Posts Tagged ‘life coaching’

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.


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.

“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,  “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?

One of the things that I do here inside is coach guys. I know that it sounds like a strange concept but I can say that it is one that is working, at least for the time being. If one understands the concept of life coaching I am sure that they can see how a concept such as this can work on the inside. What I want to do is kind of layout some of what I do and how it works.

One of the most important concepts of coaching involves listening. I think that this is something that is often lacking in the lives of most of us. How many times have you ever felt that you were being listened to and not merely heard? To have someone really listen to you, with intentions to hear and understand what you are saying, is priceless. Most of the time during any given conversation we are listening for what ” we agree with” or what “we disagree with” and often that is all that we hear. We sometimes miss the subtle body movements that scream sadness, loneliness, or fear. That is often due to not being able to understand how to identify emotions correctly or not being to ask the right questions to see what are the emotions that are often hidden beneath the tone of anger and frustration.

It is like the kid who comes home and didn’t make the team. He says to his pops. “hey dad I didn’t make the team.” and he has tears in his eyes and his father says, “its okay! you will get’ em next time.” Did dad really hear his son? There is so much to ask the son that the father never asked. How has he validated his son? Has he taken this  moment to teach his son a life lesson that he will always remember? Has he empowered his son to take this incident and become better at this or maybe something else? Who knows for all we know making the team may have been dads idea and not the son. So maybe he is saying, ” Dad this game is not for me.” yet he doesn’t know.

Well this could be anyone, even an offender. True there are some guys that don’t get it and will never get it but there are guys that do and will get it. I think that it is the best interest that guys come home from prison having dealt with some of the issues that may have aided them in making poor decision. It is in the best interest of the greater society that guys come home feeling empowered and not stuck in the stories of the “past” and know how to move forward in life. That is how life coaching benefits those on the inside.

What is sad is that all of the things that I have acquired over the years have been things that I have gotten on my own. There was no help nor support system from the inside that gave me an idea as to what I was supposed to do with this time. I know that many people would like to believe that there is this strict regime of therapy and programming that deals with the issues and reasons why most of us ended up here. The truth is that nothing of that sort exists! There is nothing but a bunch of rules and regulations that guys despise. This often adds to the frustration of the guys that want to do something different but some of the things that they need are not at their disposal. What coaching does is provides a time and space where guys can be heard, vent some of these frustrations and find the solution within themselves to move past this experience, or any other, and become successful out in society.

So that it be known what I do is not some self made practice. Something that I picked up reading a book and decided to play Dr. I am currently going through the training process to become a certified Life Coach through the Institute for Life Coach Training, founded by Dr. Patrick Williams, who is my mentor as well. So when I have the sessions that I have I come from a professional place where ethics are observed and evidence based concepts are applied. By no means am I the final authority on the subject but I can say that maybe my 2 cents may have some validity.

I can say that the guys that have been coached here are in a different place, in terms of the way that they do their time and what they focus on, than the guys that just wander around aimlessly. One of the questions that I ask guys who show an interest in Life Coaching is ” if you had one wish and you woke up tomorrow and it was granted what would you wish for?” Most guys say the obvious, ” i would wish to be home.” The next question that I ask is, ” what does it look like?” You would be surprised at how many guys want to go home but don’t have a clue as to what going home looks like. Sometimes I have to ask guys, “what do you see yourself doing out there?” This is when the lights really start to click. If they can “see” themselves being fathers through coaching it is reaffirmed that they can “be” fathers. If they can “see” themselves working it is affirmed that there is nothing stopping you from working. There are a host of other questions that eventually get them to take the steps now to be the person that they want to be later. That is how Life Coaching works on the inside.

The program that i developed was developed with the intent of it being some what of an guide for young men that, for whatever reasons have found themselves in similar situations that i have been in through out the years. The program that we have here is a smaller version of the program that I developed and it is by far one of the most popular programs here.

There is a lot of mention of reentry and what is needed to help men get out and stay out. My goal is to thwart as many as i can from coming. I feel that this is a program that is built around relationships, something that is often missing from many programs. What I have been through, seen and come from legitimize what I intend to do with this program.

I have been through many programs as a kid and adult and the things that i present in this program are the things that were missing from all the others that I have participated in. There was no accountability nor was there any emphasis placed on choices, goals and responsibilities. The crime or behavior was always dealt with and not the human that committed the crime, that had the anti social behavior. As a youth these are the things that ones needs to know and understand. Don’t try to scare me straight, I grew up in between Compton Ca. and Washington DC when both cities were at its worse, do you think that a person screaming and hollering is going to scare me? Don’t tell me about all of the people who have died or ended up in prison because of their behavior. In my mind, at that age, that is not me and not going to happen to me. So I knew that when i developed this program that there had to be another approach.

As far as prison…when I think back the my early years in prison there were many things that I needed that I never got. One of the benefits that I had were the older men around me refused to let me further waste the potential that they saw in me. They made me go and get my GED. They made me carry myself in a manner that would be looked upon as being respectable. They didn’t allow me to fall into the traps of drugs, exhortation, robbery, alcohol, sports and homosexuality. I know that this is a touchy issue, the issue of homosexuality, but here in prison these are acts that are not committed with the same intent as someone out in the free world. I have seen quite a few guys die over homosexuals. Sometime the men become too possessive and the lines become blurred. In the penal system the above things are the things that most guys die for and about.

What makes this program work? One of the things that make it work is that it touches most of the aspects that one needs to be able to make the best of this situation and to live a productive life. there is a connection with the men that we all share a similar story. Many of the programs that have been developed throughout the years by those who have never experienced this reality are good programs but they lack that experiences and often the message falls on deaf ears. True when one is engaged in the change process it should not be about who gives the information but the information itself. In an ideal world that is how things would be but the reality is that those who have experienced this often wrestle with “trust” and “honesty”. It is easy to BS someone who many not know what to look and listen for.

When we have our classes here I can look into the crowd and see who the real tough guys are and who is trying to get by. I can tell the ones that are there to change from the ones that are not trying to at this point. I have nothing to gain nor lose by telling a guy that he is not being honest and that he needs to change the way that he thinks. It is also an inspiration that I have the courage to step outside of the “convict” mentality and be there person that many of these men want to be. Sometimes these men need to feel that they have allies in this journey. These are a few things that makes this program work.

Recently Talib shared his Reconstruct Program with a group of inmates located at another prison.  This is his reponse to the question asked, “Does one need to use tactics to survive in prison?

Do you want to know a sad reality? Most of us behind bars don’t even trust ourselves. That is why “doing the right thing” so scary. There is this hidden sense of fear that we don’t like to confront. The mere thought of failure after having been told that we are failures is scary. For most people there is no fear of doing the right thing. When one is guided by fears when it comes to being accountable there is a defense mechanism that we use and it is called ‘tactics’. That being something that we use to craftily avoid accountability. Those tactics are there to protect what is called ‘thinking barriers’. Thinking barriers are, as I define them, the personalities and egos that drive a lot of people. I believe that we are made up of a personalities. Over time we begin to think that we are our personalities and we use the many different personalities as survival tools.

We also have a (for lack of better words) a spiritual essence which ties us in to humankind. It is a essence where we use our feelings and intuitions to influence to guide us. This is not a religious belief but one that we as people inherit from birth. When a child is born and needs to feed, for instance, how does it know what hungry is? The child doesn’t but what is unique is that when the child cries out “we” as adults assume that the child is hungry. So on a deeper level the child begins to exhibit certain behaviors to get a certain response, this is where, in my belief, that we begin to develop our personalities. The child is acting out, and here hunger is not the main issue here, but there is an innate instinct of ‘trust’ that someone/thing is going to cater to his/her need. As we get older we forget to use that instinctual feeling of trust and start using our personalities and likes and dislikes to establish trust with others.

Personalities can change from day to day. In fact we are always changing them in search for something else. Something to replace what ever is not working in our lives. This what I call lifestyle changes. As one changes personalities they have to change lifestyles. There is nothing wrong with that as there is no right or wrong personality except when it comes to a criminal personality.

What is the criminal personality? It is a personality that drives criminal behavior and lifestyle. How is this personality developed? It is a personality that is driven by fear, anger, lust, greed, paranoia, shame, guilt, selfishness, self-pity, excuses and there are a host of other character traits. There is the inability to establish and maintain strong and healthy relationships as one of the traits to this personality is the inability to “trust”.

The question was asked does one need tactic to survive in prison. One has to be tactical in life period but the type of tactics that I am discuss is the tactics that we use to guard our irresponsible thinking and behavior. Tactics are the foot soldiers that guard the head of it all, the general/the one that controls it all, our thoughts.

So how does this work as it concern change? Well the tactics are the food for the personality and the ego, the criminal personality and ego that is. An example of this would be lets say you are holding me accountable for coming to work late. I tell you, “hey what is the big deal everyone comes to work late. In fact you were late the other day.” This is a classical example of me 1. minimizing my behavior and 2. pointing out what you have done, when the issue is me. What happens when I become a master of this behavior and find that I can get away with it? I become a master of manipulation and deceit. I am not learning how to be responsible and I don’t see the reason to do something that “everyone” does. Does that sound familiar? That I did what “everyone else in my life or neighborhood has done.”

What would a person that wants to be responsible do? They may 1. realize that they may be late and try to call and let someone know, or 2. admit that they were late and ask is there anything that they can do to offset that, maybe work a little longer if necessary. There are many variables but I just wanted to make the point that the responsible person that doesn’t use tactics can see how their behavior affects others. The irresponsible person only sees themselves. That is the difference between the two. I don’t need tactic to survive in prison if I have the true desire to be productive and responsible and that does not mean putting my life in jeopardy and causing other problems for myself. No, it means that I am going to be responsible and open to accountability. It is not always easy for me, or anyone else for that matter as we have been conditioned, but it is the focus..

When one begins to understand that this is an individual journey life changes colors. I say changes colors because we all are wearing lenses called our perceptions. Some of us are wearing the right prescriptions others aren’t. Once one finds the right prescriptions life becomes clearer and things that we never saw before become apparent to us. That is the hope in what I do and why I do it.