By Catherine Prigg The ongoing national debate about whether incarcerated individuals deserve the privilege of an education is fueled by strong emotions about how unfair it is to pay for a criminal to go to school when law-abiding citizens work very hard and incur lots of debt to put themselves and their children through school.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies which is located in London in the United Kingdom, at least 10.1 million people throughout our global village are incarcerated. Many of the incarcerated individuals are parents – parents who are disconnected physically and emotionally from their families and communities. In the United States, approximately 2,239,751 individuals are incarcerated and approximately 1.7 million children in the United State have a parent who is incarcerated. It is estimated that on an annual basis, nearly 700,000 individuals are released annually. We are talking about 700,000 souls every year returning to our communities who need healing and humanization.
In the Spring of 2012, I had an opportunity to discuss with Douglass Capogrossi, Ph.D., the President of Akamai University (www.akamaiuniversity.us), who has designed and facilitates parenting programs for Incarcerated Fathers in correctional facilities in Hawaii, the need for the design and implementation of an intensive and mandatory psychological debriefing for individuals who are being released or have been released from correctional facilities throughout our nation. After some thought, I concluded that a need existed for a two-tiered “healing” and “humanization” mandatory program. The first tier of the program will provide mandatory and intensive psychological debriefing for a minimum of six (6) months to one (1) year for all individuals who have been incarcerated — particularly Men. At the same time, the second tier of the program will provide for mandatory and intensive sessions with loved ones and family members of individuals who have been incarcerated. This second tier will provide the loved ones and family members with the necessary psychological and emotional tools they will need to help those they love who have been incarcerated heal spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally; trust again; love again; create a future for themselves; and empower and strengthen the communities that they have returned to. The second tier is necessary to create positive reinforcement and transform the environment to which the formerly incarcerated have returned.
Trust is a big issue. It takes time for me to earn it, and it never happens automatically. They see me as the “police”. They don’t trust anyone, including themselves, and they will tell me that.
Sometimes I acknowledge this to them, because they think I don’t understand them. I’ll say, “I know you probably see me as an old lady who doesn’t know anything, who’s just going to give you trouble. And given a little time, you’ll find out that’s not true.”
I try to encourage them to stick with it for at least one month. “Let’s go a month at a time.” Ninety percent of the time, if they stick with it, they calm down and life in the classroom is fine.