Prisoners of Identity

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

When people are content with their roles, self-defined or other-defined, they live in illusion.  “Who am I?” remains a question never asked, thus tightening the trap of a singular identity.  The idea that they can be more, can achieve more and can influence many, sadly, never crosses their mind.

What if we were able to open people up, en mass, to the idea that in a lifetime they can have more than one identity.  These identities can exist together, and should exist together, because they create a comprehensive human being.  In essence, we tell them that they do not have to forget who they were or leave it behind.  The “old” identity can be brought into the new identity as a guide, a source of wisdom and personal power.

In the case of My Prison Journal Project, we are speaking of the incarcerated population of the United States.  Many of them have lived a life with one identity.  One mental outlook guided them before incarceration, during incarceration and after.   The Journal will provide a platform for all of the honest reflections, inspiring stories, heart wrenching defeats to make a vast impression – inside and outside of the walls.

There are so many efforts organized at intercepting and destroying the “criminal” mindset before incarceration. NPJP is focused squarely on this type of internal change, marrying the mind and the heart AFTER people go behind the walls.  Incarceration is a prime opportunity for unlearning, re-learning and new comprehension.

  • Exposure to stories from people who have “been there, done that” and transformed there lives through the creation of a new identity, that paid homage to the knowledge of the older identity, can be inspire hope.
  • Reading or listening to submissions from people who cannot identify with the experience of incarceration, but still care enough to share articles with them, begins to add color to the invisible.
  • Victims that identify themselves by the crimes against them, can begin to lessen their loads by speaking out and making an entire population think of their victims as human too.  Do unto…

This is a good time to point out that the final Journal will not use the words prisoner, inmate, etc. in its narratives.  The 2 million incarcerated are reminded everyday that they share one name,  one identity and are not individually seen.  This is an intentional identity theft – a stripping of power.  In all NPJP content, except letters and works from the incarcerated themselves, the use of “you” will be required.  The Journal will speak to the readers, aiming at the personal connection.

This journal will be a beautiful collaboration, introducing fresh ways of thinking and new opportunities to regularly connect with millions of people at once.  Again, this is not only for those behind the walls.  Readership among the “free” will be necessary for holistic transformation and for stirring the winds of change.

 

Why take on a project as big as NPJP?

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve forgotten to tell you WHY I am pursuing this project!  There are many reasons, but here is one to much on.

On Monday, November 22, 2010, I had the honor of dropping off a very special person in my life to serve her federal prison sentence.  Thankfully,she is an incarcerated mother pretty her close to home (she has two young children).  She asked me a question that was tremendous, once you really think about the question…

“If those planes had hit a prison full of people on 9/11, do you think there would have been the same reaction?  Would those families get compensation for their loss?”

I know the questions was hypothetical, but at the same time, it really wasn’t.  She wanted me to say that people would still care about this wholly forgotten portion of our society.  And it tore me up inside that I could not give her more than “their friends and family would have cared, but with the way prisons and prisoners are portrayed on the whole, I’m really not sure.”

She was also acknowledging a decrease in her self-esteem, her self-worth and her value to society.  Where and how did she (and the majority of people not intimately associated with a loved one in the prison system) get this acute idea that once convicted they are worth less?  It’s obvious she felt these feelings of stigma and mental incarceration long before she ever physically started her prison term.

Then the question is, how much deeper does this feeling go once the convicted get inside of those walls?

This experience is only one piece, but reflects many very powerful intangible issues associated with conviction, sentencing and incarceration.  Issues that, if not addressed, lead to nothing good.

Addressing these internal issues is the goal of NPJP.

Restorative Justice

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Restorative Justice contains some of the ideas NPJP embraces.  RJ is also something that is ripe to be introduced after punitive justice has been employed – since punitive justice is not going anywhere anytime soon.   A brief breakdown  of RJ to be discussed later.

Punitive Justice asks the questions:

1) Who did it?

2) What laws were broken?

3) What punishment should be given?

 

Restorative justice, on the other hand, asks:

1) Who was affected?

2) What needs to be done to make things right?

3) What do we need to set up so that this doesn’t happen again?

More words and phrases to consider for inclusion in our philosophy

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

  • divergent thinking
  • internalize
  • community building

 

The Value of a Print Publication

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Much of this article, save the emphasis on Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, explains very plainly, the value of achieving the goal of a National Prison Journal in the written form.  There is still value in the old school print form.  The Undercurrent is laid out simply on newsprint and is how I envision the National Prison Journal to be.

The Value of a Print Publication

As a print publication, The Undercurrent can play a unique role in the spread of Objectivism. A small amount of effort on the part of distributors creates a huge impact on the campus environment. The paper injects the name ‘Ayn Rand’ and Objectivist viewpoints into the physical spaces that students frequent, giving Objectivism the familiarity that comes from persistent presence. The paper makes the Objectivist voice a part of the intellectual debate on campus. Further, as a national effort, the project has the potential to outlast individual campus clubs and pool the best talent from schools across the country.

Attracting New Objectivists
The Undercurrent, as a newsletter, is a great medium to expose sympathetic students to the philosophy. Unlike a website, a print publication makes it easy for any student to pick up an issue at the library, a coffee shop, or his dorm lounge, and begin an interest in Objectivism that he otherwise would not have developed. The comprehensive list of club and community events on our last page indicates to the neophyte the scope and progress of the Objectivist movement in America. Students who already have some knowledge of Objectivism are encouraged to learn more.

Ministering to the Needs of Campus Clubs
A multi-campus paper, as the calling card of a broader movement, aids campus clubs in their efforts to promote Objectivism. By distributing The Undercurrent, even the smallest clubs can make a big splash, attracting new members, promoting events, and forging a connection to the larger Objectivist student movement. Besides benefiting from the calendar of campus club events (which includes meetings) printed on our last page, club leaders can stamp their clubs’ contact information on each paper, or enclose a flyer for meetings and events in each copy.

Advancing the Careers of Committed New Intellectuals
Finally, The Undercurrent is hugely beneficial to its staff and writers, the young Objectivist intellectuals who will go on to carry the Objectivist banner into a variety of fields, both academic and professional. It develops and fine-tunes their understanding of Objectivism by involving them in an extensive, self-directed writing and editing process. Although geographically distant, the staff and writers are able to work closely with each other in an inspired joint venture to change the values of the culture.

Bureau of Justice Statistics – This will be a huge undertaking!

December 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

There are several distinct sub-populations of prisoners, inmates, etc. within the entire system.  NPJP aims to reach all of them.  But, then I wonder, would it be better to reach the population of a particular sentence length?

Then I go back to the long conversation with myself, every time I broach this subject of target audience.  “Something we print may be read by someone affect someone as powerfully with a 1 day sentence as it may  with someone serving 100 years.”

So I go back to reaching the entire federal prisoner, state prisoner and county prison population.  What an undertaking!

Now onto the STATS I’m currently looking at:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics maintains several collections to compile data on prisoners and prison facilities using administrative records maintained by the each state’s department of corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and personal interviews with inmates in state and federal prisons… State and federal prisoner populations differ from the jail inmate population in terms of conviction status, offense distribution, and average length of stay. The federal prisoner population is also unique from the state prisoner population, most notably in the offense distribution. Similarly, prison facilities differ from local jail facilities in average size, treatment and programming resources, and crowding, among other characteristics.

Using information gathered from these data series, BJS regularly publishes reports and tables of prison population counts, prisoner characteristics, facility characteristics, capital punishment, deaths, and assorted special topics, such as recidivism, substance abuse and treatment, mental health, education, and incarcerated parents.

Summary findings

Latest statistics:

State and federal prisoners –

State and federal prison facilities –

  • From June 30, 2000, to December 30, 2005, the number of state and federal correctional facilities increased by 9%, from 1,668 to 1,821. The number of inmates held in these facilities increased by 10%, while the number of correctional employees rose 3% (Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005)
  • Private correctional facilities (up 151) accounted for nearly all of the increase in the number of adult correctional facilities between June 30, 2000, and December 30, 2005. Most of the growth in private correctional facilities during this period was in facilities under contract to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 2005.)

This information brings up much more to be considered:

  • The fluidity of the population – how many issues will be sent to a facility.  People are released, apprehended, voluntarily surrendering and escaping everyday.
  • The sharing tendency among the prison population – often magazines and papers pass through multiple prisoner hands, prison units and sometimes sit in a “public” library.  These leave the opportunity to send in fewer issues with the belief that they will be circulated via a natural process.
  • 1.6 million is a lot of people. The race, class and education distribution can vary greatly. How do we develop content that will appeal across these lines?  Do we want a journal that does that or one that does not fear to address particulate issues that may endanger it in some institutions? An example is found here: Banned in Texas Prisons:  Books…
  • Nearly 2,000 correctional facilities with a mixture of government and private management could also prove an interesting undertaking.  But I’m wondering if as a private journal with the intention to educate the populations will ease many barriers that have fallen other papers that purposely feed the divisions the current penal thought culture.
  • NON PRISON POPULATION. It is equally as important to reach these people.  They are the lawyers defending and prosecuting.  They are the wives, husbands, partners, children and other family members left behind.  They are the judges sentencing.  They are the politicians advocating both sides.  They are the researchers dreaming of more access to a broader spectrum the prison population.  They are the academics that write on about the incarcerated, who would be able to write TO them.  They are the ex-offenders that can ease the anxiety of not knowing what re-entry will really bring by sharing their experiences on a vast scale.

NPJP is about bringing the marvelous efforts of the many individuals and organizations out there helping a few at a time to the entire population.  So often we hear stories about people we wish we could have reached out to, with a message that would have really helped them.  NPJP’s goal of a national prison journal is like being in front of an anxious audience of 2 million strong waiting to hear your message.

Some things to consider

December 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

Writing a vision and a mission are difficult for someone that struggles with few words.  But, in my research and vast reading for school and otherwise, i stumble upon things that sound powerful and convey what NPJP is about.  I’ll begin listing them in this section of the blog and eventually, with help, a clear vision and mission will be formed.

Today I found:

  • empower
  • convergence
  • diversity
  • embrace difference
  • broader experience
  • eradicate
  • recontextualizing
  • connection
  • grassroots
  • reinterpreting
  • awareness
  • perspective
  • misunderstand
  • isolationism
  • vantage point
  • marginality
  • hunger for knowledge

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Mission category at My National Prison Journal Project.

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