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13 May, 2020

SEVEN VIRUS LESSONS FOR THE WORLD FROM A CONVICT: MR TREVOR MATTIS

 

Lesson 1  (HUBRIS)

Nuclear Weapons
Hypersonic missiles
Quantum computing
5, 6, 7 G technology
AI beyond human capability
CRISPER
Global supply chain
20 trillion GDP
Multi billionaires
Humans, sovereigns
God’s chosen
To rule, subdue
Exploit, dominate
Mother Nature
That’s Our story
Our religion
What does Mother Nature say??
Messenger RNA!!
CORONA!!
Have a nice day. 


Lesson 11  (I AM BECAUSE WE ARE)

Individualism
America first
Borders, walls
Crony capitalism
Inequality
Otherism 
Them, Those
Who needs Others now?
PPEs please
Ventilators please
Providers please
Stock clerks please
Crop pickers please
Truck drivers please
Delivery men please
Essential workers
Who needs Others now? 



Lesson 111  (WHAT REALLY MATTERS)

From the dawn of humankind
Till the end of time
What really matters
Is LOVE!


Lesson IV  (SUPERFLUOUS vs. NECESSITY) 

                         Superfluous

Sports, cars, shows
Formal wear
Cosmetics
Aeroplanes
Churches, synagogues
Temples, mosques
Courts, prisons
Greed, hate

                           Necessity

Kindness, respect
Courtesy
Empathy
Schools, hospitals
Nurses, doctors
Caregivers
Nurturers
LOVE
More LOVE

Lesson V (GLIMPSES)

More Love 

Sacrifice for others
Helping hand
Reciprocity
More empathy
Glimpses of who/what
We should be
Ephemeral flickers
In the umbra of this crisis
Rays of good
In the darkness of
Catastrophe
Such that
That which is
Lies, greed, hate
Selfishness
Injustice
Materialism
Consumerism
Apathy, racism
Is our choice
A collectie imperative
To serve the few
So
That which is
Is authored in
The mirror
Until a disaster
Happens
Glimpses

  Lesson VI   (SYMPTOM OR CAUSE)

Glimpses

Lies travel fast
But they never last
Unless we choose to
Keep them alive
But crisis cleanses
Cleans lenses
Open eyes
Open minds
Do you see
What do you hear?
Did you see
What you heard?
Hoax
The flu
Under control
No lives lost
Hydroxy chloroquine
We will win
Greatest economy ever
Witch hunt
Nasty
Perfect phone call
Exonerated
Do you see
What do you hear?
Did you see
What you heard?



Lesson VII       (SIMILARITIES/MY FATE)

Social distancing
Lockdown
Incapacitate
Punish, separate
Lock Them Down! Keep your distance
From those Non-humans
Especially murderers
Life without parole
Death by incarceration
Dying lonesome
Solitary civil deaths
Secreted away
Behind concrete walls
Antiseptic sterile
social cleanse
The Lifer’s demise
Society kept clean
MY FATE
Covid 19
I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe!
I can’t breathe!!!
Dying lonesome 
Solitary deaths
Visibly hidden
Behind glass doors
Death by yourself
On your own
No loved one near
No love being shared
None to console
No tender touch
Antiseptic sterile,
Social cleanse
Covid 19’s demise
Society kept clean
MY FATE 
_________________________
Mr. Trevor Mattis is the  Inside Director, for Sagewriters (www.sagewriters.org), Post Office Box 215  Swarthmore, PA 19081 and a Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R).

11 May, 2020

ENDING THE CULTURE OF STREET CRIME -- A 2020 VISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMATION: MR. PAUL PERRY

 

        It is no secret that impoverished communities in urban centers throughout the United States have become incubators for street crime and violence.  Generations of youth raised in those communities are being inculcated with anti-social, life negating values and beliefs.  The mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people in those communities has obviously done little to alter the socioeconomic, political, and racial realities underlying the crime and violence.  Only a nationwide public safety initiative accompanied by a seismic paradigm shift in our approach to criminal justice reform will deliver healthy hope for a better future.

        The Lifers Public Safety Initiative (PSI), a prisoner-led program of the SCI-Phoenix L.I.F.E.R.S. Incorporated inmate organization, has conceived a new model for advancing public safety efforts.  Formally established in 2003 by men serving life sentences in Pennsylvania, PSI members engage in a variety of activities designed to significantly reduce crime and violence within prison and free world communities.  Our mission is to end what we have theoretically identified as a pervasive “Culture of Street Crime” (COSC) that perpetuates urban crime and violence from generation to generation.

        PSI operated on the premise that ending the street crime culture can be achieved by fostering a radical change in the thinking of its members, a cognitive transformation through positive peer intervention.  Our commitment to ending the culture of street crime is essentially a self-liberating freedom movement.  We endeavor to liberate members of the culture from the self- and community-destructive beliefs, values, and behaviors that inevitably lead to long-term incarceration, crippling injuries, or death.  Our experience from working with fellow prisoners has produced evidence that self-transformed members of the street crime culture are able to foster radical changes in the thinking of others immersed in the culture of street crime.  Our crime reduction strategy of fostering cognitive transformation through positive peer intervention is a much more practical and economically sustainable public safety strategy than mass incarceration.  Over the past 17 years, PSI has functioned as a catalyst that placed hundreds of prisoners on the path of self-transformation via a process involving intense dialogical engagement.

      Initiating a cognitive transformation of members of the street crime culture on a nationwide scale, however, will require a “Collective Transformation” of society at large.  Collective Transformation can only occur if there is a societal embracement of what renowned criminologist Shadd Maruna and others in academia call “Redemptive Truth,” the observation that “nearly all offenders eventually grow out of crime”.  (Shadd, Maruna, et al., “The Prisoner’s Beatitude,” Relational Justice, Issue 14, May 2001).  PSI’s “Positive Peer Intervention” model has evidenced the ability of transformed incarcerated and ex-offenders to accelerate the aging out process via the promotion of intervention strategies that can foster a sense of generativity in offenders of all age groups.  Currently, the test of our PSI initiatives can best be demonstrated, internally and externally, in all of its collective transformative aspects through Project Pipeline To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men as our model for the nation. 
______________________
Mr. Paul Perry is President of LIFERS, Inc. (https://www.lifersincpa.org) and a Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R).

10 May, 2020

ENCOUNTERS WITH FATHERHOOD: MR. JAMES MUHAMMED TAYLOR


          The group sessions I attend three times a week in the Deputy’s Complex consist of a mix of 18 men Black, White, and Hispanic, ranging in ages between 21 and 70 with varying attitudes and opinions on a variety of subjects.

          This day the inmate facilitator, addressing the issue of Fatherhood, asked the group:  “What would your school age children say when asked by the teacher what their father’s occupation was?”

          As prisoners, and absent fathers from our children’s lives, the question caught us all off guard.  The question registered the thought in my mind that if we really loved our children as much as we claimed, then what were we doing in prison, but what’s more, what would be our intentions with  our children upon release.  That’s just the way I took it mainly because it had been true in my case.  Prison has a way of bringing out the best of intentions in fathers with respect to their children.  Like some of these guys, I’ been released before as a young man with love in my heart for my sons, yet had been guilty of the neglect implied.  I imagine many of us in the room felt as I did, to one degree or another.

          Everyone looked around the room at each other with a sense of embarrassment and guilt, waiting to see who would answer first.  In my mind, it wasn’t that many of us in the room hadn’t had jobs before.  The implied meaning I felt by the question was the responsibility of providing for our children as a father from that job, which I suspect, was not the case in most instances. 

          I remember being asked what my parents’ occupations were In open class.  I was in the sixth grade.  My parents were hardworking people but I felt a sense of shame in saying in open class that my mother worked as a cleaning woman for the British Embassy and that my father worked as a laborer for the electric company.  That being the case for me, I wondered how my sons felt about me and what answer they gave as my employment as an absent father from their lives?  No.  I wanted to be a good father.  But the truth of the matter was that I was not.  And the reality is that, because of the risky lifestyle I lived, my sons were better off without me.  Even knowing that, I resented the idea of another man marrying my ex-wife and being the father to my sons that I should have been.  Yet, the fact remains that my sons turned out okay with another man in the role of stepfather.

        Anyway, no one in the group answered the question about what their children would say their father’s employment was.  Was the question intended to be answered, or raised just to make a point?  But if that question was difficult, then I’d say the next one was a dagger in the heart of a father’s responsibility toward his children when the facilitator asked:  “How many of you have attended a PTA meeting with your children?”

          In other sessions we talked about “manhood” and how, even in our criminal lifestyle, we managed to provide “material” things for our children.  But this question was an indictment of the real concern we held for our children.  

        As a child, I lived a half block from Mott School.  PTA meetings were held in the school auditorium at night so I got a chance to see how many parents attended.  I felt bad that my parents never attended.  I was a failing student and remember specific requests by the teacher for my parents to attend those sessions to discuss my behavior and grades, in particular.  I told my mother this, but she worked nights and couldn’t make it.  My father was never considered.  Today, I can only imagine how many minority school age children of incarcerated parents are affected in this way by the large number of Black men represented in prisons across this nation.  

         My sense was that a father was a man his children runs to greet when he comes home from work.  It wasn’t like that with me.  Much of the time I spent avoiding my father for fear of being spoken to harshly and having my feelings hurt.

          I used to like visiting my oldest sister Shirley’s house because of the way her husband showed affection for his children.  I wished my father would relate to me like that.

          I never stopped looked for a father figure in my life.  A Father teaches and corrects the perception in a child when he goes wrong.  Tack Ross served as a father figure for me in prison as a young man.  He taught me things about life.  I asked questions that he gave helpful answers to. 

        Years later I witnessed another situation in prison that points to the importance of fatherhood.  To protect the identity of the father in question I’ll just say his name was Ali.  He was a Lifer and a very good friend.  Ali’s young son is the person I’m talking about.  He was around 19 or 20 years old.  Looked just like his father.  I don’t know what was going on in his life on the outside, but it seemed he had a need of actually being with his father, even if it meant coming to prison to serve time.

          Ali 's son never had much time to do.  And of all the prisons in the state, he always managed to get to Graterford and live on the same block as his father.  They were constant companions for the six to nine months his son would be here.  Even when Ali was at work, his son was in his cell watching television, waiting for his return.  Ali was a wise father and I know he was feeding his son whatever it was he needed from him.  I saw admiration and contentment on that young man’s face when he was with his father.  Twice I saw Ali’s son come to Graterford to be with his father like that.  Ali died years ago and his son has not returned since.

        I’ve witnessed many father-son relationships in Graterford.  To me, it is an indication of fathers failing their sons as I have.  On the other hand, like Tack Ross, I’ve been regarded as a father figure to some of the young men here.  I give them the benefit of what I know.  Of what I missed and wished I’d had from my father.

          For some reason, my ex-wife Viola made sure our sons remained in my life in spite of my imprisonment  here in Pennsylvania.  I called and talked with them on a regular basis.  When the boys were about 9 and 10 years old, she would let them come to Philadelphia and stay with friends of mine who brought them to the prison for visits two or three times a year.  I once remember asking Viola why she allowed the boys to remain in my life in face of all the changes I’d taken her through.  She said: “So that one day you could make them proud of you.”

          Deserving nothing from her, it is for that reason I could never stop loving her in my heart and soul.  I look at life from this place at times, hoping for an opportunity to talk with her just as badly as I want my freedom.  It is important for me to let her know how much I’ve always appreciated her and want to apologize to her for letting a good woman down.  

          I had another son out of wedlock, David.  I hadn’t heard from his mother for many years.  She gave birth to David in 1961.  Marcus and Orlando had heard about this half-brother of theirs, but never met him even though they live close by in Washington, D.C.  And it was in the early 1980s that Mary Beavers, David’s mother, found out where I was through my mother.  Mary wanted David to know his father and made it happen.

          When my sons came of age and were married with families of their own, the three of them got together and came to see me.  When I learned of this I was happy about it, but at the same time unsure of how the visit would go.  What had their mothers told them about me?  What did they feel about me?  What did they want to know?  What would I say to them?  All these questions ran through my mind.

          On the day of the visit I opened myself up to them, letting them know they could ask me anything they liked.  It was on a Sunday, a day when the visitors room was most crowded.  Back then, the visitors room was more visitor friendly in that the chairs could be arranged in a tight circle where we could face each other, not like they are now -- on an immovable straight line, making it hard to talk to more than one person at a time.  David, being the tallest of us, got his height from his mother.  One could see he was a Taylor in all other respects as far as looks went.  As it turned out, it was a visit where we got a chance to share many experiences with one another.  Marcus had gone into the Navy, came out and got married.  Orlando finished school, got a good job, and got married.  David had more of an experience like mine in that for a period of time he ran the streets selling drugs, drinking, and living a risky lifestyle until he woke up and turned his life around after being busted.  He said:  “The thought of doing the same thing to my children that my father had done to me was the thing that turned my life around in that jail cell.”

          Each of them wanted me to meet their wives and children.  They wanted my grandchildren to know me.  Since that visit the relationship with my sons has remained strong. 

           I was fortunate enough to win a new trial and make bail on this case in 1977.  While out on bail, I visited my parents’ home in Washington, D.C.  Everybody was glad to see me.  But if my father was the same, I expected some kind of criticism or admonishment from him.  At one point during the evening he came downstairs to the living room and told me to come upstairs.  He wanted to talk to me alone.  In his bedroom, he sat down on his bed and took my hand, guiding me to sit right down next to him.  My father turned to me and asked:  “Did you do that?”  Meaning, did I kill someone. 

         That was to be decided in court, so for the sake of my father, I said, “No.”

          Then my father did something I never expected.  He never showed tender affection for me.  He took out his wallet and gave me a twenty dollar bill.  I knew what it meant.  And when we stood, he embraced me for the first time in my life. Tears came to my eyes and I knew that this man that I thought didn’t care that much for me, loved me all along.  I left that room knowing that I would cherish that moment for the rest of my life.

          I folded that twenty dollar bill and placed it in a separate slot in my wallet.  When I got back to Philly it was out of respect for my father as a working man that I went to a thrift shop and bought a used jumpsuit to work in on my job at the gas station.

          My sons are well aware of the work I do with the men in this prison to help guide their lives on the right path.  On February 11, 1998, a young man I had befriended over the years dropped a note in my cell on the morning of his release, expressing the value of my relationship to him.  On it he wrote, “My dear brother, my friend, mentor, and also in many ways, my father figure.  I know that Allah forbids us to call those who are not our fathers that.  But he also knows that is the description that can best describe the love I have in my heart for you.  I wonder if your boys really know how much has been taken from them and what a wonderful Dad they really have.”

         I call my sons long distance once a month.  Recently, after talking to my oldest son Marcus, I would ask about his teenage son.  I picked up from him that some things were going on with his son, but he was reluctant to suggest that he might need some outside help.  He had already told me enough in previous conversations for me to know what the concerns were.  My instincts came into play.  I didn’t press it.  Instead, recently when I called I made sure I spoke with Marcus, his wife, and my grandson, which was their only child.  I told him I would write to him.  He said he’d like that and would write back.

          I recently received my first letter from him.  In response to a comment he made about where his head was at seventeen, I wrote:  “Man . . . I’m thinking back to where my head was at seventeen.  My priorities were very confused at the time My current situation in life can be traced back to that period. What I needed back then was a mentor to help me understand a lot of stuff I was dealing with.  I was not close with my father, even though I grew up in his house, under his care.  Hindsight is 20/20 vision.  My father was a  good man and I totally missed the cues he offered for me to interact with him and the chance to know him better, to learn from him.”

         I told my grandson, “I am feeling some deep stuff for you.  I want you to know me.”

        No one in the family knows me  . . . really.  I seem to be appreciated by the younger men I interact with here and it is natural that I would want to benefit my own blood.  That is why I told him I want him to visit me alone.

          The last time I called, his father said, “Your grandson told me you wanted him to come see you.  Thanks, Dad.”
______________
MR.  JAMES  MUHAMMED TAYLOR  IS  a Reentry and Criminal Justice Reform Thought Leader, published freelance journalist, poet, and Contributing Editor TO  IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD.

A SOUND SOLUTION FOR REENTRY: MR. JAMES MUHAMMED TAYLOR


           Today it seems that everyone is looking for a solution to the problem of how to safely reintegrate offenders back into the community from our penal institutions.  It is a hot priority issue with top government officials, law enforcement, and political figures alike.  In fact, the problem is such that it is being treated as a serious public safety issue that the entire community should be involved in helping to solve, according to the Philadelphia Consensus Group on Reentry.

            The principal reason the LIFERS, Inc.’s Public Safety Initiatives, (PSI) should be included in the Criminal Justice Reform and Restorative Justice Platform of Democratic Presidential Candidate and former United States Vice President The Honorable Joseph R. Biden is because, through Project Pipeline To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men, we are prepared to actively demonstrate best practices for reentry from an inside-out self-help perspective , supported by an External Working Group of Criminal Justice and Restorative Justice advocates.

            Some years ago, I read an interesting quote on the cover of a concept paper representing a group of ex-offenders working for prison reform out of New York which says:  “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”

            I believe this quote will be helpful in giving you a better understanding of the message we bring to you today from the inmates, volunteers, and ex-offenders who are involved with the reentry initiatives of People Advancing Reintegration (PAR) and Project Pipeline To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men.

            What this quote means, in our unique situation, is that it takes a prisoner or an ex-offender who has been intimately involved with crime, substance abuse, prison, and the societal conditions influencing those negative experiences, to navigate a safe passage back into the community.  Viewing the problem from this angle, and seeing a need to break away from a vicious circumstance of dependence, ninety-five percent of our problem was solved when we, as offenders, adopted the attitude of seeing ourselves being the problem of crime and recidivism correcting itself.  It was the only responsible position for us to take in the situation if our lives were to improve for the better.  And, we have indeed worked out a solution to the problem of how to safely reintegrate offenders back into the community out of Graterford Prison/SCI Phoenix.  But it is going to require, in addition to continued support of the prison administration, support of the parole authority, and the External Working Group of Project Pipeline To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men to make the plan we offer today successful.

  
BACKGROUND

            People Advancing Reintegration, Inc. (PAR) is an innovative inmate self-help program I created at Graterford Prison in 1987 to help fellow prisoners prepare for their freedom in a realistic and responsible manner.  With all the government money being expended for programs to help offenders in their return to the community, for us, there was only an alarming rate of recidivism to show for it.  Faced with that reality, we decided that we, the prisoners ourselves, would have to take the lead in guiding the mission of reentry if we were to achieve better results for ourselves.

            The internal phase of the program consists of PAR’s Day One Parole Preparation Course.  The program is conducted once a week over a period of four months.  To qualify for participation, an inmate must have one year left to his minimum parole date or pre-release status. The program takes 30 men per cycle.


CLASS FACILITATION METHOD 

            The first phase of the program involves a course in Effective Personal Leadership Training.  The second phase involves problem solving and decision making around parole issues.  The program is taught from a PAR workbook manual, developed by prisoners for prisoners.  Each participant is required to prepare a personalized Written Plan Of Action to guide him upon release.  Members of the LIFERS, Inc. Public Safety Initiative conduct sessions involving its Street Peace Campaign, which offers our participants a means of doing valuable volunteer public service in support of that project upon release.


THE ECONOMIC PLIGHT OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MEN 

            A wise African American religious leader, the late  W.D. Muhammad, said something that is profoundly true involving the African American community that equally applies to offenders returning to the society:  “Business is a need in human nature.  Social establishment aspirations need to mate with business interests.  If it doesn’t, then you don’t have much of a future for yourself in the social establishment.”

            He continues this thought with the following:  “People need a perception of themselves and the perception of the reality of themselves in any given situation.  There is a need to keep an eye on what you want from yourself and an eye on what you want from America.  Many of us do not give serious thought to what we want from ourselves and that is a big mistake.  What are we doing about our own condition?  Are we questioning it?  We should support an independent effort.  If we invest nothing, then we get nothing.  If we put nothing in, we get nothing out.”

            To begin with, in most cases involving reentry, prisoners and ex-offenders are treated like helpless children who need to have a solution to their problem imposed upon them by those who presume to know what is best for them.  Their opinion is not sought at all.  They are only included in the process as a type of welfare recipient.

            Even the government has done away with that debilitating relationship with its poor and needy citizens.  They were forced from the welfare rolls into a life of independence through its  “Welfare To Work” program.  Why accept anything less of the ex-offender?  There is a need to place a portion of those vast sums of reentry dollars at the disposal of Project Pipeline To Prison Youths/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men.  Let us show that we have a realistic plan to meet the special needs of these young men.  The resource invested will have been well placed.  The society would be better off as a result of it. 


COLLECTIVE ECONOMICS

            No longer should we be willing to tolerate going back to fail in our own African American communities where others find such great business success as outsiders.  Our attitude now is that although we came to prison for committing criminal acts, we are returning as responsible businessmen determined to compete for a share of the business life and wealth of our own communities.  That way we will have all the necessary resources to do it together for ourselves in a collective manner.  The time is now.

             After many years of operating under the harsh and punitive “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” philosophy, Pennsylvania’s state budget can no longer afford the huge financial burden of its penal institutions.  Fortunately, a favorable turning point is on the horizon for Pennsylvania’s prison population.  Officials are now aggressively pursuing release policies to reduce the state’s prison population as a result of it.  I believe these officials would be open to any creative ideas that would support the reduction of its prison population with viable alternatives.

            From PAR’s perspective there could be no better opportunity for prisoners, ex-offenders, and volunteers.  We can capitalize upon the situation by showing what it takes to make significant progress with our reentry program.  It would serve as a model to effectively reduce its prison population in a crisis situation.

            From its inception, the driving force behind PAR’s self-help concept was the stark realization that, at the core of those problems which contributed to the high rate of recidivism amongst the participants who came to PAR for help were a host of serious unaddressed needs they were being confronted with and had no help for what was causing them to fail.  Chief among them was:

1.      No effective Personal Leadership Training.
2.     No Plan Of Action.
3.     Failure to develop a personal support system.
4.     Substance abuse, idleness, unemployment, peer pressure, and criminal activity
5.     A need for effective decision making skills about imprisonment, and release issues.
6.     A lack of money for an initial Survival Budget Fund to meet one’s immediate needs upon release.

There was another serious draw back to our self-help approach that had to be overcome if we were to be successful.  African American men carry the stigma of being a group of people who shunned the idea of taking the initiative to do for self.  That they don’t struggle and make sacrifices in a collective unified manner in order to overcome difficult circumstances to get ahead like other men.  That meant we would have to take responsibility for developing the internal and external phases of the program based on our needs so as to safeguard against failure, from a self-help perspective.  Our plight cried out for it!  It is my firm belief that, as inmates, we should put the essential components of our reentry model in place first to show that it can be done independently.

          It is important to know that for the first ten years we worked on perfecting our Day One Parole Preparation Course as the internal training phase of the program with support of the prison administration and outside volunteers.  In 1996, we began to place heavy emphasis upon establishing a business-driven Reentry Zone within the City of Philadelphia for Returning Citizens because of the pressing need for housing, jobs, and other important services that were not available to our participants upon release from those who claimed to provide these services.

        With a vested interest in creating a business-driven Reentry Zone of our own, established and run by ex-offenders, this approach by prisoners has been the missing link.  This is the direction we are moving toward.

        Our great advantage is in the fact that we now have the support of the External Working Group of Project Pipe Line To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Their Lives As Men behind us to make it happen.  Our members are enthusiastic about this approach.  Why? Because they see themselves as part of an organization being established by themselves.  An organization that offers security and a real sense of purpose in support of their lives in the familiar surroundings of their own community where they once failed.

        Our goal is to establish a networking arrangement with other organizations and service providers to help support our membership.  Currently, we have been successful in developing important partnerships with Laura Ford of the Catholic Archdiocese Prison Ministry Project and others in support of our mission.  Four years ago, PAR Recycle Works was created to provide transitional employment for our participants upon release, thus laying the foundation for the business-driven Reentry Zone we envision.

        We are requesting support of the prison administration for a systematic way of processing our participants out at their minimum date who successfully complete PAR’s Day One Parole Preparation Course.  This systematic approach also requires support of the parole authority, volunteers, and a select group of credible service providers.  By credible service providers is meant those with an ability to deliver actual services to our participants upon release in a timely fashion.

        The primary reason is to improve upon the success rate of inmates who fail to complete reentry programs successfully, and to show how people fare under our support network, versus those who do not have the benefit of preparation and support.

        The intent of this project is to show how important these unaddressed needs are to the process of reentry and how to solve them.  We bring the issue of the unaddressed needs to the attention of service providers so that they may be included in all future considerations involving the treatment and release of offenders in the 21st century.  

        Most importantly, this reentry project we are pursuing would allow PAR’s Reentry Project to bridge the disconnect between services provider and recipient by wrapping needed services around its participants to make reentry work for the individual.  This would permit service providers to reach the desired results for which their services were meant to achieve, while at the same time improving outcomes for the recipient.  Service providers are required to participate in our reentry sessions as guest speakers to familiarize the men with the service they will provide, and as a means of getting to know the men they will be working with.  Each man is helped according to his written Plan Of Action, a copy of which is made available to each partner involved with the Pilot Project.
  

ROLE OF THE PRISON ADMINISTRATION 

        The prison administration’s support of the PAR program over the years has been a key factor in our success.  Its support has given us leeway to produce meaningful results for the prison population that has helped in our ability to make steady progress towards the Pilot Project we are asking support for today.  The prison administration’s support is instructive of the kind of trust and cooperation our ideas need to be given by supporters on the outside in order for them to experience the good results we produce for reentry on the outside with their support.

        It is our participants’ transformed attitudes that makes the services they receive work.  From PAR’s perspective, those services are treated as a necessary and meaningful hand-up in pursuit of a goal the man has.  He has a personal stake in reaching it for himself in concert with others for the bigger ideal.

        Bill DiMascio, the former Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, wrote in a Graterfriends Newsletter some years ago after meeting with PAR Peer Facilitators:

          “Reentry is a buzzword nowadays.  And with the lure of millions of government dollars being spread around the country for this kind of program assistance, re-entry ‘experts’ are popping up in community meetings, storefronts, and churches across America.

            But there is a secret to re-entry that lies hidden in the most unlikely place; it takes some digging to unearth.  Several months ago we connected with members of the People Against Recidivism Group at SCI Graterford.  Here is its mission:  ‘To ensure that our members leaving prison become productive citizens, in control of thoughts and actions, men devoted to preserving community safety with faith in their own ability to change their lives for the better, men free from resentment and armed with the ability to distinguish clearly between real and unreal.’

            That brings us back to the ‘secret’ key to re-entry.  It lies inside the people who know it best – those who have lived and breathed and created the culture of crime.  A growing number of long-term prisoners speak with passion about the value system that drives street crime.  Some are PAR members; others belong to different groups.  But all speak to the central issues with a power, a purity, and a passion that grows in the soul.  They possess a credibility that is central to any effort to guide people to change their way of life.

            People who profess to want to do something to end crime to reduce recidivism, to enhance re-entry should be listening to them.”


CONCLUSION

        All elements needed are in place to take advantage of this opportunity we have to establish an effective model for reentry out of SCI Phoenix.  We believe that by networking hand in hand in a special arrangement with a select group of sincere lay and professional service providers, this would give all parties concerned a practical example of what we prisoners would do to address reentry effectively for ourselves, from an inside-out self-help perspective.  Ultimately the role of service providers is to render the support we need to stand on our own.  It is our mission to create a multi-faceted Transformational Center in partnership with the LIFERS, Inc. Public Safety Initiative within the business-driven Reentry Zone we envision.  The Transformational Center will act as a haven where ex-offenders can meet and be creative in their own right, with an ability to go where others can’t go in the trenches, relating to the people who are involved in the culture of crime.

        We bring all of this experience with us in support of Project Pipeline To Prison Youth/Reclaiming Our Lives As Men.
________
 Mr. James Muhammed Taylor is the Founder and Director of People Advancing Reintegration, Inc. - SCI Graterford;  Chair, Commutation Committee - LIFERS, Inc. (https://www./lifersincpa.org); a Reentry and Criminal Justice Reform Thought Leader; and Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R).

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