Every year, over 600,000 individuals are released from some form of incarceration. Whether it be prison or a local jail, that is a lot of people that are coming back onto the streets each and every year. One of the issues is the reason they keep returning is not necessarily because they are bad people, but rather because they have not developed the skills needed to function properly. This lack of skills is sometimes their own fault. Some just have an “I don`t care attitude,” while others were never taught anything.
Having some form of education and/or technical skill can be a huge asset to not only providing a source of income, but can also help stop the cycle of recidivism. Studies have shown that the higher an education level someone has, the less likely they are to reoffend once they are released. In fact, some studies have gone as far as saying that inmates who have received their Master`s Degree while incarcerated have had a 0 (ZERO) percent recidivism rate! How is that for a statistic?
Prior to my incarceration, I had attended two different colleges. I began going to a local university and wanted to major in web design. My first semester was rather easy and so my second semester, I decided to really go all out and try to speed up the process. I signed up for 21 credits in one semester. This was so much in fact, I had to get permission to do it. Part of the reason I was approved because nine of those credits were actually nine one-credit courses that lasted one-third of a semester.
However, after that semester, I realized that was too much and began to slack off. I later transferred back home and lived with my parents, while attending another local school. This one didn`t offer web design, so I changed my major to computer information systems. Well, after one semester of that, I dropped out as well. This was in 2006.
It wasn`t until 2011, while incarcerated, that I decided to go back to school. I learned about Adams State University, a school that has one of the best, if not the best, programs in the country for prisoners who are looking to obtain an accredited college degree while still in prison.
Luckily, every one of my previous credits transferred and thus, I only needed about 21 credits in order to obtain my Associate`s Degree, which I did in May 2016. It took me nearly 13 years to get it, but I didn`t give up. I am now on my way to obtaining my Bachelor`s Degree in Management and hope to complete it within the next year to year and a half.
This little bit of extra work has proven to be beneficial to me. Yesterday, I went to my unit team/program review meeting and we began to talk about halfway house/home confinement placement and my release plan. Although I am not quite to the point of actually putting it in, my case manager told me that he thought I would make an excellent candidate for home confinement.
I have proven over the last several years that my maturity level has grown and I am doing what I can to prepare. I save money every month for release. I have good family ties and a release residence already. I only lack a job, but I do have several leads and that is not a direct requirement.
My case manager told me that my degree I earned was one of the main decisions in him trying to push for me to get the home confinement and for the maximum possible. I presented the argument that I want to be successful. By putting me in a halfway house (which is still three hours from my home), all I would be doing is wasting government and taxpayer money for services that should be left to those who really need it. On top of that, if you have a job in the halfway house, there is still that SLIGHT possibility of them not being able to track you from the time you leave the halfway house to the time you arrive at work and vice-versa. I presented having an ankle monitor as a benefit to public safety because it allowed for 24/7 monitoring and my case manager liked that argument as well.
What I am getting at is that any type of education or programming you can do while in prison has benefits. My prison has a lot of continuing education (ACE) courses that are mainly just videos from The Great Course series. They are very informative, don`t get me wrong, but it`s still not exactly what people need. I am fortunate though, that compared to my last institution, the vocational training here is a trillion times better. They offer several apprenticeship programs ranging from training service animals to carpentry and electrician and plumbing. They also offer training for mechanic certifications and are working on actually being able to obtain it directly.
You have to remember that what you did prior to coming to prison may or may not be available to you anymore. If you were a doctor or a teacher, guess what, you aren`t going back. It sucks-I know. But, you have to find some sort of fallback that you can prove that you are not limited to just one skill.
Many drug offenders have a great business mentality. They are good with math, in fact normally better than me and math is my best subject. They can calculate how many grams three ounces of weed is in a matter of seconds. They are not dumb people, but rather have chosen not to put their skills to a legal use.
Former inmates need to step up and show the world that not only have they changed their ways, they can be a functioning and successful member of society. A business is in it for their best interest. If you can make them money because you are good at a skill, they will hire you.
While still in prison, look for any educational programs you can take. While college programs can be expensive, hopefully in the near future, Pell Grants will be restored to prisoners and that will provide a huge benefit to prisoners and society in general. As I mentioned I attend Adams State University. If you would like more information on their Prison College Program, you can contact them at the address below.
Adams State University
208 Edgemont Blvd., Suite 3000
Alamosa, CO 81101
Note: They do accept Corrlinks requests to this email address.