First of all, the group discussion that we had in the facility was unreal. Have you ever heard of college students and their professor sitting in a room with prisoners discussing how to make life better post jail time? I sure haven’t. I truly believe the work that we are doing in class is mind blowing and revolutionary. Nobody is doing what we are doing; Solving the issue of re-entry back into society after the prisoners are released from jail is unheard of, especially that college students are doing it. Looking across the whole United States, I truly do believe that no other institution is working on solving the issue that we are attempting to do. Society has put these people in jail out of sight and out of mind, creating steep barriers to survive post jail time. This includes a lot of things that we take for granted, such as housing, a job, food, water, transportation, social security, DSS, and counselors to talk to.
This experience for me was pretty intense at first. Some of my other classmates seemed calm, cool, and collected when meeting the prisoners. I was really hyped up and excited, which created some heavy feelings of butterflies. When they first entered the room and sat down with us, there was some tension at first, but conversation and questions stimulated a great discussion with contribution from everyone. Learning about the hardships that they face in leaving jail was pretty eye-opening. I think the key challenge that struck a chord with me was the fact that they go back into the same environments that got them in there in the first place. Leaving jail and being forced right back into the same situations that cause bad choices to be made, whether it be drugs or whatever, really does suck. They have to go back to these places because it may be where their only place to stay or survive is. It’s really sad that they don’t really have that fresh start that they deserve when they leave jail.
A solution that could be made to address this problem is creating a nationwide network of affordable jobs and housing for inmates looking to turn the page on their past. These folks are willing to change and work anywhere for a new start with no temptations or pressure to fall back into the trap of making bad choices. The network could include employers looking for labor, with only post jail applicants applying for a second chance in life. These people can positively give back to society and live a normal life, but they need the chance and opportunity to do so. Right now, they don’t have that opportunity, so they go back to the life pre-prison which ultimately could get them right back into jail.
I’ve told all my friends and family about the work that we are doing and they have all been super excited about it. It truly is groundbreaking work and I really do want to thank you Steve for the all the preparation and effort you have put into this to make it all possible. It takes a ton of courage to do what you are doing, changing people’s lives for the better. No other professor is doing what you are doing and that’s pretty sweet. I was talking with some kids in class and we agreed that we could even make national news for the work we are doing if we succeed, which would be wild. Especially with recent talk about prison reform, this is revolutionary stuff and I love it.