Tag Archives: Prison reform

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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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