Posts Tagged ‘Life Coaching on the Inside’

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.

10:00 am
11/14/2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6:00 pm
11/14/2013

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Week 6: 11/8/2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anPeace

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.

Week 2 October 10, 2013.

Today the class discussion was about the what it means to be truthful. This topic hit a lot of nerves. We also talked about history. Does one really know his/her history and what role did, knowing or not knowing, play in the acts that many of the guys committed.

The discussion took a turn to religion and got out of hand. I had to bring things back into perspective at that point. Unfortunately, many guys come to prison to find God and leave Him here when they leave. I knew that this could become a discussion that would get guys away from the real issue, victimhood. That is what we are here for and that needs to be the theme, not the color of Jesus skin or what climate he was born in.

I had the chance to talk today and I spoke about the realties of the system. As much as one may hate the way that the system works one cannot deny that it has served a purpose. It has done a good job in making people dependant on it. I spoke about how guys are more concerned with the new food menu than their kids. Recently, they changed the food menu and guys have been expressing their gripes or likes about the new food. These are the topics that have made guys forget why they are here. These are the topics that make guys feel comfortable in being here.

I also spoke about how the design of the system has made guys strangers to their own families. I based that off of what I see when I go on visits. I often see guys fearful of showing love and affection to their love ones. How I hear guys always talk about their “homeboys” yet their homeboys are not coming up here to visit them. That the people the people that are coming here are the ones who are the constant victims of our incarceration. They fall into the category of victims as well as those other people that were directly effected by our offenses.

Along with this topic we discussed the roles that we play in this cycle. That in order to stop the cycle you have to know where it began. For many it began with someone who looked like us, someone that was close to us. For many of us we showed someone whom we loved the “game” and how it is played. So we have to take ownership for the lives that we have exposed to this lifestyle. When one can get to the point of acknowledging this they can take the steps needed to change behavior.

Overall, we had a very productive and inter-active class. It is still early so there is more to come.

As always I invite comments and questions.

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!