With only months remaining on a 10-year sentence for drug trafficking, 38-year-old Justin Mack says he wants something big to come out of his time behind bars.
My story, and others celebrated during April, provide support for a wholesale rethinking of America’s approach to extreme prison sentences. Incarceration must be based on acceptance of responsibility and taking steps to improve your life, not simply to punish.
It was a different type of commencement ceremony Tuesday–in an unlikely place–the Oneida County Jail, and the graduates were inmates.
Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg recently filed Senate Bill 642, the “Florida First Step Act,” which would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimums for drug trafficking charges. It also calls for allowing inmates to earn more time off of their sentences if they earn a diploma or participate in an entrepreneurship program.
I met Haines the first time I visited San Quentin State Prison. He has worked in various editing positions at San Quentin News, one of the country’s only prison newspapers, for almost a decade. There, he helps produce a 20-page paper every month with only a few computers and no Internet access. The results reach 30,000 incarcerated and free subscribers across the United States.
A growing demand for clean energy employees led the Minnesota Department of Corrections earlier this year to offer a solar installation course to two classes of inmates prior to their release dates. Held last spring and summer, 30 men took the 48-hour solar installer training course from instructors working with the Wisconsin-based Midwest Renewable Energy Association. The nonprofit used the same course it offers members of the general public.
The program is testing whether participation in educational opportunities increases after access to financial aid for incarcerated adults is expanded. It is also examining how waiving the restriction on providing Pell Grants to individuals incarcerated in federal or state prisons influences academic and life outcomes.
Pennsylvania has a new idea to help lower recidivism rates. Two state agencies have launched a pilot program that teaches financial literacy to inmates at state prisons through a course on credit and banking basics. The class is a collaboration between the Department of Corrections and the Department of Banking and Securities.
We have found that inmates too often do not have fundamental knowledge, skills or experience to face the complex financial realities of life. Upon reentry into society, too often they repeat poor financial decisions that helped put them on the path to incarceration.
The Iron Workers Local 751 is working with the Fairbanks Correctional Facility teaching basic iron working skills. The 40 foot trailer is mobile, which gives the union an opportunity to reach a specific group of people with resources on hand.