Posts Tagged ‘community development’

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The latest events surrounding the death of Michael Brown has me wondering about the future of the the world we live in. I think of the events that have taken place and wonder how will this change the society.

I think of the racial split that will occur behind this event. I am grateful that the youth of today are more open to the diversity that makes up this country.

As these events unfold the discussion on the prison yard is interesting. Those mostly concerned are black, and you can hear frustration and anger in their voices.

Being incarcerated I have a different view. What happened was wrong, no doubt. But, the way that the community has decided to voice the wrong is not proper either. I know there are some who are taking advantage of a bad situation. But at whose the expense?

I remember early in my incarceration we decided to protest the living conditions within the prison. At the time I was being housed on the juvenile range. Someone came up with the “good idea” of throwing our mattresses and property on the tier and lighting it on fire. We were locked in the cells and started to throw out our stuff. We were yelling for our demands to be met. We gave them 5 minutes to fix 100 year problem.

We started to toss baby oil on the stuff, as baby oil is flammable and will burn. 5 minutes passed and a match was lit and tossed on the stuff laying on the tier. A big fire ignited and there was this loud whoosh sound. In a matter of seconds the tier was on fire. Smoke start to fill the locked tier and cells. We almost killed ourselves!! Guys were choking and screaming to be let out the cells. Guys were sucking air through the toilets. We would flush the toilet to get air in the bowl. The bars got hot to the touch. We almost killed ourselves! What did we do? Excuse my French but we did not get shit and we fucked up the prison some more! The prison that we had to live in because they were not going to let us free.

We took a situation that was criminal (the mistreatment of inmates is called cruel and unusual punishment) and harmed ourselves. We did not get what we wanted, a 5 minute fix to a 100 year problem. We ultimately made it bad for ourselves. It is more criminal to create a oppressive situation for oneself. This is what the people of Ferguson is doing to themselves.

Make no mistake about it.. Wrong is wrong. But you don’t fix wrong with more wrong. Something needs to be done. Answers need to be given. But this is a 400 plus year problem that people want fixed today. Sorry but I doubt that it will happen in that fashion.

We need to step back and readdress the problem the right way. Intentions need to be made clear. For what purpose are we here for? What is the goal and object of any demonstration and protest? I am glad that people are stepping up. But not the manner in which some of are doing so.

For those of us who can remember 9/11 we see how this event has changed the world, and not necessarily for the better. We are no more safer today. From what I hear it is more of a hassle to maintain privacy, to avoid being profiled, and to travel. I don’t know an outside world post 9/11 so I don’t know. But I will say this. What happened in Ferguson Missouri will be monumental in changing future events just as 9/11 change world events. The issue of race and poverty can no longer be avoided. When the time comes to address these issues, whether by dialogue or actually putting forth actions, what course of action will be taken.

We can no longer, as a society, avoid what is to come, in terms of social change and justice. To do so would truly be criminal.

Talib would like to hear other opinions about this situation. He is currently incarcerated but maintains the A Voice From the Inside as a means to reach out the public, and as a tool of awareness to what goes on in prison. He is open to taking all questions and comments. If you think others would be interested in hearing more pass the word, repost and sign up at his site.

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This morning I woke up to some tragic news. An unarmed 18 year old teen was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri. This news has created some discussion among some of the men here in the prison. Some of the conversations surround the response of the community members. Some of the members in that community rioted, looted and even shot at the Chief of police.

I am old enough to remember the Rodney King case and how the South Central LA community responded to the acquittal of those officers. They resulted to looting and violence. As the old adage goes, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, I agree with that. Yet, there is something deeper happening here. Something I have not yet heard mentioned by those that have appeared on TV to give their advice/opinions of what went, or is going, wrong.

As a people we are what we are taught. Black people living in the inner-cites don’t feel part of a social structure where they view justice and equality the same as those that have their place in main-stream society. In the black community exists a very different type of law and order. A very different type of infrastructure, where the values and norms are not shared by those outside of their communities.

There is a teaching in these communities that in order to be heard “we” must rise up against “any” and “all” with the force/threat and use of violence.

How can one expect anything other than rioting and looting in a community that is most likely stricken by poverty and under/low class living? Where most of the community feels marginalized and ousted by members of other communities. Was anything else expected from them?

The most important question to ask is did it work? Did it get the attention of the authorities? Unfortunately, it was the rioting and looting that got the national attention this event deserved on its own. This is the training that I speak about. That in order to be heard, to get justice “we” have to act up.

Go a step further. This has made news alongside the broken peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. As well as the slaughter of Kurds in Iraq by ISIS. That has been the rotation of news all day. My heart breaks when I see the slaughter of innocent people, wherever they may be. But what is the message of showing this type of news, the killing of a young black teen, in between the killing of innocent Kurds, Palestinians and Israelis. Does it say that “blacks” in this country when they feel they have been wronged respond the same way as “Islamic Militants” or “Palestinian rebels”. And I use those terms loosely. How will public opinion be shaped by the way this event is covered?

Will it send the message there is not hope for “those” people? That is what comes to mind when I think about the Crisis in the Middle East. It is almost a hopeless situation. A situation where one wants to see peace by any means necessary. Do I have those same thoughts about the shooting of an innocent black teen? I most certainly do. Not just a young black teen but any young or old person that is attacked and killed by those that are entrusted to serve and protect.

What upsets me is the coverage of the events. One guy was talking to a reporter and tried to interject a piece about the “black” mindset in America. She cut him off with, “lets talk about the looting.” They repeatedly showed the interview of the Chief of Police where he stated, “last night was the worst night of my life.” Not to discredit him. As I sincerely believe he was being genuine and honest. He was not prompted and had emotion in his voice as he said it. Yet, what about the other victims of last nights events? Do they not share the same sentiment, that it was the worst night of their lives as well?

Anytime you get the “police” to admit to fear. Those who are trained for these situations, to not respond with fear, to say they were “fearful”. What does this say about those that evoke this fear? The must be dangerous and helpless.

It is sad and unacceptable that the community responded this way. This is not the way to respond to any event. The use of violence never solves anything. This is why the continual fighting around the world will never cease. As it goes to be said. There has never been a group of people to take down another group of people, with force, except they became worse than the group they took down. So, it is not acceptable to respond this way. Yet, I understand it. It all goes back to what we are taught. I goes back to what gets the attention needed for “justice” from the other side. That is the way the “black community” is often designed. It is “us “against “you all”. So, to get justice from “you all” this is what we must do. Sad to say it works. Until those that cover these events wizen up to this it will always be a response to events such as these.

Trust me I know. As a black man in this country I have heard this train of thought all of my life when it comes to finding the “solution” to “our” inequality issues. Even in prison. Guys always talk about stopping work or something of that nature. Although, guys have not been successful with this in years, they still mention acts such as work stoppage and events that took place in Missouri as the route to take. The route to justice and equality. Knowing that it has not worked in years and hence forth will never work again. Why, you may ask yourself suggest it as a solution. Because that is the way some of us “think”.
Until this mindset is challenged by those who have the position, influence and authority to challenge it many will continue to not only think but respond this way. As they search for “justice” and “equality”.

Hopefully, something good comes from this tragic situation. If there was one thing I could say to my “people”, and it is hard to say considering the history of blacks in this country, is that we are perceived by the perception we give. True the young teen is not at fault here. But what justice do you get for him by making it about you. When you respond out ignorantly you make it about you. What justice do you get for “him” by looting, robbing and killing your own communities. How are others going to buy into our cry for justice and solutions when we say we want it for us, yet we maim ourselves along the way. That sends a mixed message. One that is not to be trusted. What happens in this event? Nothing.

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 5 Victim Impact October 31, 2013

This week I began with a quote: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” (Fyodor DostoevskyThe House of the Dead (1862))

We began the class discussing the mindsets that are bought to the prison environment and how they shape our visions for the future.

We also talked about the collateral damage that is a result of incarceration.

“Conviction for a crime, still more a sentence of imprisonment, may itself undermine family cohesion ad security, destroy the offenders prospects, result in loss of employment and assets, all quite apart from any legal measures…Those who commit crimes as youths may outgrow criminality as the get older but they may never be able to outgrow their criminal records.”
I talked about who really suffers from the acts which we have committed, the ripple effects. It is the family that suffer the most often.  That the suffering and penalty for incarceration does not stop when we are released.  But, that for the men there is a certain amount of degradation and loss of respect within the family. That the mere fact of having gone to prison for 1 day can, and is often set up to, destroy a lifetime of credibility.

The criminal justice system is a machine that is designed to do just that, destroy. What has to be understood is that there are no direct links to crime and incarceration. Crime is a result of poverty, under-education and urbanization. Incarceration policies do not respond to crime but to political agendas and climates. Underemployment , drugs and violence help create that climate due to the subculture that exists in these communities. That is what this system is designed to do. So it is no surprise that many men return to prison as the communities that they come from, and go back to, are still plagued with the very same issues that were there before they went to prison. So, there is a serious need to educate others to how to come up out of these conditions. To understand the collateral damage and find ways to work around it.

I also talked stats. In 1982 the cost for incarceration was 9 million a year. In 2001 the cost was 44 million a year. Today the cost of incarceration is 80 billion a year. Yes!! 80 billion a year!! Yet, crime has not been reduced. In fact between the years 2010 and 2011 violent victimization increased from 4.9 million to 5.8 million, an 18% increase. More money is being spent on a concept that is not working. Prisons are not reducing crime and violence yet more prisons are being built; more money is being spent than ever before.

Many of the men were receptive to the idea that they contributed to the conditions of their communities. That they are the ones that have to go back and make the effort to get it right.

In these classes, although they are not typically coaching forums, I use the skills that I have learn to get the guys to see what it would look like. What would it look like to live in a safe neighborhood? What would it look like to come home from work and be a father to ones kids? What would it look like to be respected and really loved? Many of the men, from the hardest to the meekest, all had something to say. That it would feel good to live in a community where people were not be shot and killed. Were their kids were safe from drugs and alcohol. Where they could send their kids to school i safety. So the next question was simple. If this is the community we want imagine how many other people want the same thing. Now imagine how many dreams we have destroyed, by not acting in the community that we come in a manner to be like the one that we want for ourselves. The way that others want it to be for themselves.

Surely no one wants to live in fear under the constant threat of violence and abuse. In fact many of the guys in this situation are here because we had to be a certain way so that we could survive, day to day. It is up to those that know to teach those who do not.

I challenged the men to pick up a book. There is no way that some of us have seen everything and done everything under the sun but a book! I mean it when I say that most of these men have not read a book in years. I asked them what is there to fear in a book? Maybe it is that the truth is to be found, the truth about who you really are. If that is the case than there may be reason to be afraid to open one up. When you look at the reality of most of us we have been shot, stabbed, mugged, drugged from home and imprisoned, put in cells days on top of days with out running water. We have been made to endure long trips across the country chained and shackle, eating stale and old cheese sandwiches. Yet, the thought of opening up a book scares most of us to death.

After class I had a conversation with a guy that is starting to get it. Time will tell, is what i told him. See it is easy to do the right thing when there is someone constantly watching your every move. This is not change. This is getting by, playing by the rules. What happens when the ex offender stigma will not allow you to get the job that you want and you have to settle. Are you going to remember this? Are you going to have the same resolve to do the right thing?

To be incarcerated is easy. There is nothing to do but breath. Yes there is danger. But, there is danger everywhere in the world. The only thing that most guys are dying from here is boredom and stupidity. I often feel the same way. There is no more lesson to be learned for me. Me being incarcerated at this point in my life serves NO purpose. So what am I doing here? Nothing too exciting, other than being bored have the time. They say that an idle mind is the workshop for the devil. Hence the stupidity that guys are getting caught up in. Due to the boredom that exists.

The real punishment is when one is released and have to fend for himself out there. Are you ready for this, is what I asked the young man. Are you ready to make choices? That is what freedom and liberty means. It means that you have to make choices and you have to be responsible for the choices that you make. He said that he was. I truly hope so.

Until next week Peace!

“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?

holly-bass-jaamil-olawale-kosoko-double-consciousness

I was reading something today and it read “solutions to double consciousness.” When I read the statement it made me think about what it meant to have a double conscious in the first place. I wrote about this a while ago and I guess that is why i feel compelled to write about it again.

After thinking about this statement I had to ask who does this really apply to. I mean in order to have a double consciousness you have to have one to begin with. So how do you answer this question in a world where there are people who don’t have a consciousness to begin with.

There has to be some sort of education involved to get to the core of ones beings. It will allow for one to come into the essence of self. To know thy self is one of the greatest tools that can be used in finding the solution to having a double consciousness. But, how does one achieve that if they are part of a group of people that lack heritage and culture to identify with in the first place?

During one of my classes I posed the question to 2 white men and 2 black men. I gave a slip of paper to one white guy that read, “what does it mean to act black?” and i gave a slip to another white guy that read, “what does it mean to act white?”
I also did the same to the two black guys that i had selected to answer these questions. I asked one, “what does it mean to act black?” and the other “what does it mean to act white?”

These men were not prepped to answer these questions and were selected at random. You would not believe the response that was given. Every answer was based on a stereotype. What was worse was the stereotype that the white guys had for “what does it mean to act black” was the same stereotype that the black guy gave when asked “what does it mean to act black?” Talk about a double consciousness!

The typical response was a negative one. One where the black guy always had to find a way to “act” a fool and ignorant! So I asked the question, “why is it that not one black person in this room said that to act black is to be a father, responsible. law-abiding, educated, loving, caring etc.” The shame that filled the room was heartbreaking. That many young black men have fallen victim to a stereotype that someone else gave them.

I asked a Hispanic guy what it meant to be Hispanic and the first thing that he said was,” ahhhh I don’t know how to answer that, but we have our culture…” I stopped him and told him “you have said enough.” It is sad that many blacks when asked about their history the think that it began on a boat in chains and shackles.

What does that say about the consciousness of someone to think that their existence began in a state of degradation. So much so that till this day they believe that the only thing that they can identify with is the definition that someone else has placed on them. Therefore they act that out.

This is the state of affairs of many of the young men here. They take pride in being called nigga, dog, thug, fool, pimp, gangsta and all of the other adjectives that have been adopted into the culture of mainstream America, as it concerns the black communities.

I asked a question, the same day, where did blacks learn what they know about themselves? No one had a legitimate answer to that question. Most of these guys are young so don’t remember a time where TV was (and still is) by white shows. So they have no idea as to what it means to live in a society where there is no one on TV that looks like you. See this is something important as TV often becomes the medium from which we learn, from where the status quo comes. So it is through TV that we learn most of our behavior.

When did the decline of the black community really begin? Who knows but I do know that when they begin to give us time slots on TV to be fools it seemed that we took those images and ran with them. Do you remember N.W.A.( niggas with an Attitude) they changed the game and we became known for a new genre of rap, gangsta rap. Where we yelled fuck the police and talked about niggas getting shot and I can’t forget “A Bitch is a Bitch” or the other songs that came out that young blacks began to identify with, shit that was causing them to kill themselves a mile a minute.

What about Boyz in the Hood, Juice, Menace to Society, South Central and the many movies that came after that that depicted young black men as menaces and culprits to every type of crime that could be committed. I was so wild in those days I can recall a guy pulling out a gun on me an pulling it and hold it sideways, imitating what he saw Ole Dog on Menace to Society. See i can sit back and recall those days of foolishness.

Why is it that Denzel won an Oscar for portraying a crooked cop? Why did 36 Mafia win an Oscar for it is hard out here for a pimp? Why couldn’t Denzel win for Malcolm, John Q, hell Man on Fire for all it matters. My point is that if the images that are portrayed on TV and in the movies depict blacks in these stereotypical ways what do you expect from some one who adopts these roles? Where is the consciousness to begin with?

With that being said how do you answer the question, what is the solution to having a double consciousness? I say that it starts with those of us who have a good idea of where this double consciousness comes from begin to educate those who don’t. Sometimes those who know take for granted that no one wants to listen when that may not be the case all the time.

For instance one day a young guy was talking to me and he says, “see that cracker over there.” So I ask him what did he mean by that. He says, “I mean that white guy over there, the racist one.” So, I ask him if he knew where that word came from and why it was used. He says,” No. I just know that it refers to the racist ones.” So, I explain to him that every time you call that guy “cracker” you exalt his status as an oppressor. He looks at me in disbelief. I go on to tell him that the word “cracker” was a word that the slaves used for the white man because they didn’t know his name and every time he came to punish someone they used to say here comes the “cracker” as that was the sound that came from the whip. He was blown away by that small information and vow to never use the word again. In that regards he was able to deal with that double consciousness.

The same thing exists in the names that most black people bear. Jackson, Johnson, Williamson, Robinson etc. These are all names that were passed down from slavery to identify the owners of these slaves. So the slaves of John were called Johnsons etc. I just use that example to point out that even the best of use carry some of these traits with us on a daily basis. We sign big checks bearing these names. We buy big houses bearing these names. We pass these names on to our offspring’s. We have family reunions celebrating these names.

So it is safe to say that the vast majority of African-American or blacks, which ever you deem to be more political correct, suffer from this thing called a double consciousness. But, as long as you know that a disease exists you can continue to treat it. You may not cure it all the way, that may be too hard, but it is treatable. You can treat it with education. Education of self and others. In order to get to an end you have to know where you are starting from!

Today on NPR a news report discusses a new trend in data collection which maps  the home addresses of people incarcerated.

This data collection differs from the old trends which only followed the locations of where crimes were being committed.  Now data is showing what has long been known by people living in these neighborhoods, that there is a high concentration of people being arrested from certain urban areas, now called “Million-dollar blocks” because of the high cost of incarcerating people from these areas.

With this data available, what can we do with it to improve our own communities?  Now that we can see on a map what we may have already known, what strategies can we use to our advantage?  How can this information be relevant in helping our neighborhoods, reducing crime, and impacting reentry?

Click here to hear NPR’s broadcast.  Also visit Justice Mapping Center for more information on the data collection project.