Posts Tagged ‘inmate education’

Hey all! I know that it has been a couple of weeks since I have been here. There are a lot of things going on here. As this is the time of year when everyone is taking off work. The guys are going through all kinds of emotional, physical and mental challenges/changes. This is the hardest time for most guys. It is somewhat mind boggling that there are guys here that want to be with the family that they willingly left. To spend time with the kids that they abandoned. Which leads me into the topic of last weeks class.

What does it mean to be a victim? I know that we have covered this many times before. I think many guys fall back into the victim role, when this time of year comes around. It is easy to hold on to the pain and suffering of what many of us have experienced growing up. Yet, at some point we have to be able to recognize when the roles are reversed. The roles are reversed and one has to know when he has taken on the role of victimizing.

Everyday I am reminded of the ripple effect of what I have done. I can see the ripple effects of what others have done to others. I can see it in the visiting as guys try to interact with their loved ones. The ripple effects are long lasting and damaging. I don’t think that a lot of guys have yet to come to that conclusion. I think that a lot of what guys express, in terms of remorse, has more to do with what they feel is just. Not what others feel as just. They have yet to see that this is bigger than this. That there are others who are suffering from this negative behavior. In a perfect world everyone would get it. The world is not perfect and it sad that most don’t get it.

I just had the opportunity to read another blog where my name was mentioned. Something happened to someone that I know. What happened to this person happened 20 years ago. It had nothing to do with me but he referenced me as being in the same school at the time this event happened. What happened to this guy was not cool, he was assaulted sexually, and it appears that he is open about talking about what happened to him.

What happened was 20 years ago but he still suffers from those events. It is clear that in the 20 years that this happened to him he has gone through a lot of other stuff as well. As a young guy he was different and had issues. Nothing that would be considered abnormal when you are talking about a teenager. So prior to this event he was struggling at home and in school. He was struggling with his sexual preference as well. He know what he was and wanted to be. I think those around him had a harder time at coming to terms with it.

During this time he was sexually assaulted and that is what stands out the most to him. From this point it just got worse. I cannot imagine what he has gone through in the last 20 years but I can say that he still suffers from the ripple effects of what was done to him. All the legal measures could not change nor fix what was done to him. This is something that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. My only hope is that the person that did this to him has come to understand the role that he played in these events.

It is not enough to say that I am sorry. Ones actions has to be in-line with what he says. Until what one says and does align with each other everything else is BS. Many of the guys that I deal with here in this class have yet to align what they say with what they do. It is one thing to say, ” what i did was wrong.” It is another thing to change the wrong behavior so that one does not fall back into that behavior. In order for that change to happen it will require one to challenge their mindset, belief system and values. It will require them to question almost everything that they knew or thought about themselves and those who had an influence in their lives, even some of there parents and other loved ones. This is not an easy thing to do.

The fear of finding out the truth. The truth that one has been taught wrong his/her whole life. That they have been doing things wrong for a long time. That is a scary reality that many don’t want to face. That is not a prisoner issue. That is an issues for most of society. What we learn becomes who we are. No one wants to find out that what they have learned was wrong. Some of what we learn is becomes part of or defense mechanism, what we use to survive. Being in prison and having lived a life of primary crime seems to complex things.

These communities are have another set of rule, subcultures if you like, that some how becomes the primary view that many residents have. So whatever the experience is for them there is the way that life is. It makes no difference if makes sense to those outside of these communities, as long as it makes sense to them. This mind-set and indoctrination becomes so intense that not even prison can change it. A bullet cannot change it for many in these communities. To get shot often build street cred. It makes one a living or dying legend in the “hood”.

So how do you reach some one who considers themselves a victim to all of what they have experience in life. I know I am fond of saying that the only experience worth believing is my own. I can look and learn from others but at the end of the day it is my own experience that is going to determine what I do and where I go in life. If one is not willing to step outside of what they are used to, in order to have new experiences in life, how do they change a mind-set? So, when we have this class there is always a constant struggle to increase awareness. There is always a constant struggle to get guys to see the world as a place that they are part of. That whether they like it or not they have a responsibility to not only themselves but to the world. I hope that someone get it.

I hope that as you all spend this time with those whom you love that you really consider yourselves grateful of that time. That you cherish the moments that you have together. Life is short and we are all headed somewhere. You only get one life. When I think of times such as these. I think about those families that are in mourning. The kids that are without. The family that is struggling to stay above water.

I think about my family and how I have bought grief and shame to their lives. But, most importantly I think about what can I do to change any of it. What can I do to make it better. Not for me but for someone else. With that I leave you all in peace.

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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!

Reframing is a powerful tool that can be used by anyone at anytime when they find themselves in one of life’s many cruxes. It is a coaching tool that I use all the time when I find myself, either in a negative place or dealing with someone who is in a negative place.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to use this tool with a young guy here in the prison. I want to give a little background on this guy to give you a clearer picture.

When I first met this kid he was new to the system and in a very depressed state. He was on psychotropic drugs, very heavy kind to be exact, that literally had him mummified. He would lay in bed all day, picked up a lot of weight and was just dead to the world going on around him.

This kid is not the “typical” criminal. Meaning it is clear that he did something stupid and was sent to prison for it. He is one of those “I learned my lesson the first time” guys.

I used to ask him, occasionally, why did he take medicine. His reply was that he was depressed. Fair enough. I understand that mental illness is real. I do believe that sometimes people are prescribed drugs for the sake of it and not because they necessarily need it. But, that is not the point here. He was someone who thought that he needed it and I respected that need.

Over a few months I start to notice a change in his behavior, an improvement. He started to hang out more with some of the guys his age. Started going to church and the fellowship group. Overall he seemed to be adjusting well.

There were some allegations made about him and his sexuality, along with some allegations that he cooperated with the law on his case. As this stuff was going on I noticed him fall back into the same slump that he was in months ago. These two allegations are serious and can cause one to be an outcast, open to be preyed upon. They are seen as weak and open for anyone to use and abuse.

When I heard of the stuff that was going on I pulled him to the side to talk to him. Now when I go out of my way to talk to someone about serious issues there cannot be any bs or lies. If I take interest in someone else’s life I need to know that I am not being fooled. Especially, with something of this nature. I express this to him and asked if what was being said was the truth. He confirmed that it was and that he confided in someone else, who maliciously passed on that information prior to going home. Now, the first thing that jumps up in my mind is, “you have to be one of the stupidest people in the world to confide in someone who you don’t know. Especially with information that can harm you.”

I pride myself on being a man of integrity and of my word. I told him that I would not speak of this again, but I just wanted to offer some advice. That was a moment where he needed advice and someone to trust. Not that any of the stuff that was being said matter, even though it did, I believe that everyone deserve a fair shake. After he explained to me the elements of his case I knew that it was a case of some childish stuff that went wrong. In fact all of the people involved were scared into cooperation against one another. His drug use and the community that he came from facilitated in his other behavior. As I said this guy is not “typical”.

Well working together we were able to help him move on from that incident. We were able deal with those issues with some of the other guys, so that he could at least live without fear. Fair enough.

Well, yesterday I am on my way to the cell. Now this above mentioned events occurred during the summer of this year. I moved on from it, as well as he. We live in the same unit but I am almost never here so when I see him it is in passing, and no more than a, “hey. what’s up? are you cool?” etc. real general stuff. Well yesterday he was sitting out in front of my cell on the stairs. I was on my way to my cell to make me a cup of my morning Joe. My cell is at the end of the range/tier so there is a set of stairs next to my cell. I see him there with his head down. I felt the vibe was way off. I stopped and asked him what was up? He looked up with tears in his eyes and said, ” I am at my breaking point.” I immediately stopped and inquired as to what was up.

Since my cell was right there I took him in the cell to talk to him. He begins to tell me of a situation that took place that involved, of all things, peanut butter. I am looking at this kid and say to myself, “You got to be kidding me. This is about some peanut butter?!” I knew that there was something else going on and that this was a good time to get into coaching mode, and use some good listening skill. It was obvious that this was something serious to him, serious enough to bring him to tears. Come to find out, without going into the story, it was not about peanut butter but about feeling “used”.

After listening to him tell his story I began to think that this is the cry and complaint of 99% of the world. We just don’t want to be used and felt that others are taking advantage of us, our kindness, money and time. So, after listening to him I asked if I could ask a couple of simple questions. He agreed. I asked him what it was that he “did not” want? He replied, “I don’t want to feel that I am being used.” I asked him, “what does feeling used feel like?” He replied that “it didn’t feel good.” So, I ask, “what would it take, or make you feel good in this situation?” He said,” to know that I am not being used and to have others in my life that I can trust.” So, I asked him to lets start there, from the place that you want to be at. To get out of this negative place filled with things, people and feelings that you don’t want.

I asked him if he was willing to reframe his thoughts and feelings. He agreed. I asked him to first try to tell me what he wanted from the people in his life. It boiled down to honest, trusting and genuine people. I asked if he could find that here. He said yes that he has that now with the members of his church group. I say to him that if that is the case he has right now what he needs to be happy. He began to light up as a light went off in his head. He said, “you know what you are right I do.” I replied, “No. I am not right you are right. You were the one that is able to realize that you had what you wanted to be cool in this situation.”

I challenged him with this. From now on when you find yourself thinking about what you don’t want, reframe that to what you “do” want. What you focus on will expand and grow. The good and the bad. If you don’t want to be “used” think I want supportive, loving and trustworthy people in my life, and go out and look for those people. It is better to spend your energy looking for what you want than to spend it running and ducking from what you don’t want.

Well it is safe to say that he gained something from that 15 minute conversation. That is the power of coaching in this place. If a man like this is left on the edge of his breaking point how many lives are at risk, including his own? You can never underestimate a person in their time of desperation. This is one example how coaching has bought good to this place. The more people that have this skill and are true to the art of coaching the healthier these places can become. More people can actually leave and never return. More people can actually leave here and be productive.

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

Week 3 of Victim Impact.

Wow today was a very intense day, to say the least. The topic started out on education and the importance of education. One of the questions was how much is enough. During that discussion the topic of race and history came up. To me this is an important topic. Some of the other facilitators did not think that this issue was relevant.

One of the thing we suffer from, not only in this country but the world over, is fear of the truth. The truth is that many African- Americans lack the information that other races have that make them feel proud of how they are. The history, as it is taught in this country, of Blacks began on a boat; on a boat in chains in shackles. What does that say about the trans-generational trauma that many Blacks suffer from today.

It is a known fact that certain behavioral habits/traits and diseases can be breed into a race of people. Look at the disposition that the Native Americans have to certain diseases, alcohol in particular, that stems from the introduction of those diseases in their communities as they were fighting for the land that was taken from them. It is a fact that alcohol was used as a means to buy off and control the natives by the white settlers.

In the case of African-Americans we suffer from some of the same trans-generational trauma, if not more. Some of the myths of Africans still are used today. From the comparisons of our penises, shoe sizes. lips hair types etc. Black women right now have a mountain of identity issues when it comes to being accepted in this country. As to what is beautiful and what it looks like. It says a lot when you see a Black woman dye her hair blonde and wear blue colored contacts. Everyone has the option to dress as they want it is just sad that the image of beautiful has to come from outside oneself. What makes a person beautiful is not what is on the outside but what is on the inside.

So what does this have to do with victim impact? A lot! History plays a major role in the acts that many of us commit. It is not the focus on the program but it is a starting point for many. An example of this is that almost everyone incarcerated dropped out of school. I believe that there are two systems in this country that allows it to thrive and fail at the same time.
The education and criminal justice system. Almost everyone who drops out of the educational system find themselves within the criminal justice system. Almost everyone who takes education serious almost never find themselves in the criminal justice system. Not to say that they have perfect crime free live but due the having a certain amount of education they have other options and more opportunities.

I believe that the more education one has the less likely they are going to, either come to prison or come back to prison upon release. Often crime is committed due to lack of education. One of the most monumental cases of our time is Brown v the Board of Education. It is a historical case in a time and era that had many challenges in terms of equality. This land mark case changed the education system in this country forever. I asked the question how many guys ever heard of this case and only 3 hands went up! If many of the young men in the class understood the implications of this case would they take education more serious? See this is one example where knowing history plays a critical role in the choices that one makes as it concerns committing crimes etc. Not to say that it is the end to all but it is a start. As we talk about victim impact it is important that we talk about education and history at the same time.

Another fiery topic that came up is role models and aspirations. I made a statement that the role of role models has been misplaced. That the true role models for our children are the fathers and mothers that bear them. Some of the guys mentioned what did I think about Obama and him being a role model. I told them that I did not believe that he will not be a role model for the children that I have one day. That, regardless of my past and the bad choices that I have made in life, I will be that role model for my kids. I also mentioned that what they were using, mentioning him to be a role model because he is the first “black” president is misplaced responsibility. That it is easier to point your children in the direction of someone else to aspire to be like than it is to change the behavior that is needed to be the role model and example that our children and communities really need.

This did not sit well with some of the men as it seems as if I was to giving credit to the achievement of Obama. It is not that I am not recognizing the accomplishment. It is I am not going to put my job off on him. This has become a pattern that is found in the urban communities. Whenever something goes wrong people place the blame on external sources. Not to say that there are no outside influences in the decisions that are made; but to say that there has to be some accountability as well. This attitude is very common in those that refuse to admit that crime and anti social behavior is a result of their actions. That at the end of if all it boils down to the choices that are made, individually.

It is unfortunate that the institutionalization of these communities are as such. The harsh reality is that a lot of the conditions we have created ourselves. If one does not want to admit to that at least admit and own up to the conditions that, individually, have been made. Choices that have lead to the destruction of communities and lives. That is the part that as individuals we have control.

Those around us are our best teachers. What we learned we learned from others. So when we talk about role models we have to be the example that we want others to live by. It is not the job of another black athlete, politician, doctor etc. It is the role that we must fulfill. This is where it becomes important to know history, as a starting point; To use as an example.
This is not an easy journey as it means changing belief systems, values and mind-sets. It is a challenge to get someone who has been a victim to realize that through this he/she has become the victimizer. It is a challenge but hopefully some one gets it.

I asked a question in the last class and yesterday one of the younger guys approached me and mentioned to me what happened to him. I challenged all of the men there that had children that if they told their child that if they had one wish what would they wish for. I told them that most of them would wish that they were there with them. This guy did this and his daughter told him, ” I wish that you were here with me.” He said that it bought tears to his eyes.

There is another guy that meet is father in prison for the first time. They were in a state prison together doing time together. His father went to prison shortly after he was born for Life. He never meet his son until his son came to prison 20 years later. They spent 4 years together and when the son left he knew that he was leaving his father behind forever; that he would never see him again.

This guy came up to me later and vowed to do and be better for his son when he went home. I thought that it was all talk. He began getting serious about his GED studies, he even got a tutor to spend time with outside the class. He has opened up more in class. He has even severed some of the negative ties that he has.

So although it is a challenge it is worth it. If one persons life is change it makes a difference. Until next week.
Peace

In keeping to the name of this site A Voice From the Inside I want to afford the viewers and followers of the site a glimpse of what life is like on the inside. There for I thought that it would be a good idea to take you all through a 10 week Victim Impact Course as it is going on.

One of the biggest classes that I facilitate is the victim impact course that is headed by a well respected Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. It is a class that comes around once a year and due to the popularity it is often filled to capacity. This year we have 102 participants.

What I wish to do is open up the class to the viewers and followers of this site; to allow them to see what goes on during a class of this intensity, to add comments and insights and most importantly share stories and experiences that I can take back to the men. Stories of how crime and violence may have impacted your life or the life of a loved one. There is journey that has to take place for the cycle to be broken; that is the cycle of empathy. One has to be able to express empathy in order to begin to see his/her errors in life.

All names will be confidential and changed to respect that. It is important that all feel that there is a sense of respect and dignity as this process takes place. I encourage you all to pass this information on to others that you think may be interested in following this event. I know that all will not share the same views and ideas of the various issues that will come up.

Therefore, it must be made clear that these views and ideas are not to be confused as being the views and ideas of A Voice From the Inside. We do not promote or encourage anti-social, violent acts nor criminality. It is merely the intent of this site to give you a true and uncut glimpse of some of the discussion that takes place on the inside.

With that being said today is 10/3/2013 and week 1. I will try to keep it simple by logging the days of class and the weeks as the come and go. The posts may not show up until the weekend of, due to time constraints of the editor. But, it is expected that we will have the discussion up prior to the next class so that all content will be up to date and relevant. A of your comments will be address to the class at the class that comes after I receive the comment.

The name of the course is From Humiliation to Humility. There are 4 co-facilitators, along with the Professor. The names of the other facilitator are: Adam, Shane, Arturo and of course me, Talib. They have no issue about being named during the process so if there are any specific questions that you have for them, as they present, you can addressed them by name.

Some background information on what is going to be covered.

We cover all sorts of issues in this class. Issues such as what makes a victim and who are the real victims of crimes. Issues such as race, that is one issue that we don’t hide from. Also we talk about personal journeys and stories about what lead us to this place and what it takes to get out and stay out.

Some of the more specific topics and question covered are:
Are you ready to go home?
Everyone has a story of truths…good and bad. Do you understand what lead you to where you are today?
One of the models that is used by the professor is based on 5 concepts:
1. start with the truth.
2. understand your history
3. processing the criminal justice system
4. knowing the victims and
5. making tough choices

Other areas cover fatherhood, family and community etc. The course is extensive and live. The ultimate goal is to get guys to understand the need to redeem themselves by changing those anti-social behaviors that lead to destruction and chaos. As the weeks go on I will mention the core topic of the session. If there are any topics that you think should be covered you can send them to me to add.

October 3, 2013 week 1
So today we did an introduction to the course and what is expected in the class. Every time we do this class it is a different experience. This class was different in that there were more gang members in the class. There were some older guys there that were with the younger guys that are part of their organization. This is good in that the older guys are being supportive in the younger guys process of change. There was also a larger White crowd than usual, as well as Hispanics. This shows that guys are starting to come out of their shells to hear a different message.

We, the facilitators, talked about events that got get us here. This class has to be one that is based on credibility and that means that it has to be truthful about ourselves. That is the hardest part to do. Prison is a very private place and to open up to 100 guys that you don’t know can be difficult.

The Dr. talked about his life prior to coming to the be a professor. He was a drug agent for years in Fl. It is interesting to hear how he came full circle from locking guys up for a living to being a college professor. When he tell guys that they jump on him and become critical. That is normal because most guys are looking for someone to blame. But he has a thing that he does, that is very effective.

The feds have a 95% conviction rate due to the rate of what is called “snitching”, where guys turn over on there friends, family members and accomplices. They use the mandatory minimum statue to bait guys into working for them. Once they sell themselves to the the feds they are hooked for life. So, what he does is calls out the guys that have worked with the feds. He says things such as, “Don’t be mad at me because I got paid to lock people up. You did it for free.” This sets the tone of, ‘there is not going to be any bullshitting in this class. The tough man act is up.”

I usually come back with something similar. Today I gave the analogy of what a “rat” is. I was once told, “when you meet a selfish nigga look for a rat.” Meaning the only people that tell in the world of crime are those that only think about themselves. Most guys jump at the bait and say that they don’t fit that bill. I ask them about all the times that someone they loved told them that they were selfish for coming to prison. If they were asked about these questions by the ones that love them and they didn’t pay them any mind than they had to potential to be “rats”. Why do I use the word “rats” when I talk about this issue? I use it because this is the title that guys run from as it means something bad. But, when you tell people that when faced with coming to prison there are two realities; that being coming to jail and doing your time and being ok with that or being faced with the decision to become a rat or snitch etc. That is the reality of this question. Everyone knows that we are going to die, so to tell some one that the road to crime leads to death is a lie. The road to crime leads to prison and when faced with prison you have to chose to go or send someone else.

This is who I set the tone. I don’t do it to put guys on the spot but to wake them up to what it is that they all say they stand on, principal. A man of principal is not selfish and will not chose crime and its lifestyle over his family. A man of principal would rather be there to protect his family and be poor than leave them alone and unprotected, and still poor.

So, this is how the tone was set today. The other guys talked about their lives and how they ended up here. One guy comes from a family of drug dealers and was exposed to that at a young age. He had a family and left them there to be in the “game”, as it is called. He as a result of that choice he has not spoken to his kids in over 9 years. His ex-wife refuses to allow him to communicate with them.

You would think that this was enough to stop him. Well it was not enough. He ultimately got more time, caught another case while in prison, for selling drugs. The addiction to that life was so strong that prison did not quell the desire. This is a good example of how the prison system is failing. It is not about the state of the art security that they have etc. It all revolves around the will of the people that are here to change. Without that will to change nothing will work.

Shane talked about his up bringing and the death of his son since he has been in prison. He had the things growing up that a lot of guys wanted but did not have. Yet, he wanted that “hood” status and spent a lot of time with his cousins in the “projects” trying to be like them. He began to sell drugs and got caught and ended up with a 120 month sentence.

Since his incarceration his son was murdered and his ex-wife, who was also shot that night with him, was left with a bullet lodged in her head. If this bullet moves the wrong way she is at risk of dying. So he spoke about the ripple effect of his actions and these events.

Adam spoke about his up bringing and family life in the mid west. He grew up in a single parent home and was the only child. At a young age he and his mother moved to New Jersey. He lived a life that was pretty much that of a loner without much accountability. As a result he lead a very daring life that ended up with him being sentenced to 213 years in federal prison.

There were not a lot of questions because this was the first day. As the class progresses I will include those questions that sparked, created or killed discussions. I truly do hope that you all chime in and add your thoughts and feelings. It would be an honor to share with you all the experience of how a class like this is held in prison.

Well I am off for now. It is my hope that this forum creates some discussion that will open the door for education. I also hope that it may be an avenue for someone to vent their frustrations about how some of the actions of us in here has impacted their lives. It is meant to be open for all. Well I am out for now. Until next time. Peace!

Today September 25 2013 marks a day of many firsts. A day where someone dreams came true a day where a miracle was performed. It is also the day that marks the graduation of eight men, incarcerated men, who graduated from a Life Coaching Program inside a prison facility. This was a landmark event here for men who have been on a journey to not only change their lives but the lives of those around them.

It was a day where others were about to see the rewards of their investment of time, money and energy. It was a day where some of these men completed something that will lead to a life of fulfillment and success.

I had the honor of being one of those men. I had the honor of living part of a bigger dream. I had the chance to meet my mentor, coach and friends from the outside world, as they shared this day with me. It may not seem like a big deal when you think small. But, if you think that any time that you can effect change in the world today was a very big deal.

These are the men that are going to go back to someone’s neighborhood and either build it up or tear it down. These are men that are going home at some point and either going to influence others in a healthy and positive way or corrupt them. I am sure that these men are going to be productive in their future endeavors.

One of the things that I shared with those that were present is something that I want to share here. It is a small piece on how fleas are trained.

The way that fleas are trained is that you put them in a cardboard box with a lid on it. The fleas will jump and hit the top of the cardboard box over and over again. After a while you will notice that the fleas will continue to jump but not high enough to hit the lid.

When you take the lid off the fleas will continue to jump, but they will not jump out the box. They will not jump out because they cannot jump out the box. Why? They have conditioned themselves to jump just so high, that is all they can do.

How many people do the same thing? They restrict themselves and never reach their full potential. Just like the fleas, they fail to jump higher, thinking that they are doing all that they can do.

When I am asked about Life Coaching and what it is that we do here this is a good way to sum it up. I try to help others who have been conditioned and programmed to think that there is nothing else to life other than what they have experienced.
Most men, the vast majority, have been conditioned to think that there is nothing else to life other than the neighborhood in which they were raised. You see this often with the guys that get the names of their streets and neighborhoods tattooed on their bodies, even their faces for some. What does this say about ones conditioning?

Would it not be better to have a program that is designed to help these men and women recondition themselves? To be able to experience life for another aspect. I think that it is something that can be done and will be beneficial to the lives off all of those involved.

The program the has been created here is a program that will propel the men here that are involved to the next level in their lives. The inaugural graduation marks another phase of the process. Another tool to use to help others reconnect with themselves and others.