Friday, March 28, 2008

If you had the opportunity to speak to a group of young girls, what would you want to talk to them about?

If I had the opportunity to talk to a group of younger girls, I would tell them several things. First, I would talk to them about putting themselves first and that they should not worry about other people. I would like to talk to them about boyfriends and explain that they do not need a boyfriend or partner in their lives to fulfill their needs. Also, going through a through a rebellious/"party" time to have fun is not necessary and does not make you COOL. None of it is worth it. Everything I just listed makes life harder than it has to be. I would tell them that they need to work at having good relationships with their families and if there is something that is going on in their family or amongst their friends that need attention or they need help with then they need to communicate that and work towards resolving it. When things are not resolved, more problems arise. I would tell them that the kids they go to high school with probably will not even be their immediate friends or in their lives for a long period of time, some may be but others may not and the problems they are having in high school are so minor compared to the problems they'll be having in college and their young adult lives. I’d like to explain how important it is to look out for themself, that if anyone asks or tells you to do something they need to think of the consequences before you do it. Life is not worth using the "stinkin thinkin" mode (stupid thinking). To listen to their parent’s advice, they KNOW what they are talking about! Even though it sucks to admit, its really true. I am only 21 right now and have been through a lot more than most of my friends and acquaintances have been through and none of it...I mean NONE of it was worth it! I wish I would have stayed in college and worried more about myself, because I would not be in the situation that I am now. I would give young girls good insight, just by being close to their age and being able to relate a lot to what they have going on and have advice to give them from someone who's closer in age. Younger people tend to listen to people more their age. Therefore, I think that I would be a good person for someone to come and talk with. Since I love to help people I think that I would really love helping them and listening to them. –age 21

If I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of young girls, I would express to them the importance of staying drug free and conviction free. I would express to them how drugs take away all your hopes and dreams of becoming successful. I would start by telling them know how my life as a young girl started in the military, which led me to use drugs and making bad decisions, which resulted in incarceration. I would express to them that it's never to late to turn your life around - no matter how many bad decisions you’ve made. Overall, try your best not to make any bad decision that result in hurting yourself or your love ones. –age 32

I would want to tell them how important it is to get a good education, that sex and relationships can wait. I would share some of my personal experiences with about drugs, addiction and being in jail. I would also be open for questions and would try to be as honest as possible. –age 34

Given the opportunity to speak with young girls, I would like to talk about other addictions that are not drug related, such as money addiction. People do not realize that spending money on clothes and other material items can be just as addictive as drugs. They need to understand that needing and wanting a material item is not always the best choice. Personally, I understand the feeling of wanting something at that moment, but until you work for that item, you never really appreciate it for its full value. I would say that Money Addictions are very real and that there are many people with the same problems and they are not alone. To get Therapy and to find out how to re-train you mind into not getting the money for a expensive item, until you have worked for it. –age 36

I had to talk to young kids, (4th-5th graders), at the jail several times. I tried to tell them not to try drugs or alcohol because they can ruin or sidetrack your life, but I am not sure if I got through to them. During the question/answer period, they asked us questions such as:
How big are your cells?
How much TV can you watch?
What is the food like?
Can you have cell phones?
I tried to make it sound as bad as it was while my male counterpart said it was the best jail he had ever been in, lots of TV and other sorts of examples. –age 45

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Outside-The-Box Sentencing - Pa. judge sentences 3 to learn English

Thu Mar 27, 2:16 PM ET

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - A judge known for creative sentencing has ordered three Spanish-speaking men to learn English or go to jail.

The men, who faced prison for criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, can remain on parole if they learn to read and write English, earn their GEDs and get full-time jobs, Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. said.
The men, Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez and Rafael Guzman-Mateo, plus a fourth defendant, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario, all needed translators when they pleaded guilty Tuesday.
"Do you think we are going to supply you with a translator all of your life?" the judge asked them.
The four, ranging in age from 17 to 22, were in a group that police said accosted two men on a street in May. The two said they were asked if they had marijuana, told to empty their pockets, struck on the head, threatened with a gun and told to stay off the block.
Attorneys for the men said they were studying the legality of the ruling and had not decided whether to appeal. One of the attorneys, Ferris Webby, suggested that the ruling was good for his client, Guzman-Mateo.
"My client is happy," Webby said. "I think it's going to help him."
The judge sentenced the four men to jail terms of four to 24 months. But he gave the three men, who already had served at least four months, immediate parole. Reyes-Rosario remains imprisoned on an unrelated drug charge.
Olszewski ordered the three to return with their parole officers in a year and take an English test. "If they don't pass, they're going in for the 24 (months)," he said.
Olszewski is known for outside-the-box sentencing.
He has ordered young defendants who are school dropouts to finish school. He often orders defendants to get full-time employment. But he also has his staff coordinate with an employment agency to help them find the jobs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Given the opportunity to speak with someone who was developing new programs where you were incarcerated, what would you suggest?

I participated in a program called A.C.T. - Addiction Corrections & Treatment. It was very good and seemed to be helpful to the other women who were motivated towards recovery.

It would be great if they had programs that teach skills, but I know that costs money. I would suggest trying to attract large businesses that are outsourcing jobs to other countries, jobs such as customer service. The companies might have to provide some training, but if the labor was cheap, it could provide a win-win situation for all. In turn, the women would have skills and experience when they left. It would be interesting to compare the pay rates of what women make in prison to the pay rates of international outsourcing.

What I saw in jail, (I was not in prison and have no idea of the programs offered there), was that the women had no skill sets to provide them with decent jobs on the outside which would allow them to provide for themselves and their children. Therefore, they went back to lives of crime, drug use and depending on the government (such as welfare). Giving someone the opportunity to learn the ability to be able to take care of oneself and give oneself a better standard of living than welfare would benefit the whole country.

I would also suggest giving inmates access to the Internet and phones in the last couple of months of incarceration. It could possibly help people to set up jobs before they get out. Jail or prison could be a positive experience for people and communities at large. If changes in programs occur, it may reduce the revolving door syndrome, thus benefiting the taxpayers and the productivity of the country. -age 46

In the last six months of a woman’s incarceration, there should be a interaction program for mothers and children. It would give them the opportunity to work with a therapist assisting in the readjustment. It would let all parties talk about the changes, feelings and concerns that are about to occur. I would also suggest more living arrangements and pre-release planning. Many women who are coming out of incarceration do not have anywhere to live upon release. There are far TOO FEW halfway houses and programs for women. –age 45

I would develop a more intense program that allows mother's and father's to communicate with their children and physically see them and spend time with them. I did not get to see or verbally communicate with my children while I was locked up. I feel like there really should be a program were they can see you or we can go see them at least once a month. -age 36

I would suggest a program geared toward reuniting women with their children. I would suggest something like letting the women make videos of themselves talking directly to their children about some of the things they really want to say. For example, they might explain their past (drug history, drug addiction, child abuse, molestation etc.). I find this effective because I did this in my first support group in 1999. This allowed me to explain to my children about my addiction along with other health issues I was experiencing at the time. The tape was then placed in a safe and I was allowed to show my kids at the appropriate times. It worked out wonderfully and today I have a beautiful relationship with each of them. In addition, they did not have to hear anything about me second hand, because if they did they would have ready knew. -age 35

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What is the greatest misconception that you think someone might have about women who are incarcerated?

That we are hopeless and bad people, especially the mothers who are in jail or prison.
It is hard for people to understand we are just as susceptible to addiction and misfortune as men. So there for we are looked down upon and judged worse for the same things.
-age 46

That I do not love or care about my children and that I was a bad, neglectful mother. If a female inmate is married, the public might think that she doesn't care about your husband either. That women are violent. For example, I was locked up with a lady whose husband started beating her when he discovered crack. When she reached out to the police and social service organizations they advised her to take him to mental health. Eventually, his addiction became worst and he became more violent. One evening, it took a turn for the worst and she was charged with a violent crime in the midst of her self-defense. -age 35

That they are bad people. –age 45

I feel the public thinks we are still the same as we were when we committed our crime or crime(s). There are so many barriers that an ex-offender faces every day of there lives and there are days and moments when everything can so hard and frustrating. I am learning that as long as you remain positive in prayer and true to yourself you can succeed in all you do. I know that saying this is easier then living it everyday. However, we all have our own struggles, but it can be even more difficult for an ex-offender. Time can heal and change people. – age36

I feel the biggest misconception is that women who have spent time being incarcerated will continue to make bad choices. I am living proof that women do change, no matter what. Today I have choices. –age 32

Women are not supposed to make mistakes, and put themselves in situations that would cause them to go to jail. –age 47

Monday, March 3, 2008

1 of every 100 U.S. adults behind bars, report says

NEW YORK (AP) -- For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," the report said.
Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are prompting officials in many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft in crime.
"We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime, they want to be a law-and-order state -- but they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."
The report cited Kansas and Texas as states which have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. Their actions include greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than reimprisonment for ex-offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules.
"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.