Sunday, August 10, 2014

Books Behind Bars

A few weeks ago, I participated in a forum organized by some community activists in Washington DC.  They were advocating more access to books behind bars- Restorative justice. Chief organizer,  activist Sam Jewler, brought in speakers from different backgrounds, including Free Minds Book Club  to share experiences either as ex offenders, or as advocates for access to education and library services in the DC jails.  Through Sam's advocacy, the DC council recently placed funds in its budget for jail library services.  See report in The Capital Librarian.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adult Literacy, Incarceration and Re-entry

Yesterday, I attended a Forum on Adult Literacy, Incarceration and Re-entry, organized by Academy of Hope
Among the Panelists were two formerly incarcerated individuals.  One is now a director of an organization that helps returning residents, and also helps with providing support for abused,neglected, and homeless youths by assisting them to obtain marketable skills.

The other shared her struggle with surviving on the outside after 15 years  spending time in and out of jail.She spoke about feeling unworthy,  not completing high school,  giving up on the GED several times, drug use.  fear of learning computer when she returned to society.  One thing she said  resonated with the attendees.  When she said she could not do maths,  mentor helped her see the light by using the analogy of her use of crack.  "How much crack do you use... If you get only one piece.. If you get several... how much is that. etc. etc."  She was quick with  computing her responses to the crack math count.

She is still struggling with obtaining the GED at age 40, is also concerned about her children, hoping they are not inhibited by her behaviors.

Everyone complimented her on still trying.

Another speaker was a passionate advocate for incarcerated youth, Director of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. 

It was great to see community advocates working to improve the lives of the incarcerated and concerned about the biggest problem- that of support on re-entry.  

 I asked about community collaboration because I think this is what will help improve the efforts.  Too often  I see  each group working in silo, competing for the same source of funds, duplicating efforts.  I am hopeful this group will do some collaborative work towards helping returning residents, to re adjust to society and become productive citizens.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Criminal Justice Collaboration

 Many organizations and groups  that work for or with prisoners or ex offenders operate in silo,  duplicating efforts as they seek funds for doing almost the same thing.  We spend more  on Public Safety than education. (Approx.  $12,000 - education and $30,000- $60,000 for incarceration) 

It is great therefore to see some collaborative effort: Second Chance Mental Health Collaboration
in an upcoming workshop.  We should remember that for every one incarcerated or denied employment because of their criminal past, there is loss of another possible taxpayer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Walter Lomax Wrongfully Convicted

Walter Lomax, released from Maryland prison system about 8 years ago, continued his fight to prove his innocence.  The 6pm news today showed a triumphant Walter at the courthouse step, finally vindicated.  Walter was one of the inmates who worked with me on the Family Literacy Program where prisoners read to their children.  I remembered my blog post when I first saw him on the street in 2008. Waiting to Hear Barak Obama

Congratulations to Walter

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ex Felons and Voting

The Supreme Court recently stated  Maryland's prisoners for census purposes should be counted at that their last address, instead of the prisons where they are housed.  Approx. 75% of Maryland's prisoners are from Baltimore  city and Prince Georges County. See Washington Times article. California, Delaware, and New York, and Maryland up to this point, are the only states that allow this.

States and ex felons voting status.     Rock The Vote site :

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Liberal Arts Classes in Prisons

The years I worked in prisons and with prisoners, opened my eyes to the necessity for community groups to go inside the fence to help show prisoners other ways than the path that led them to prison.

Traditionally outside help had a mainly religious focus.  It is encouraging more recently,  to see a broader spectrum of community support with programs that will broaden prisoners' experience and help direct  them to be more successful when they return to society. The Goucher Liberal Arts Program  reported in the Washington Post is showing inmates another way.