While I don’t agree with a lot of what President Obama has done, his latest move to conduct a pilot project to test the possibility of giving Pell Grants to some inmates is a move in the right direction. Check out this article here for more information. For too long, our country has taken the position that warehousing prisoners rather rehabilitating them is the preferred approach. As someone who has seen the effects of this policy firsthand, I can honestly say it is a miserable failure. While there are some risks that come with offering grants and the like (some inmates seek to become better criminals, not better people), I do believe there are enough people in prison who truly want to become productive members of society to justify giving it a try.
I was actually able to take a college-level entrepreneurship certification course through Kent State University when I was at FCI Elkton. I was in the class with about 10 men and I have to say it was a worthwhile course that provided valuable information and education. We walked away with college credit. For some it was the first time they took classes since high school, where most didn’t even graduate.
I hope this pilot is just the first step in a shift toward training and rehabilitation and away from warehousing. Please encourage your congressional representatives to support these types of initiatives.
This article is a great example of how one man used his time in prison to learn and hone a skill that transferred to a viable vocation on the streets. His work is being shown in galleries and he is connected with churches and other organizations. It is critical to spend your time in prison cultivating some skill that can be used on the outside. While the choices are limited, there are opportunities to learn skills like welding, masonry, fitness consulting, graphic design and more.
I spent much of time teaching others. I taught marketing and public speaking to inmates at FCI Elkton. It was rewarding to see the men commit to something and learn something new. It is sad thinking society is giving up on these men. While not all prisoners are out to improve their lives, many are, and we shouldn’t paint them all with a broad brush.
I also took college-level courses during my prison time. I learned about entrepreneurship and business management. It was a blessing to be able to spend my time in that way.
If you are facing time, I encourage you to plan to use it for something positive.
I ran across this article discussing issues around college education for inmates. There are some great stats that show it is a wise investment for states and non-profits, if their goal is to keep inmates from returning. I know from my experience, choosing to participate in these programs provided a way to not only use my time productively, but to also help me prepare for life after prison. I encourage anyone entering prison to be intentional about selecting the activities in which they participate and to do something to help them prepare for their release, because it will happen. Here are some of the more remarkable stats from the story:
The study found inmates who participated in correctional education, including remedial, vocational and post-secondary education, were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years, a 13 percentage point reduction in the risk of re-offending.
That means for every dollar spent on correctional education, a state corrections department would save five dollars it would have spent on re-incarceration costs, according to the report.