Image courtesy theguardian.comBy Christopher Zoukis  

No one needs convincing that prison is probably a lonely place, filled with hostile guards and dangerous inmates.  At least from the Hollywood point of view, the only comfort for most convicts is a letter from home or the occasional visit from family or friends.  Sadly, though, a new study indicates that many prisoners do not even have the solace of visitors from outside, and that the average inmate receives only two visits during their entire length of incarceration.

Prisoner Visitation’s Connection to Recidivism

Consistent with previous research, a recent study published in the journal Crime and Delinquency indicates that Florida prisoners who regularly receive visitors do better during their stay behind bars and upon re-entry into the community than those who don’t receive frequent visits.  “Visitation helps individuals maintain social ties during imprisonment, which, in turn, can improve inmate behavior and reduce recidivism,” the authors of the study wrote.  “Not being visited can result in collateral consequences and inequality in punishment.”

Those Who Receive Few to No Visits

Necessarily implied by the study’s findings is that many prisoners receive no visitors at all.  Those who are older, black, or have been incarcerated numerous time had the fewest visitors.  White, Latino, younger, and newly incarcerated inmates received the most visits.  Economic status and the length of a prisoner’s sentence did not factor into the likelihood of visitors.

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By Diane A. Sears   The World needs Men. Men are the key architects of our bridge to the future. And our children are our future – our bridge to the future. Yes, Men are necessary. Everyday in their usual unassuming way, Men offer each of us valuable life lessons. Life lessons about honor – that one’s word should be one’s bond. If you…

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Springing retrievers and puppies are not the first thing one envisions when thinking about prison. A Texas women’s prison is reforming inmates and lowering recidivism rates as disabled veterans receive specially trained dogs to assist their every need. This is all taking place because a retired rural mail carrier had a desire to train dogs…

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By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy prisonprofiler.com

The women of Topeka Correctional Facility in Topeka, Kansas are an interesting sort.  While some sweep, mop, wipe down tables, or engage in wholesale janitorial work assignments, a special group of 8 female prisoners make dentures for low-income patients through an innovative partnership between the Kansas Department of Corrections, Kansas Correctional Industries, and the Southeast Kansas Education Center at Greenbush.

Founded by the Delta Dental of Kansas Foundation, in 2007, the dental technician program employs 8 female prisoners at Topeka Correctional Facility, all of which were specially selected by prison administrators for program placement.  These female prisoners make dentures for Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU) patients.

The process is complex.  The KAMU clinics make an impression of the patient’s mouth.  This impression is then sent to the female prisoner dental technicians at the Topeka Correctional Facility, who create a wax and plastic teeth mold of the impression.  This temporary mold is then returned to the KAMU clinic to ensure that the fit is perfect.  Once approval is granted, the mold is sent back to the prison, where the female prisoner dental technicians use plastic teeth and hard acrylic to craft the final set of dentures.  These are then delivered back to the KAMU clinic for delivery to the eagerly awaiting patients.

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By Christopher Zoukis   Image courtesy www.nbbd.com

Even in the darkest of nights the moon gives off a faint glow.  The same is true of the world of American corrections, even in Florida’s private prison paradise.  This light — and the hope it brings — comes from an unlikely source with an unusual mission: Open Books’ Prison Book Project.

The Prison Book Project is a volunteer books-to-prisoners operation.  Founded in the year 2000, when it used to be based in the now closed Subterranean Books (Pensacola, Florida), it is presently hosted at Pensacola’s Open Books.

Open Books, a nonprofit bookstore located at 1040 N. Guillemard Street in Pensacola, Florida is open every day from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  Its volunteer operators can be found selling discounted books to the public.  But on Wednesdays, the real transformational magic is breathed into being.

Every Wednesday, the Prison Book Project volunteers take over and get to work.  They open stacks of mail from prisoners across the state of Florida.  While they can handle around 40 requests each week (due to mailing expenses), they receive around 70 requests a week from prisoners seeking books, an outlet to something greater than their prison cells.  The backlog of hundreds of requests shows the value, importance, and respect prisoners have for this project.

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker  Image courtesy kpho.com

Maricopa County Sherriff Arpaio has a new approach up his sleeve for solving cold cases.  

Who could be better to help solve cold cases than an inmate? After all, they have plenty of time on their hands and plenty of available card playing buddies.

Silent Witness is a resourceful program that uses playing cards to publicize cold cases. The cards reveal pictures and details about 52 local unsolved cases.

Phoenix Police and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office are joining forces with Silent Witness handing out 3,000 of these decks to Maricopa County inmates in hopes that some of the prisoners will have helpful information that will help solve some of these cold cases. 

One good hand in the right inmate’s hands could be a lucky draw for a grieving family.

The program is graciously funded by an anonymous individual who was fortunate enough to have their case solved by a Silent Witness card that was dealt to the right hand.

Silent Witness, Sgt. Darren Burch pronounces how each card has significant importance.  

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By Christopher Zoukis

As its website attests, the Lionheart Foundation “provides education, rehabilitation and reentry support to incarcerated men and women in prisons and jails throughout the United States.”  Their prison-based initiatives are one of the cornerstones of this foundation, but Lionheart also supports youth-at-risk programming as well as programming for teen parents.  The hub of the program for prisoners is based upon the book The Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom and is the basis for many teaching and mentoring initiatives for in-prison populations.  Image courtesy linkedin.com

Reduce Recidivism and Change Lives for the Better

The Lionheart Foundation is not the only prison education initiative in the country.  However, it is unusual because it is not focused merely on one region as many state-based initiatives are and because it is so closely connected to a book–a manual for a better life as some have dubbed it.  According to the foundation, hundreds of prison teachers, volunteers, and chaplains rely on Houses of Healing to help inmates focus on positive change and to embrace new opportunities like education.  The book is at the heart of the foundation’s National Emotional Literacy Project for Prisoners and there are now more than 130,000 copies in circulation.

What Does the Lionheart Foundation Do?

Though the foundation greatly promotes its initiatives designed for “emotional intelligence,” it also conducts education workshops for the public to better inform people about the needs of prisoners and the need for communities to help support their reentry and rehabilitation.  All of its programming is designed for at-risk populations like prison populations, juvenile delinquent centers, and teen parents in at-risk neighborhoods.  Along with promoting the values of justice, excellence, competence, and generosity, the Lionheart Foundation is also involved with a major research project supported by The National Institutes for Health.

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By ChristopherZoukis

The aim of California’s Prison Education Project (PEP) is to reduce recidivism and encourage partnerships between the state’s colleges and prisons.  Currently, PEP involves six prisons and about 2,000 prison inmates–both men and women.  The program is delivered via 2,000 volunteers from regional colleges and community colleges.  This volunteer-based outreach program is then complemented by the more formal Reintegration Academy that is a multi-part program that sees approved inmates enrolled in community college so they may attend courses upon their release.  This multi-faceted project is set to expand; its goals are to reduce California’s rate of recidivism by at least 1% and save the state thousands of dollars in costs associated with the care and housing of prisoners.  Image courtesy www.prisoneducationproject.org

The Prisons

Currently PEP is offered to inmates at the “California Institution for Men, the California Institution for Women, the California Rehabilitation Center, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility, and the Old Folsom Men & Women’s facilities.”  The program asserts that there are now 300 volunteers associated with the project.  Their role is to “expand” the educational opportunities available for prisons.  In that light, this program is designed to complement other prison-based initiatives such as the Reintegration Academy which is also featured on the PEP website.

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Most people can remember when Christmas meant getting up at dawn and running to the Christmas tree in our pajamas excited to see what was under the tree and in the stockings hanging on the mantel.

For children who have parents who are incarcerated, Christmas is not filled with visions of lollipops dancing in their heads; in fact, December 25th is just another day without their parents and can be even more depressing than any other day of the yeImage courtesy www.oklahomawomenscoalition.org ar.

Children who are missing a parent because they are spending time in prison are not only left to deal with loneliness they feel from having an absent parent, but also face ridicule and stereotyping. Many of these lost children are told they are going to turn out just like their parent that is incarcerated.

New Hope, a program created about 20 years ago by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma is taking a more positive approach for addressing the needs of children who have at least one parent in prison. Instead of reminding children they have no chance of turning out to be productive citizens, they are encouraged to pursue an education. The children are led down a different path than their parents followed.

On Dec. 21, New Hope hosted a Christmas party at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. Children whose holidays would have been filled with sadness gathered around a table arranged with decorative trimmings and assembled their own wreaths.   

The church hall was filled with fun, playfulness, and laughter.  Toys, gifts, and food were plentiful. The kids were entertained by making their own reindeer and treats.

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From Diane A. Sears  Image courtesy ncfm.org
On 24 October 2012, Ms. Geneuvive Twala, the Botswana Coordinator for International Men’s Day conceived  the “2012-2022 International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan” which is designed to help quantify the results which should be achieved during a 10 year period to eradicate key challenges that prevent Men and Boys from living fulfilled, happy, healthy and long lives.   The idea is to determine by what amount one would like to, for example, reduce the school drop out rate for boys and adolescent young males through International Men’s Day.  As a further example, Ms. Twala decided that by 2022,  a 50% reduction in the number of boys and adolescent young males who drop out of school should be achieved.  I was so impressed with Ms. Twala’s conception, that I immediately adopted this plan for the United States.
 
The USA 2012-2022 International Men’s Day Ten Year Plan will target for resolution the following challenges which prevent Men and Boys from living fulfilled, happy, and long lives:
 
1.  Education
 
– Reduce school drop out rate for boys and young adolescent males by 50%.
– Increase literacy rate for boys and young adolescent males by 80%
– Explore existing models that effectively address school dropout and literacy issues to determine if they can be implemented nationally
– Design and implementation of tutoring and mentoring programs
 
 
2.  Mass Incarceration, Re-Entry, and Reintegration
 
Mass Incarceration:  Identify causative factors attributing to rising number of boys, young adolescent males, and Men being incarcerated (e.g., poverty, lack of positive male role models, lack of mentoring, lack of education, dysfunctional families, etc.)
Mass Incarceration:  Explore existing models that eradicate causative factors attributable to placing boys, young adolescent males, and Men on the path to prison
Re-Entry/Reintegration:  Mandatory one (1) year minimum two-tiered “psychological debriefing program” for formerly incarcerated and their families and loved ones to (a) provide formerly incarcerated with psychological and emotional tools needed to resolve self-esteem, anger management, and decision making issues; and (b) provide family members and loved with emotional and psychological tools to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully navigate the arduous journey to healing, redemption, and reintegration.
Re-Entry/Reintegration:  Mandatory Mentoring Program which matches up a newly released incarcerated individual with a formerly incarcerated individual who has a track record of successfully reintegrating into society and family life for one-on-one mentoring.
Re-Entry/Reintegration:  Paid Apprenticeship Programs in all industries which lead, after completion of apprenticeship,  to full-time employment at companies offering the apprentice programs to formerly incarcerated individuals.
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