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Posts Tagged ‘warden’

I liked an op-ed Stan Stojkovic wrote for the NY Times about a positive sort of prison program founded by a warden.

“It’s the singular guest at a prison who receives a standing ovation from inmates,” writes Stojkovic. “I’ve heard of only two: Johnny Cash and Percy Pitzer, a retired warden who in 2012 started a nonprofit corporation to award college scholarships to children of inmates.

“I sit on the board of Mr. Pitzer’s group, called the Creative Corrections Education Foundation. I recently went with him to visit some of the inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Correction. …

“He started in H6, a 60-bed women’s dorm. ‘Good morning, ladies. I’m Percy Pitzer, from Beaumont, Texas,’ he began. He told them that he had made a living for his family by working for the Bureau of Prisons, and that he and his wife wanted to give back. So he’d kick-started a scholarship fund with $150,000 of his own money. But he wanted it to become an inmate-funded venture, and said it would not work without their help.

“ ‘Will you help me with the price of a candy bar a month?’ he asked.

“His audience probably had a sense of the odds working against their children. Close to seven million children in the United States have a parent involved in some form of correctional intervention — jail, prison, probation or parole. …

“ ‘I will,’ one inmate said.

“ ‘I will,’ said another.

“ ‘I will.’ …

“In all, 13 women in H6 donated $41; one signed up to donate $5 per month. …

“At some correctional facilities, inmates earn $10 a day. Either way, this is money that would otherwise go to small luxuries, like snacks and deodorant. And yet about 300 inmates in Texas, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin have donated. Thanks to that money, in addition to private contributions, by the end of this year Creative Corrections will have awarded 40 $1,000 college scholarships.”

More on the program here.

Photo: Creative Corrections Education Foundation

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I believe that people must take responsibility for their actions, that crimes should have punishments, and that every effort should be made to protect society from danger. But I don’t think society is protected if the place of punishment makes a person who committed a crime more angry and hostile than when she did it.

That’s why I like to post about the many kinds of volunteers who work with inmates to turn their hearts to better purposes. It may not always work, but it seems worth trying.

A while back, I blogged about one friend who works with ex-offenders through an organization called OWLL (On With Living and Learning: Jobs Skills for the 21st Century).

Now another friend has written about being accepted into a volunteer program at a low-level women’s prison near her home. The way this friend writes about her orientation, I can see the whole thing.

“I had a letter telling me not to bring a cell phone, smoking paraphernalia, medications, or sharp objects, and not to wear tight clothing, open-toed shoes, dangly earrings, or anything green or orange. … About half the volunteers were people of color and half were white. About a quarter spoke to one another in Spanish. More than half were middle-aged or older. One woman was in a wheelchair. So, it was a pretty diverse group. … There was lots of impressive high-tech security. There are lots of things we’re not allowed to do, like buy things for the inmates, or bring them messages. Or–and the volunteer handbook says this explicitly–help them escape or cover up an escape attempt.” (!)

Are touchy-feely prison programs all too naïve? Well, a highly skeptical prison warden at a Florida prison where there is a dance program admits that he came to see the benefit of women inmates having more-positive ways of expressing themselves:

 

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