Back in the late 1990s I began to write about criminal justice reform and what I thought would work based upon my own experiences. In May 1998 I wrote an article for IMprint – a Mensa newsletter – titled “How Do We Get to Peace?” I slogged it alone, but it is starting to work. Let me tell you this part of the story.
I had visited Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ with the Paterson Chamber of Commerce in 1997 as part of a training program. We walked among the inmates, and in that May 1998 article I wrote, “It is our belief that life as an incarcerated individual is a dead-end street…” Is it? I listed some items that I thought would help to change the situation, and two of the most important were education and mentoring. It has taken 21 years, but people are beginning to catch on. Read on.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice held two symposiums on the topic of mentoring justice-involved youth, one back in October of 2017 and a follow-up in April of 2018. (I wrote about both in IMprint – March 2018 and August 2018.) What they found in conjunction with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services in Washington, DC is that education is unparalleled in helping justice-involved youth succeed in society, and mentoring works best when the mentors are people who have gone through the system and hard times themselves and now want to share their experiences with the youths to keep them out of trouble. What they did not mention at the time is the need for a change in the laws that discriminate against or prevent a formerly justice-involved individual from getting a job.
Founder and CEO of Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance of America, Linda Stalters, says the same is said to be true by those with serious brain illness who have been caught in the criminal justice system. Attending Schizophrenic Alliance support group meetings “while incarcerated was their most important help.”
John Jay College sent me a newsletter this past April 2019 called “The Lens: News and Views from PRI” with an article regarding a program at a maximum-security prison facility known as “The Rock” in Connecticut. It included video clips from 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes Overtime and aired March 31, 2019 where they found these things are true. Here is the link: