Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The economy- from the view of a prisoner

"I want to change, I don't want to do what I have always done. Every idea I have on how to make money is illegal."
That was the beginning of a frank and honest conversation with my class this week in prison. In a world that has kept moving while these men are paying their price for their crimes , they try and enter back into the world.
Many of these men entered prison before cell phones or the internet was such a intricate part of our fabric. They joked how the last cell phones they remember are the ones that where the size of my forarm and weighed as much as a dumbell.
These men are not just spending time paying for their crimes, they will be paying for their crimes for the rest of their lives. It is not reasonable or realistic to think that they will be getting jobs in our current economic climate. Even for those who desire to change their ways if there is a stack of a few resumes on an employers desk the one with a felony on it gets discarded first. (not that is wrong but that is reality).
I had a young african american male who was in his mid twenties look me in the eye and ask why should I even try? This kid who is mid twenties is in prison for selling drugs. He has learned how to read, and has been in programs to help himself while in prison, he will be coming out in the next year, he wil lbe joining our community. His contacts are other "street thugs(his term)", he doesn't know many "straight people."
He has done well, but he is going to be without friends, money, or anything else when he gets out. (This story is not unique). Unless something miracoulous hapens he will go right back into the same enviorment he was in. He then asked why shouldn't I spend my time trying to become a better criminal?
There was such honesty and sincerity in the question, this is all he has known. He comes from a dad who was also a criminal and his support system is not much at all.
It is up to him, he comes out of prison alone. He doesn't have a strong personality,he is shy I am sure just by my interactions with him he is a follower. He doesn't stand a chance. I do not have any ideas or formulas to solve this problem but rather help us realize that even though many people especially african american males spend time in prison pay their debt. They also reemerge into society and when they get out we do not great them with anything but disdain and so many hurdles that is almost impossible not to go back to what got them in trouble in the first place.

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