Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4)

My040 Decisions Decisions
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I have a decision to make; by the time this posting hits the blog I will have made my decision but I think posting it will help others to see at least one program in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) that is helpful.

As you all know, I’m on a spiritual journey as I serve my time. This time has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my faith in a way I would not have in the world. And now I have an opportunity to take the next step in my spiritual maturity.

The BOP offers a program called “Life Connections” wherein you have the time and assignments helping you grow in your individual faith, while also learning about other faiths. It’s an 18 month program offered at two institutions, neither of which is the one I’m in currently.

So why am I interested? Beyond growth in my faith, I feel that having a broader understanding of other religions will aid me in accepting others and not being as judgmental as I am. Also, I see my faith as foundational in my relationships with others. Finally, I see my faith and the lessons from this program as tools in my efforts, once out of prison, to avoid recidivism.

I’ve been given the application to fill out, which I have done. There’s a chance I will not  be accepted. But first I have to decide if I’ll turn in my application.

So why am I hesitating if my faith is so important to me?

Worldly concerns and fears.

I have carved out a life where I am. I have a bunk I like, have good cellmates, have friends and a routine I follow weekly. It’s taken me two years to achieve what I have and now I’m contemplating giving it all up.

Additionally, I’d have to go through the BOP’s transfer process which is VERY frustrating and I’m fearful for my safety in the transfer. In the process every level of security and crime is placed together in general population thus exposing people like myself to violent offenders. The way it works is every prisoner being moved is taken to Oklahoma City and warehoused there until an opening in their destination becomes available and the prisoner is then flown to their destination. It seems wasteful and unnecessary but it’s the government, so to be expected.

Once in my new location I have to worry about a new cellmate, developing new friendships and adjusting to a new prison’s operations.

Essentially, I’m giving up my comfortable existence now for an uncomfortable period at the new location. I know the discomfort is transient but it’s hard to put into words the stress and tension experienced in prison when trying to carve out an existence; especially for a sex offender.

So what to do? I feel a pull to make the move which is countered with my worldly fears and concerns. I’m about 80% certain I’ll apply, it will take some assurance within myself and through others like my wife. She’s supportive of whatever decision I make but has been instrumental in helping me to see the benefits of making the move.

There’s also a personal gain in making the move: I’d be closer to my wife, children and mother which is positive in terms of visitation. On the other hand, I’d be farther from my sister whom I love dearly and whose visits I value greatly. Right now I’m halfway between my wife and my sister and this move would add about three hours onto my sister’s drive when she came to visit.

I’ll let you know my decision in my next posting. Until then be well, be happy,  be YOU!

~jdoe

The 2012 Life Connections BOP Memorandum

Life On The Inside – Part 3

My040 Education
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Education

The last question posed by my friends about life on the inside regarded educational opportunities.  Again, as with my other entries in this series I can only relay what is true of this institution.

The only real educational opportunity is to support those pursuing their GED.  There is a set of classes, taught by other inmates, established for those who never graduated high school.  While there are teachers on staff, all of the classes are taught by inmates.  I don’t know how these particular inmates are chosen to be the actual teachers, but they do a fairly effective job.  I’ve been told that it’s Federal law that those who do not have their high school diploma or their GED certificate must enroll in the GED program.  However, there are many people without their diploma/certificate that are not.  How or why this is true I do not know.

The next level of ‘education’ are the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) classes.  Again, these are classes taught by inmates and cover a wide variety of topics.  The topics are determined by what the inmate wants to teach.  Some examples of course topics include: Paranormal Activities; Real Estate; Stock Market; and Commercial Driver’s License.  Some, like Paranormal Activities have no real educational benefits for life after prison.  Also, the ACE classes go don’t earn the students any college credits so taking the ACE classes is really a measure of an inmate’s desire to do something with their time and drive to do something that may glean some level of information.  I took the Small Business course and was pleased with the class.  The inmate teaching it was interesting to listen to and obviously knew what he was teaching.  I’ve also taken the stock market class and was very disappointed.  While the teacher knew the info, he did not teach a broad overview of the market, instead he focused on one small aspect of trading and we spent the entire sixteen sessions on that one thing.  In my opinion, it was a failure.

For those like me, with a college degree there is no real further educational opportunity offered by the institutional.  Also, they are not helpful if an inmate wants to pursue correspondence courses.  It is entirely up to the inmate to find any such coursework.  They do not allow inmates to take these outside courses if the course requires access to the internet, video tapes or CDs.  All work must be exclusively pen and paper.  This severely limits what’s available and for the most part limits someone’s achieving a degree.  I was hoping to get a two year degree but gave that up.  While not impossible to get a degree, it would be excessively difficult.

Overall, how do I assess education inside?  Beyond the GED program I’d say they’re not serious or interested in helping the inmate.  It’s sad as they create a wasteland for those truly trying to better themselves.

And what is worse is that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has sponsored studies done showing that the higher a person’s educational level the less likely they are to recidivate!  The numbers clearly support that education is directly tired to keeping offenders from returning to prison.  It would benefit society if the BOP were serious about education.  It’s one more example of how there’s essentially no focus on rehabilitation for the inmate.

If you have any questions about life on the inside, please feel free to ask.

~jdoe