We Need to Address the School to Prison Pipeline

By Gloria Romero and Rishawn Biddle / Orange County Register The deaths at the hands of police of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and the decisions not to prosecute officers in either case, should jolt reformers into demanding transformation of

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Prisoners Fighting Fires

By Dianne Frazee-Walker  Image courtesy grist.org

The California prison system is stepping up to the plate by fighting fire with fire.  Yes, that’s right — they are saving tax-payer’s money and providing low level offenders with valuable skills and purpose by putting them to work fighting wildfires. Another side benefit of this ingenious project is California’s prisons are emptying out because these inmates are earning earlier release dates and are not reoffending.

Demetrius Barr is one of the first Los Angeles County inmates to be granted the opportunity to leave his confined jail cell and enter a natural atmosphere of breathtaking landscapes and spacious campsites. Not only can Barr help save this precious land from the destruction of fire, but his own life can be salvaged from the unforgiving world of crack dealing.

Image courtesy justicenotjails.org

Barr doesn’t get to enjoy this new type of freedom for nothing. He receives this privilege by maintaining his fitness and best behavior, and being willing to fight thousand-degree flames. The best reward for fulfilling his commitment to the Pitches Detention center where he was trained, is earning good-time credits that will permit him to decrease his seven-year sentence by 35%. This would also insure that Barr “has what it takes” when confronted with a challenge as significant as a raging forest fire. 

The general public would be surprised if they realized about 50% of California wildfire fighters are prisoners and a few of them are incarcerated women. Capt. Jorge Santana, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) liaison who supervises the camps, confirms these inmates are dedicated to changing their lives while serving the public and are saving the state over $1 billion a year. Inmate firefighters are contributing a major positive impact on California’s financial and environmental well-being.

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There’s A Clear Link Between Education, Prison

By Lila Panagides / Springfield News-Leader There has been much talk about national security lately focusing mostly on the Middle East.  Image courtesy prx.org Here at home, we are facing a serious national security crisis that, fortunately, is getting some

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Life from “F”s to “A”s

By Wayne T. Dowdy  Image courtesy prisoneducation.com

I hated haircuts and going to school when I was a child. I made straight “F”s in the public school system and eventually dropped out because I kept getting expelled for disruptive behavior. I thought I was dumb because of my straight F average. Now I feel the low self-opinion came from the negative criticism I received regularly. Anyway, things change. Today I cut my own hair and wear it relatively short, and regret that I used to be disruptive and disobedient and hated school. I value the education I have since obtained.

At fifteen-years-old, on the second day of school (I had skipped the first day), the principal expelled me for the remainder of the school year for throwing a book at a teacher. I was already on Aftercare/Probation because I had served time at the Youth Development Center in Augusta, Georgia for drug charges and stealing a car, so the court made me go to school at the Juvenile Detention Center in Clayton County. I was the only one in the class the teacher allowed to listen to music while doing class assignments. He let me use headphones to listen to vinyl records on what would now be viewed as an ancient record player. He also let me work at my own pace. I excelled in all areas of study, but when I returned to the public arena, I succeeded only in getting expelled again for the rest of the year. A teacher caught me coming out of the girls’ bathroom, where I had been inside smoking with a wannabe-girlfriend. He reached to grasp my arm and I yanked away and used several expletives to tell him to keep his hands off of me, which he did due to his fear of being assaulted. After that, I gave up on the school scene and stopped trying, which ultimately lead to me getting my education in the prison system–not a wise choice.

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EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE AND CHAOS IN OUR COMMUNITIES

By D. A. Sears  Image courtesy www.crttbuzzbin.com
 
Our communities have become spiritually and psychologically toxic environments.   How did our communities get this way?  Chaos abounds.  Why?  Emotional baggage!
Let’s go back to the day that you were born.  When you emerged from the womb and entered the space and place we know as Planet Earth — our global village — your soul and your spirit were pure . . . intact . . . You were a whole person.  You were a sensitive, trusting, compassionate and loving soul.  You were curious about the new world you found yourself in.  You gurgled with joy and laughter when you were happy and amused.  You cried when you were hungry, angry or lonely in the hopes of getting the attention of the adults who were in your world so that you could get what you needed for your intellectual, physical, and emotional development.  As time progressed, you developed a vocabulary.  You began to speak — first in words — then in full sentences.  You reached a point where you could clearly articulate what you needed and wanted.  You learned these words and sentences from the adults in your immediate environment and from other children.  You asked questions about everything you saw, heard, and did not understand.  Your eyes sparkled with delight as you made new discoveries about the world inside and outside of your immediate environment.  You sang when you were happy.  You were resilient, enthusiastic, spontaneous, energetic, and so very imaginative. 
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Early Education Program Could Reduce Kansas Prison Costs

By The Associated Press KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County law enforcement officials have endorsed a plan that calls for investing in early childhood education as a way to cut down on crime and prison costs.  Image courtesy www.wycokck.org Sheriff

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Mentor vs. Tutor: Battle of Both Worlds

By Andres Aznar

In a world like ours – mostly free and full of possibilities – exists a threat. It affects virtually all of the world’s population. It’s called: “The Decision.” Decisions are made in seconds. In fact, without decisions, our lives would be meaningless. Naturally, we strive to make the right decisions in our short lives. However, every decision we make has its own consequences, good and bad. The decisions we choose to make in life can bring many rewards, like success in life or the creation of a better future for our children and their children. Good decision-making can also foster a life with fewer struggles and better opportunities.  Image courtesy texasgearup.com

Some possess an enhanced ability to make decisions which allow positive consequences. They weren’t born with that ability. They just had very good guidance when they were children and while they were growing up. As such, those men and women are geared for success. Much comes easy to them. They’re the ones you remember from high school. The ones that you envied because they were always receiving perfect scores with seeming ease.

On the other hand, for some people, their life is a struggle: a struggle to make ends meet; a struggle to be the best that they can be. They try and try but always get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. While this is a challenging situation to be engulfed in, it illustrates a very telling contrast. By asking themselves, “Why is it so easy for those other people to succeed, but not me?” The answer – and their shortcomings – is evident: Guidance.

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An Obsolete Mentality: The Need to Evolve

By K.I. Love

Change [rehabilitation] starts with the individual. The person has to want to change, grow, and learn. This has to be a personal decision. This is a process that takes place naturally when our results don’t meet our expectations. In other words, when our circumstances are in contradiction with our desires, goals, or self-image, we entertain the idea of change.  Image courtesy mashable.com

This contradiction causes us anxiety and/or pain in some shape or form. When our lives don’t align with our ideals, then we move to correct or re-align ourselves. We rationalize the situation or minimize the problem so that we can eliminate the anxiety or discord in our lives.

What I have presented is an emotional process that we go through when we encounter a problem in life. Men are moved by their emotions. Therefore, if we are to attempt to influence people’s behaviors, attitudes, or conduct, then we have to stir their emotions — to produce anxiety and mental discord within that individual. You have to magnify and display the error in their thinking. If you can help a person see their blind spots, then you have the power to influence their thinking and therefore their actions.

This is the essence of education — to broaden perspectives so as to see thoughts, ideas, and actions in their entirety, as opposed to just a fractional percentage. How can we act tactically when our strategies are based only on a fraction of the data? If we do that, then our actions and performance will always come up short and/or produce failure. A limited view always limits the viewer and therefore limits performance. “When you know better, you do better.”

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Healing: Prisoners and the Environment

Image courtesy dogwood33.blogspot.comBy Dianne Frazee-Walker

The Sustainability in Prisons Project’s (SPP) main objective is to educate prisoners about environmental conservation. The inmates are learning innovative ways to use nature’s resources to save tax-payers money in their own prison backyard. The project involves collaboration between Washington State Department of Corrections, Evergreen State College, inmates, prison staff, scientists, and community members.

Not only does SPP save money and the environment, but it provides prison inmates with a sense of dignity. They learn teamwork and leadership skills by working together on the prison grounds using nature’s resources to sustain the environment. 

Inmates are provided with an opportunity to improve their lives on the inside and the lives of those living outside. The key fringe benefit the prisoners receive is exposure to nature. Most incarcerated individuals are confined inside prison walls and are rarely exposed to the outdoors. Working outside has healing effects on the human psyche, which is what the detainees need when it is time to function outside of prison.

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