We can do better. When it comes to helping people out of prison, we can do a whole lot better.
This country imprisons a lot of people, releases most of them and the majority go back. Our criminal justice system is expensive. It’s discriminatory. And it doesn’t work. But that ‘aint rocket science. A quick google search and you know we’ve got a major problem.
I’m not writing this blog to talk about the problem. I’m writing this blog because I have ideas on how we can fix it.
But I’m not writing this blog to talk about the problem. Talking about the problem is the easy part. Those stories and statistics and costs are documented every which way to Sunday. Nope, I’m writing this blog because I have ideas on how we can fix it. Not the whole enchilada. I’m not tackling the big boy of prison reform here. Just the reentry piece.
Trust me, that’s enough.
Most people know we have a recidivism problem, but they have no idea what to do about it.
Even people in charge of criminal justice policy and programs. How do I know? Because we’ve made almost zero progress in fixing the problem. That’s how I know. If we knew what to do, we’d be doing it and it’d be working. Again, not rocket science.
You know what is closer to rocket science though? Understanding what 40 years of research says works to reduce recidivism and how to apply it in real-world programming to change criminal behavior. I know how to do that.
Before I straight up call myself a rocket scientist, it’s probably a good time to come clean on a few things.
I don’t have an advanced degree.
I dropped out of my master’s program.
I don’t work for a respected think tank.
I’ve never been published or featured on NPR or interviewed for the NY Times.
Tim Ferriss hasn’t had me on his podcast…yet. (Tim – I’m ready when you are.)
To be honest, I don’t know much about most things. I barely understand how to use the remote to turn on my TV. I get befuddled regularly by simple instructions…turn the knob up and out…? I open the cereal box from the bottom and my printer is normally in a state of malfunction. Opening doors can be tricky for me sometimes.
But recidivism? That’s my jam. I know a lot about that.
I’ve covered a lot of miles in the trenches of prisoner reentry.
I started and run a reentry nonprofit in Charleston, SC called Turning Leaf to help men after incarceration.
Over the last nine years I grinded that organization from nothing into the best. Not the biggest. Just the best. I dedicate all my free time to knowing everything I can about what it takes to reduce recidivism. Saturday nights and 5am’s and saying no to things that sound like fun. And then I apply it. From knowledge to application and back again. Turning Leaf is the result of that rinse and repeat cycle.
I don’t have all the answers. Heck, I don’t even have most of the answers. But I have some of them and that’s pretty good considering the U.S. spends $80 billion a year on sending people to prison. That’s 80 Billion.
I’m writing this blog to share what I know with you.
I bought a book on how to blog. The authors explained that using Google Keywords was critical. Find out what people are searching for related to your topic. Incorporate the popular words into snazzy titles and sprinkle them throughout the post. Direct your content to scratch an itch that people have based on their google search behavior.
Cool, I can do that.
Except that every word related to recidivism was a low search word. Not exactly what I had hoped for. Apparently Saturday night recidivism research isn’t as popular as one might think.
Doubts crept in. Will anyone read this?
Maybe and maybe not, but I decided to write it anyway.
And all that would be true.
But if I get honest, really honest, the reason I’m writing this blog is for me.
I’m tired of having things to say and no one to say them to. I’m tired of looking around for kindred souls. I’m tired of feeling isolated and frustrated and like I have so much to give but don’t know how to give it or who to give it to. I have ideas and I want to share them.
This blog is my hat in the ring, my straw on the camel’s back, my horse on the battlefield. It’s not a lot, but it’s what I have.
I like to think that Google Keywords will catch up to me. My gut tells me it will.
I love quotes. They motivate me and connect me to other people’s visions and triumphs and heartaches and wisdom. Sometimes they pop up in my thoughts like a memory. Sometimes they walk beside me like a friend. One of my favorites is attributed to Victor Hugo.
“Not even an army can stop an idea whose time has come.”
What makes an idea time to come? Likely more than any of us can imagine. Definitely more than I can imagine. We’ve all heard of the tipping point, and with prison reform, I think we’re there.
So, with that said, let’s get to work.