had to make choices. Why do I mention this? We choose to live a certain way in life. No matter who you are or where you are. You have to make those choices.

That is what I am quick to point out. See, this is not about popularity. It is about saving lives, and not the lives of the men that are there, but the lives of those who they will come in contact when they leave. Or the lives of their loved ones. Some of us are right where we are supposed to. One cannot be ignorant and expect to go out in society, without basic survival literacy skills, and succeed. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. If one does not want to take control of his/her life this it the place for them.

I had to tell them the hard truth about life. I had to tell them what does who are close to them need to be telling them, but are to scared to tell them. That is that they are master con men. That they have learned to play the con game very well. But, there is a flip side to their con. The joke is on them. See in order to con well you have to believe the lie, the con that is being run. So, you are conning yourself if you are watching TV and think that you are going to leave here and live a BET, MTV, Real World, Mob Wives, or any of the dumb ass shows they show to dumb you down. How is this possible if you don’t know how to read and write. Some of them think that they are going to leave here and get big chains, cars, and homes with out education and hard work. When you ask them how are you going to get this they tell you I am going to work. You ask them what job are you going to work that is going to allow you to buy an Audi A 8, a car that cost almost $100,000. What skill do you have? One of the shames of the penal system, the federal system in particular, is that they breed con men.

It is about playing the game to get by. Not about changing. Part of the blame is the design of the system itself and the other part goes to the men that are playing that game. Life is not a game nor a thing that you can con your way through forever. Eventually, it will come out. This is the hard truth that guys need to hear. That they are bullshitting. But the joke is going to be on them. Some guys got mad, didn’t like it. But what do I care? I have lived a life where I have been shot at, stabbed, fought the best and toughest of my time. What do I care about someone being mad at me for telling the truth? It is what it is.

After class one guy, that I know, came and said to me, “I am a con man huh.” and I told him the truth, “yes you are and you know why.” He told me that as much as that hurt it is what he needed to hear. He knows that he is better than the way he acts.

This is not a game nor should it be taken as one. There is an obligation on those that know better to do better, to protect the interest of a society, of a generation that is the come. This is the idea of this course. Many guys don’t want to hear the truth but it must be said.

When it comes to the truth. One has to take ownership of their own lives. One has to realize that at the end of the day not many people care about them; there is nothing so special about their lives that the world must stop. Those that think like often feel that the world owe them. That everything is about them. That is not the real world. The sooner that one wakes up to that truth the sooner one can take the steps that are needed to move forward in life.

When I used this con man example I pointed out a little guy that I know that is in the same unit as me. This guy has lost almost all of his family to the “game”. He has never met his father and his mother was murdered getting high off of crack in some run down motel. He ended up getting hooked on drugs later in life, weed, pills and alcohol was/is his drug of choice. He has no GED and a young son. He spends his time watching TV or shooting the breeze with his friends, if you call then that. None of his “friends try to help him with his education and always seem to be putting thoughts of “one more time” in his head.

I had to call him out and asked him to question those around him. I see that he is being conned by those around him. Conned into thinking that this lifestyle is the life. That he does not need education to get ahead in life. That he is going to walk out of here and not have to deal with the world on the worlds terms. This is the con that is taking place here. Not just with him but with other guys as well, young and old.

I hope that through this class that guys wake up to the con. That they stop playing the game and take this thing serious. Some guys are being reached. If one person takes it and find the skills need to change I will feel that the message was conveyed. Until next week.

anPeace

October 24, 2013 Week 4.

Well today we picked up from where we left off last week. Talking about responsibility and who is at fault. Some of the guys have yet to come to terms that the actions that they committed were solely their fault. There are a lot of other issues that played in the events that happened in our lives but ultimately we all have a CHOICE. That is the most important thing that has to be realized.

It is hard to get to this point when for the most part many of the men in prison have adopted a criminal personality:  that has its own thinking pattern associated with it.  It is hard to get some one to see that they have created victims when they feel that they are the victims.  It is true that we are victims of something, yet, there has to be some accountability for the actions that we commit.

So, who is the blame? That is were the conversation took off. The professor says that our parents failed us, if we are in here. I disagree to a certain extent.

There are many men and women locked up that come from stable homes and have gone to good schools. If this is the case have the parents failed? There are many men and women here that have lived in the inner-city all of their lives, yet they were raised with good morals and values.  Yet they end up in prison.

There are also men and women incarcerated that were raised in these communities that have parents who have never been to prison. Who worked hard and did all that they could to provide. So if this is the case who failed who? Is this an excuse to continue crime? For many people it is. It misdirects the blame, responsibility and accountability that is needed to stop committing victims. This will be the cry when these men find themselves in trouble.

This plays a part in how we may be raised but at some point we knew that our actions were wrong. If that is the case we cannot shift the blame to others.

I had an interesting conversation with a guy after the class. We talked about his upbringing and how he ended up here. In fact this is the same kid that met his father in prison, doing a life sentence. He told me that through all of his life his mother was on drugs, crack. Yet, she did the best that she could do under the circumstances. He told me that he faults the older guys in his neighborhood because they had the most influence on what happened in his life. They knew that his mother was on drugs and that his father was incarcerated. If they knew this and wanted the best for him why did the teach him the rules of the game, streets.  So, I think that we all have had experiences that are very real for us, experiences that landed us in prison.

Everyday we send our kids out in the world to be traumatized by what is out there in the world. Most of these experiences are unknown to the parents, yet these experiences are the most profound experiences that our children have ever had in life. These are the experiences that shape the way that our children think, believe and act. This is so true for the kids that grow up in the inner-city. What do you expect from kids who grow up in communities polluted with beer bottles, syringes, old condoms and drug baggies? On the way to school they are confronted with bullies and glimpse of the attractive life of drug dealing. These are some powerful experiences. Children spend more time out the house and are influenced more by what happens outside the house vs. what goes on in the house.

What does this mean? It means that there are several key factors that play a role in the events that lead many of us to prison. But, what does that have to do with going out and making conscious decisions to steal, deal and kill? None what so ever. In fact the victim role plays a big part in the reasons why criminals and crooks continue criminal behavior. Life is never about others, only about them. The life of crime is a selfish life. It is a life that no one gets into except that there is some self gain and profit.

In fact there are other issues that come into play when it comes to this issue. Fear is a factor. There is a fear of putdown and vulnerability that leads to a zero state. Anger, when it is used as a means to control others. Pride, false pride/criminal pride, there is too much pride to do what is needed to change.  All of these issues and more are issues that have to be dealt with in order to begin to understand what it means to victimize others.
It is a serious thing to get men who have been conditioned to think and believe that their life is the only life that matters to change. I have high hopes that their lives are being changed. I believe that there is a wealth of untapped talent and potential in every human being. It only takes a willingness to tap into those talents and potentials. I look at myself and know that I am living proof that what I am saying is true. That I have talents and potentials that if I knew of them at 17 I would be in a different situation. That rings true for most of the men that I come in contact with through this class. It is a matter of educating and a willingness to take the steps and be patient with the process.

Until next week. Peace