Posts Tagged ‘Reconstruct Program’

October 24, 2013 Week 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week. Peace

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, www.justiceatlas.org.  “In Pennsylvania, taxpayers will spend over $40 million dollars to imprison residents of neighborhoods in a single zip code in Philadelphia, where %36 of the households have incomes under $25, 000.”   In an article that is posted on my blog, called the Million Dollar Block.   It speaks about places that spend more than a million dollars each year to incarcerate residents of a single block.  You can visit my site to read these articles.

The agencies that have changed the trend some and have seen bits of results in the area of reducing recidivism are the agencies that utilize what is called re-entry courts, which are working well and have had much success in reducing recidivism. Reentry courts consist of a system where the courts collaborate with probations and parole to accommodate some of the needs of the ex-offender.

A recidivism rate of two-third ( as of now the rate is 70%) clearly shows that something is amiss and some of the offenders are not being adequately prepared to return to society. This is often due the the lack of funding that is needed to develop the appropriate programs needed to better prepare and equip the offender.

10’s of thousands of Americans are released into the community from prison and jail every year and very few of them have the basic resources needed to stay out of prison. Sadly, often prison conditions make it easy for offenders to reoffend, as the basic necessities that most of them do not have out society they are provided in prison.

There is a need for access to services, including education, job training and job placement. There is also a need for substance and alcohol abuse treatment before and after release. Half of state prisoners and one-third of federal prisoners in 1997 reported committing their offenses while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Yet, among those who had used alcohol or drugs in the month before their crime, only %14 had received treatment since their admission into prison.
Many offenders have limited employment history and/or no experience needed to perform certain jobs. Some of these limitation are related to illiteracy as well as the lack of work training skills need to achieve self-sufficiency. Yet, few receive these services while in prison. Not necessary because they are not offered these skills but sometimes it is due to lack of enthusiasm.

How can this be addressed?

1. By redesigning the methods which are currently being used to address these issues.
2. Implementing and redesigning programs, as well as building facilities that specialize in the needs that are that are closely associated with crime and recidivism reduction.

The BOP has been looking for more ways to address some of these needs.  Here at this institution some of these steps include, but are not limited to:

1. Mock job fairs where one of the requirements is that the inmates learn how to write resumes and cover letters.

2. Partnerships with the local halfway houses and probation departments to speak to the guys about the realities of what to expect upon release.

3. The BOP also has an Inmate Employment Information Handbook that contains a list of the agencies and information that will be needed upon release.  This handbook is free and accessible to every BOP inmate.  Here at this institution we keep that information on hand and available to whoever wants it.  

4. A Career Resource Center where the inmates can gather information needed to obtain birth certificates, social security cards and other identification related information.  Information which is critical in gaining employment.  

One of the most important points that I want to make is how education is connected to the problem of recidivism. At least 70% of all people incarcerated have not completed high school. Out of this group %16 have not high school education at all. %40 are functionally illiterate, meaning that they read below or at the 5th grade level., %19 are completely illiterate. In the population of adults in America %21 are functionally illiterate and %4 are completely illiterate.

Studies show that education and recidivism are related because inmates with at lest two years of college education have a %10 re-arrest rate, while the national re-arrest is about %66. Despite the conclusive evidence the education has a direct link to crime, poverty, incarceration and recidivism education as a means of solution is often overlooked.

Education provides for employment, important to successful re-entry. There are two main systems in our society, Penal and Educational. When one fails the other takes its place. Those that adjust and do well in the educational system almost never find themselves in prison. Those that learn the importance of education while in prison almost never re-offend. Which is why furthering my education is so important to me, as well as advocating the importance of education on all levels, as a means to address these social issues that exist within our society.

Also attached to education is self worth and value, It is through education that one learns life skills, social and other proactive skills needed to stay connected to society. One also learns essential skills that will be essential to avoiding prison in the future. Lack of employment is one of the major reasons for committing crime. Lack of employment is often due to lack of education, in the communities that are more commonly associated with crime and low income.

It is through education that one learns their role in society. Many offender often return to communities that breed fragmentation and negative influences. Poverty  crime and ethnic disparity can create an imbalance in these communities therefore the community can no longer positively influence those that reside within it. The order of the day becomes survival. One begins to not only think this way but act out these roles as a means to survive. They begin to believe this is the role that they are supposed to play in life, as crime has now become a way of life for them. it is through education that this cycle is disrupted, and one learns to understand their roles in the greater society, and not just in one small destitute community.

(Would it be safe to say that what people learn in this community they practice in prison, and what they learn in prison they practice in the community?)

So that I am clear here let me go on the record as saying that it is important for those who have committed crimes to be punished, accordingly.  Therefore if incarceration is a reality of our society lets deal with the issue so that there becomes less of a need to use it in areas where it may not benefit and becomes more of a financial burden.

Along with the four goals of incarceration that are used today education has to be included as one of these goals. Not only does it have to be a component but the process of education has to start at an early age.

1. These components have to place a serious expectation, which members of the above communities can learn and benefit from education.

2. There has to be an upgrade tin the educational system at the early stages of development. Many people from these communities have been deemed unteachable and unlikely to learn. This is why of the when they enter into prisons they do not understand the value of education nor can they make the connections as to why it is important to have and education in order to remain free.

3. There has to be a broadening of opportunities and possibilities that are achieved through education. It is not enough to tell them, but to show that and continue to show them amd continue to reinforce the ideas, concepts and beliefs.

Although for some members of these communities going to prison is a given, and often considered normal, it is never too late to change. So as this stage the focus had to be on developing needs based programs, for the offender, specialized for their needs. These steps have to be taken earlier and also be workable and realistic. This plan has to focus on accountability, responsibility and be designed to set goals that will aid in the re-entry concerns that the offender must meet in order to remain free.

*The BOP has what is called an ISDS (Inmate System Development System) yet one of the concerns that I have with it is that the process of developing the plan can often come too late.  What do I mean?  The process in developing that plan needs to start at admission, at the very first jail that the inmate lands in.  It is often the case that this plan doesn’t start to develop until the inmate is sentenced and sent to their designated institution and often they have been exposed to other outside influences that may steer them away from starting the process of re-entry at an earlier point of their incarceration.  The earlier the better.

I strongly believe that investing in therapeutic learning communities and institutions, are a better investment of tax dollars, and would aid in addressing the needs that must be met to reintegrate into society. The intent and focus of these communities and program would be the acceptance of responsibility, restorative justice and meeting the educational and rehabilitation needs.

Without these programs and living conditions there is a higher chance that many offenders will fall victim to a certain type of prison socialization. The subculture that we call prison politics. It is a way of life that one has to adapt to in order to survive within the prison system. The subculture often breeds hostility, anger and resentment. Inmates often suffer extremes bouts of depression and anxiety. In some case there is a need to confine them to special housing units where they are locked down 23 hours a day depending on the time of year it could be for 24 hours at a time. I have experienced this type of solitary confinement many times during my incarceration. The SHU is used as a mechanism to modify inmates behavior. There are some of us who can withstand being locked down at lengths at a time, but there are more that can not withstand the hole. The longest time that I have done in the SHU at one time is 16 months.

These conditions and this subculture can deaden the emotions that are needed to be empathetic to the experiences of those who are harmed as a result of crime. Empathy is an important aspect in the process of change and transformation.

One of the programs that I helped to develop and facilitate here is a a program called “The New Beginnings Program”. It is a program that focus on many of the pre-incarceration issues which often lead to prison m as well as many of the post incarceration issues which often leads one back to prison. There are several components to The New Beginning Program some of them being:

1. Crime prevention – where the realities of crime and its roots are addressed. We discuss the importance of living a productive and responsible lifestyle, free of crime. Thorough increasing awareness of certain social behaviors and conditions that contribute to crime and violence.

2. we discuss thinking barriers and tactic use that complements the criminal personality. so it is here that we work on correcting think patterns.

3. we focus on substance and alcohol abuse awareness, as well as lifestyles that are equally addictive and dangerous.
4. we also have a mentoring and coaching component.

The New Beginnings Program is based on the concept that, if a person is willing to make the choice to change there are three concepts that can be applied to their lives for what we call transformation to work.  Those three concepts being:

1. Relationships – the developing of positive and productive relationships that nurture growth and development.  This is where coaching has been very effective.

2. Reframing – changing the way that one views life on a whole.

3. Repetition – getting into the practice of doing these things over and over again

The most important and critical component of this program is relationships, and the goal of this program is to stress the importance of building, mending and fostering healthy positive and productive relationships.

Another and very important program that is in the developmental stages is a program geared and focused towards preparing guys for the transition back into the family.  One of the most critical components in reducing recidivism is support, family in particular.  This is an area that is often overlooked.  How is the person going to be received back into the home?  What transitions and changes does the family have to make to accommodate the person back into their lives?  I know that there are many accommodations needed upon my release; the question now becomes is my family ready to meet the man who left a boy?

Another project that I am currently involved with is a project that I have going on with a Dr. Patrick Williams, founder of The Institute for Life Coach Training and co-author of the book Becoming a Professional Life Coach. What we are doing is finding ways to incorporate Life Coaching as a means of intervention in the area of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. We are looking for organizations to network with and work with to achieve this goal.  This is something that is most important to me.  This is where I focus most of my attention and why I designed the RECONSTRUCT PROGRAM.  My focus is in the area of Juvenile Justice.  Please visit Coaching The Global Village to read more about this project.

I came to prison as a juvenile and I will tell you that they system has it all wrong when it comes to that area. I am not talking about juveniles being charged as adults but the treatment of juvenile and the expectations for them to act and think as adults once in the system.  So, my goal is to get involved with others that need first hand education on this issue.

One of the projects that I wanted to do was a project called the first 365. It is a documentary that recounts the first year after my release. How does a guy that came to prison a child and leaves a man after 20 plus years adjust to a new world. I can not imagine a world with computers while you can not imagine a world with out one!! So how is the re-entry process for a person such as this. This is something that I have, unsuccessfully, been trying to get others involved in, making and filming this documentary. If push come to shove I will do it on a I PHONE, because the message needs to get out there and people need to see it.

One of my future plans is to use my experiences, expertise and skills to work with wayward youth, which to me is the ultimate recidivism reducer.  Get them before they get here.  I really want to focus on the concept of relationships and Life Coaching.  I also intend to work in the field of re-entry and with ex-offenders.

In closing, I want to say that this is a societal issue that concerns us all and that to fix any of it requires that those who share the common goal of changing what exists today collaborate and work together to get the job done. These partnerships are essential in more ways than one.

As I get closer to coming home I ask myself, What makes me so different from the statistics that I just mentioned?  I ask myself who is really invested in, no only, my transition back into society, but also the transition of the other men that will be released from prison, who may have the same potentials that I have if not more.  I am fully confident that I have the tools to succeed, but what concerns me is not my capabilities but the willingness of others in extending the hand of opportunity needed in order to use the skills that I have to make a difference in a problem that will be just as much mine one day as it is yours now.  My goal and the question of what I am going to do becomes clear.  That is get out and become a citizen regardless if others are willing to help me along the way.  I am going to ask myself, Have I left something behind that is worthwhile, something productive?  Did I leave prison, making a difference and what have I done to become part of the solution?  The question now becomes what are you going to do?

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.

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.

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Vanderbilt University is hosting a Rethinking Prisons 2013 Conference this coming May, and Talib has been invited to present his work on the Reconstruction Program!!!  This conference is part of A Year of Rethinking Prisons program coordinated by Lisa Guenther in the Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.

A Year of Rethinking Prisons is a series of events to stimulate a public discussion of issues raised by prisons and the death penalty. We have invited scholars, activists, artists, and community members – both in prison and in the outside world – to reflect on how the criminal justice system shapes our lives, and how we can work together to find better responses to crime. The series culminates in a national conference at Vanderbilt University on May 2-4, 2012, with invited speakers Joy James, Susan Rosenberg, and Mark L. Taylor.

To learn more about Talib’s Reconstruction Program please visit our newly created page dedicated to this project!