Category Archives: reentry

Journey to a Non-Profit

Grew up eye-shot of La Tuna, Federal Correctional Institution, in Vinton, Texas. Living close enough to be part of the environment, I wondered what it was like to be on the inside.

Pushing several years into the future, I became a 16-year old outfielder with a family organized softball team. Scheduled to play against several prison (trustee) teams, we were given the privilege to go inside.

Frightened as our van approached for the first time, this 16-year old imagined hardened muggers, killers, rapists, and all around monsters. No doubt television and culture told me what to expect… I drank the juice.

Too often, reality and truth simply does not mean the same thing. I spoke to several of the monsters on the inside and before long, socially twisted perceptions was replaced with “how could I have gotten it so wrong?”

Backed by a lineage of family, direct and indirect, seeing both sides of freedom, I knew the men and women who have stumbled needed more than social/cultural/employment stigma. Over the years I’ve worked with many on the inside and found their self-perception generally accepted their lives and futures to be fated by loss and failure… where mirror’s reflection is empty of Hope.

Close to 20 years ago I got involved with a company which produced professional development courseware and programs. Though designed for the executive, I knew this was a stepping stone to bridge my path alongside those who have been misplaced along their way.

In 2003 I began the groundwork for 2nd Chance University but timing (and money) prevented progress. Leaping to 2012, Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative provided a medium to perfect my program and provide an evidence-based system.

Numbers were more than impressive but something was lacking. Upon pushing, was informed these two organizations disqualified those with a justice-involved background from the program I developed.

Months later, we parted ways. At that time, necessity dictated an

E to the 3rd

onward throttle to customize a program for those needing support, guidance, and tools to gain Commitment, Hope, and Empowerment.

Will continue on what happened next shortly. Until then, be kind, be the key,

Danny

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America: Land of the (In)visible

Writing provided by Duck who spent 13 years incarcerated; now finding a home as contributor and facilitator/trainer with 2nd Chance University, a non-profit dedicated to those who have stumbled.

For those who have been (or are currently) justice-involved, being invisible occupies a rather peculiar stance with even more atypical consequence.

For those not justice-involved, imagine a world where eye contact is not allowed, no soul searching or glimpsing into the spirit of the silenced number striding side by side.

Living behind bars means no identity other than 6 or 7 digits surrounding his or her every move. Think ab out how your sense of identity would be without a name and with an objectified history defining your Looking Glass Self theory.

For those without a justice-involved scratch or dent, take a look in the mirror, strip the reflective image of who/what you think you see, and then wipe away all of you with a single stretch. From this day forward, in place of what you thought you saw moments ago, resides a blemished blur.

In accordance to being invisible, for the next 24 hours, there can be no eye contact, there can be no talk without directly being told you have permission to speak, there can be no mobility beyond set geographic boundaries, there can be no choice, no smiles (this will be seen as a sign of weakness), there can be no friends, no companionship, no nothing (sorry for the poor grammar).

Imagine, for these 24 hours, when people looked at you, they saw something less than human, something not worthy of respect, something not deserving of consideration, empathy, or a second chance. Imagine how these emotions and actions will toy with your mind and sense of self-worth not just for the moment, but for your lifetime (and your families).

Imagine that even after this 24-hour experience, time kept on and you were forever defined as less than human.

Truth is, for those who are justice-involved, rightly or wrongly, he or she will never wash their skin of past sins, society won’t let them, lenders won’t let them, employers won’t let them, and, in most cases, YOU won’t let them.

What does it mean to be invisible? There’s no such concept as no matter who you are, others see and define based upon pre-conceived misconceptions supporting personal agendas and deficiencies.

Is America the land of hope, of understanding, of second chances? Do I really need to answer that? Perhaps now is the time for America to be.

2nd Chance University is a non-profit designed for our youth as well as our adult population who have stumbled to regain their Commitment, Hope, and Empowerment.

I welcome your stories to be added into our series. If you chose to share or support, email me directly at dhuffman@2ndChanceUniversity.org.

Danny Huffman
Founder, Journeyman
321-972-8919

Trauma Informed Care, Yesterday to Today

Being a non-profit working with young and old adults involved within the criminal justice system, we hear the term Trauma Informed Care more often than not. As a matter of fact, the term, especially when dealing with alternatives to incarceration, our criminal justice system, and effective reintegration, is in the limelight right now. According to those in the know:

Trauma Informed Care is an organizational structure and treatment framework that involves understanding, recognizing, and responding to the effects of all types of trauma.

I remember growing up and how the word trauma was tagged (exclusively) to a military setting. No doubt, heading off to war can (and often will) directly affect the individual; of that there is little dispute. Way back when, it was rare that anyone not directly involved with the military was recognized as shouldering post-traumatic stress.

Unfortunately, family members left behind were often forgotten about or brushed to the side when it came to trauma… out of sight… their voice was rarely heard.

Jumping from childhood to well into adulthood, the consequence of trauma has been expanded to those outside of the military to include individuals indirectly involved in the incident or event. With such an expansion recognized, recovery is being addressed in a more effective manner… no more out of sight… their voice will be heard.

By today’s standards, traumatic experiences requiring care ranges from the obvious to the not-so-obvious. When it comes to our vulnerable youth and the effects of trauma, the world, neighborhood, and home can create an ever-lasting impression on the heart, mind, and soul; without proper care, these youth are at risk.

Beneath the trauma inducing umbrella are events such as:

Natural disaster
Death of a loved one
Being in a car accident
Child witnessing home abuse
Family member going to prison
Loud noises, gun shots being heard
Shootings and/or neighborhood fighting
Child being the victim of abuse, physical and/or emotional

The above is not all-inclusive but should give you an idea as to what we are dealing with.

On a personal level, the following happened years ago, which, if handled incorrectly, could have changed the path of two very young boys:

When my two boys were just three and four years of age, I purchased two living ducklings as an Easter present (before you panic, we lived on a farm so this was normal activity). My boys were in total awe at the new addition and insisted the ducks stayed in the house. I allowed.

On the second night, the new addition remained inside and in a cardboard box like the night before. After much quacking and smelling of duck poop, around 4:00 am, I placed the cardboard box outside, just within reach of the door. Unfortunately the night was a bit too cold and the ducks did not make it.

My boys woke to the sound of silence as they stepped out to an unexpected event. They both were very upset, shed tears, and did not understand what had happened. That morning, I sat the boys down and explained in a calm and empathetic way what had happened. Over the next few days we had gentle and sensitive talks about it and before long, all was fine.

Though insignificant in comparison, if handled without care and empathy, the event could have made a rippling psychological scar of one or both of my boys.

If a traumatic event happens to someone in your life, do know there are general things one can do to minimize lifelong effects. In my situation outlined above, I remained patient and understanding, allowing deep and meaningful discussions (even though the boys were very young, they deserved respect, a voice, warmth, and empathy).

Simply being there is the first step, as for second and third steps, we’ll review what the experts in the field suggest in articles to come.

To help all of us progress, I welcome your stories to be added into our series.

If you chose to share, email me directly at dhuffman@2ndChanceUniversity.org.

Danny Huffman,
Founder and Journeyman
2nd Chance University

Steven’s Doubled CHE Quotient

Last time we stopped abruptly in the middle of Steven’s story, time to check out how his CHE Quotient — not too worry, for those not in the CHE Quotient know, you will soon.

Looking at the numbers, Steven had no chance…but you can’t always bet on the numbers

What Steven had to learn was that he was a unique person with value. That he deserved a better future. That he could actively choose a different path than the one he had walked since his youth.

His lesson started there: by restoring hope, developing empowerment, and bolstering the commitment necessary to change one’s life. Recognizing his own potential and aware that failure (a return to prison) wasn’t an option, Steven committed himself to embracing these lessons and became one of our human element successes.

For Steven, 1 + 1 = SUCCESS!

I had felonies in my background and I couldn’t get a job. You helped me overcome them in my interviews and become a man of integrity. Now I have a job! Thank you!”

Steven isn’t a number or a statistic, he’s a person. He’s a person who won’t be an inmate ever again. He’s a person able to find employment despite his past. He’s a person with the hope and skills to make his bright future real.

Speaking of numbers, his CHE Quotient doubled to 3.8, and that’s a number one can be proud of.

For the politicians and haters, statistics and numbers have their uses, but they don’t provide the whole picture. That’s why we measure numbers by lives changed: nothing else matters.

I invite you to join in—send your human element short story for publication consideration. Together, we will build a force and make a difference.

2nd Chance University is a non-profit dedicated to the socially invisible, those justice-involved seeking a journey of wonder and amazement.

1 + 1, what does it add up for you?

Richard Milaschewski
2ndChanceUniversity.org

1 + 1 equals… well, that depends

Statistics and numbers have their uses, mostly depending upon the agenda spinners manipulating them. While numbers reveal much about a particular situation, the fact remains, they can also obscure things, creating more of a head-scratching event than a cerebral epitome.

Question, if numbers are black and white, how can they also turn into grey on a subjective whim? To illustrate, let’s concentrate on what we know best… the criminal element, namely recidivism.

It’s easy to get caught up in discussing recidivism rates, budget allotments, and what really works as the amount of money involved is racking up beyond infinity. Given the nature of subjective realism, debating crime stats, studying methodologies, and examining sample sizes is akin to trying to close a cracked Pandora Box.

Unfortunately, without context and content, numbers on a spreadsheet are simply just that: numbers on a spreadsheet.

To be real, numbers mean nothing, what matters is living a good life, where fear no longer exists and where dreams can (and do) become reality through hard work, commitment, hope, and empowerment.

Truth is, 2CU is not here to crunch numbers (though we have a few to crunch), we’re here to change lives and bring light to an otherwise darkened world. Offering hope, especially for the justice-involved, and raising the torch for all to follow.

For a moment, let’s look beyond retention rates and placement numbers and uncover the human element so many simply don’t understand or chose not to see. Let’s look through the eyes of Steven, a graduate of our program and one who happens to wear a number on his back.

Steven was reared to see the world where struggle was a way of life and giving up on the system (and self) was just the way it was. He saw a dark, dangerous place with no security, no safety net, no support, and definitely no future. Lacking a father figure at home, he sought acceptance and guidance in the street.

Didn’t take long for a gang to offer Steven what he felt was lacking. A series of arrests would give him a record and a narrower path to follow for the remainder of his years.

After release, Steven resisted change, claiming there was no way anyone would give him a chance. His stint in prison left a heavy mark on him. Holding a CHE Quotient of less than 1.5, his main obstacle was himself and the barriers HE created for himself.

Two months after release and slipping back into his old routine, he came to realize (due another near-by) destiny would be behind bars. He got picked up but was gifted a second chance.

Avoiding a return to prison depended upon his finding himself and gainful employment, but the difficulty he faced in finding work with his past was daunting. Steven was despondent, feeling that the stigma of his past would never go away.

Looking at the numbers, he had no chance… but you can’t always bet on the numbers

(Going to slow this down for now, will conclude tomorrow when we will uncover Steven’s CHE Quotient after the program and what path he is venturing)

Richard Milaschewski,
2ndChanceUniversity.org

Mixed Messages

Deciphering the President’s Take on Criminal Justice Reform

President Trump brought criminal justice reform to the forefront of the political debate with his State of the Union address. In a startling turn for the president, who campaigned as a hardline law and order advocate, President Trump voiced support for measures tackling recidivism and the lingering effects of incarceration, stating: “…this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.” 

The president managed the considerable feat of appealing to both sides of the debate, and that’s what makes me nervous.

Most Americans want comprehensive criminal justice reform. Washington seems to prefer gridlock. The phrase “war on crime” has been used by presidents since Lyndon Johnson, and despite billions of dollars spent and new policies and laws enacted, the incarceration crisis has not improved, so forgive any skepticism with the latest rant.

As a candidate and a private citizen, Mr. Trump made his pro-police, tough on crime stance clearly known. In the past, he has blasted “forgiving” judges who “…emphasize criminals’ rights over those of ordinary citizens.” In fact, the clearest message we can glean from the president’s statements is that he sees America as divided—there are police and ordinary citizens, and there are criminals.

This is just the kind of binary thinking that leads to failed policies like mandatory minimum sentences.

This is just the kind of thinking that allows racial animosity to grow.

This is just the kind of thinking that leads law enforcement officers to believe that they are above the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

Has there been a change of heart? Does President Trump truly want released inmates to flourish and succeed while walking the line?

It’s possible, but guarded optimism seems the right approach. After all, in the same speech, he called for getting tougher on drug dealers—just rhetoric, right?

Well, under his administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges and strictest sentences possible in drug cases. This new policy forces prosecutors to request an exception from a superior before going after lesser charges for lower-level crimes, creating de facto minimum sentencing and taking autonomy away from federal attorneys.

Meaningful justice system reform is going to take a lot of work. Balancing a tough on crime approach with empathy and concern for the struggles of former inmates is a tall order, but it is possible.

As far as the president’s sincerity regarding second chances goes, we can hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and keep working to promote significant change.

Richard Milaschewski
2nd Chance University
http://www.2ndChanceUniversity.org

Landscape Melting and “Good-Enough-Disorder?” Think Again

Image by Morgan Sessions
Image by Morgan Sessions

“I did my job; what more do they want?”
Sharon

There are many excuses for doing just enough to get by, personally as well as professionally. Being a business owner and career coach, I’ve heard more than my share of excuses justifying complacent behavior over the years.

I don’t get paid what I’m worth, so why give more than I get paid?”
Sharon

Tell the truth, how many out there have not worked their promised potential simply because you believed you deserved more?

NOT good enough defined?

Personally:

  • Accepting defeat without putting up an honest attempt to overcome barriers
  • Giving up after one attempt or let down… stopping never will get you beyond
  • Allowing others to convince an attitude of complacency (guilty by association)
  • Believing negative self-talk, living each day as just another day
  • Convincing yourself you do not deserve better
  • Being satisfied with who you are… here’s a hint, no matter who or what you are, there is ALWAYS room to advance

Professionally:

  • Accepting an invisible status
  • Performing at the lowest denominator (just doing enough)
  • Lacking positive self-talk, affirmations, and/or visualizations
  • Taking extra time at the coffee pot, texting, or strolling the Internet
  • Not stepping up to the plate, taking charge, or being the go-to person
  • Always having to be asked to perform a function or making careless mistakes
  • Believing your worth far exceeds your production (self-delusion can be job threatening)

For those identified with the “good-enough-disorder,” don’t fret as there are ways to get unstuck. No doubt the first question one with this disorder would ask… “why isn’t good enough, good enough?”

Personally:

  • The core of humanity and civilization is progression, creating a better life for you, your family, and the community; without personal and cultural evolution, humanity would have never advanced beyond the Stone Age, meaning life without Facebook would be a reality.

Professionally:

  • Companies AND employees accepting complacency do not survive… period.
  • Employers seek candidates to hire and promote who are not satisfied with status quo, desiring those with the aptitude to go boldly beyond grey.
  • Complacent employees rarely earn promotions, pay increases, and are often downsizing victims.

What you can do NOW:

  • Take a clear look at yourself, your goals, and your life. Determine if the person looking back in the mirror is the person you were meant to be AND you are happy with who you are and where you are. If the answer is yes, you may be carrying the highly contagious good-enough-disorder bug. If the answer is no, the first step has been crossed… off to a good start.
  • Upon reading this article, take out a piece of paper and make a “reachable” commitment with action plan. In other words, on a personal and professional note, tell yourself a goal and then WRITE the goal (and action plan) on a piece of paper (the act of writing is an important step toward goal achievement). Clipping or drawing a picture also adds to eventual realization—be sure and post the picture wear you will see it EVERY morning as you begin the day.
  • Establish a time-line and stick to it.
  • VISUALIZATION: Imagine the new you or the desired product as if it has become a reality. Once your mind accepts this reality, achieving becomes more attainable.
  • AFFIRMATION: Each evening and each morning make a pledge that required steps will happen. Upon the evening, if steps were not satisfied, evaluate how you will overcome challenges on the following day. That morning, engage in self-talk, determining the goal will become a reality.
  • Association: Gather around peers, friends, family, etc. who challenge you to stand up to the goal and will not allow excuses to get in the way.

The good-enough-disorder has the capacity to stumble not only your achievements, but those around you as well (including family members). Ultimately, how you want to live your life is entirely up to you and if you decide complacency defines you, don’t blame the lack of promotions, employment, and satisfaction on anyone but yourself.

The final element purging the good-enough-disorder out of your system resides within the following:

Focus and
Single-Mindedness

With focus and single-mindedness, there is nothing which cannot be overcome. Remember there may be one peak atop the mountaintop, but there are MANY paths one can take to get there.

There are no excuses but the ones you convince yourself you believe! For the highly sensitive person, the above tips are exceedingly important. I know how easy it is to melt into the landscape (and wanting to melt into the landscape).

For the HSP, take small steps… NEVER stop stepping! 

Seeking employment insight and career collateral, visit www.edu-cs.com or if you are seeking material designed for those transitioning out of prison, check out www.CareerBreakOut.com and consider the most powerful book that will change your life: Walls, Bars, and Razor Wire… You Choose.”

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
dhuffman@edu-cs.com
321-972-8919
Education Career Services: http://www.edu-cs.com
Career Break Out: http://www.CareerBreakOut.com