By Diane A. Sears The World needs Men. Men are the key architects of our bridge to the future. And our children are our future – our bridge to the future. Yes, Men are necessary. Everyday in their usual unassuming way, Men offer each of us valuable life lessons. Life lessons about honor – that one’s word should be one’s bond. If you
California voters were probably not aware when they backtracked on the three strikes law that a new population was created. The “time tunnel generation.” Most of the three strikers that were paying the price for three offenses are now 50ish folks, who had never even heard of a cell phone when they were incarcerated, let alone an iPad, but some of these ex-offenders are making the best of a peculiar situation. The average length of time the “three strikers” spent away from society is nine years.
Statistics prove the determination of these misplaced baby boomers with a 2% recidivism rate. Perhaps their reentry success is the product of growing up in an industrious generation.
Most of the released inmates merely made poor decisions when they were in their teens and twenties and fell victim to a hasty legislative calamity. Now that California voters reneged on their seemingly sound choices for policies to “lock-up” the drudges of society, after decades of imprisonment the “time tunnel generation” is paying a bittersweet price for their freedom.
Some of these transformed “lifers” are using the passing of proposition 36 to their advantage. Originating from a generation of old-fashioned work ethics these ex-cons know how to make it in the real world no matter what it takes. The 50ish newly released hustlers share courageous stories of surviving in a world that has made more technological advances in the last twenty years than any other generation.
Novel reentry employment strategies range from handyman jobs to making gyros.
Spectators pressed their faces and cell phones, taking pictures through the glass windows of McDonald’s in downtown Martinez. Stephan Williams was released last winter from Contra Costa County Jail after a 19-year stint of a life sentence for his third offense, which was for stealing a car. Williams walked out of jail with only the clothes on his back. People stared at Williams as though they were looking at a cave man descending from his cave. Not only did Williams look like a cave man, but he felt like one, too. The cost of everything had hit the roof. Readjusting to society was an immense astonishment for the humble man. The Bay Area was more crowded and more ethnically diverse than it was in 1994 when Williams went to prison. The traffic and noise jolted him. In the new world, organic foods were now replacing Jack-the-Box.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies which is located in London in the United Kingdom, at least 10.1 million people throughout our global village are incarcerated. Many of the incarcerated individuals are parents – parents who are disconnected physically and emotionally from their families and communities. In the United States, approximately 2,239,751 individuals are incarcerated and approximately 1.7 million children in the United State have a parent who is incarcerated. It is estimated that on an annual basis, nearly 700,000 individuals are released annually. We are talking about 700,000 souls every year returning to our communities who need healing and humanization.
In the Spring of 2012, I had an opportunity to discuss with Douglass Capogrossi, Ph.D., the President of Akamai University (www.akamaiuniversity.us), who has designed and facilitates parenting programs for Incarcerated Fathers in correctional facilities in Hawaii, the need for the design and implementation of an intensive and mandatory psychological debriefing for individuals who are being released or have been released from correctional facilities throughout our nation. After some thought, I concluded that a need existed for a two-tiered “healing” and “humanization” mandatory program. The first tier of the program will provide mandatory and intensive psychological debriefing for a minimum of six (6) months to one (1) year for all individuals who have been incarcerated — particularly Men. At the same time, the second tier of the program will provide for mandatory and intensive sessions with loved ones and family members of individuals who have been incarcerated. This second tier will provide the loved ones and family members with the necessary psychological and emotional tools they will need to help those they love who have been incarcerated heal spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally; trust again; love again; create a future for themselves; and empower and strengthen the communities that they have returned to. The second tier is necessary to create positive reinforcement and transform the environment to which the formerly incarcerated have returned.
Being released from prison can often be a traumatic affair. Society often places a stigma on ex-prisoners that can make out difficult to find gainful employment, fair housing and most importantly, self-esteem. Many ex-offenders find themselves in financial difficulty upon release from prison, they feel a burden on their families and society and often revert to crime, leading back to prison.
In 1999, Mr. Julio Medina founded Exodus Transitional Community. Exodus was founded on the principle that individuals cannot be successfully released from prison without resources to support the transition from prison to society.
The Education from the Inside Out Coalition is a collaborative of nonpartisan advocates higher education to students in prison. And most importantly, the Education from the Inside Out advocates are diligently working for change in the policy that bans Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. Prisoners who receive a college degree in prison have a much higher chance of being successful upon reentry.
“Research indicates that people with a bachelors degree are twice as likely to be employed than those with only a high school diploma.”
The Fortune Society was founded in New York state to help reduce recidivism by offering non-traditional reentry services such as: Alternatives to Incarceration, drop-in-services, employment services, education, family services, health and housing services, substance abuse treatment, transitional services, recreation and lifetime aftercare.