BPI – Bard Prison Initiative

Several of my fellow Citrus County residents advocate the theory that educating incarcerated men and women only results in smarter criminals upon release from prison. The money spent, they say, could be put to better use in other programs and government projects. However, statistics following release from prison support the advantages of providing educational opportunities to inmates. We must recognize the need of communities to welcome back those who have served the time for the crime and honor their rights as restored citizens to pursue that which provides a fulfilling life. A recent amendment to our state’s Constitution supported the overwhelming will of Florida voters to reinstate voting rights to those who have served their sentences, yet the Legislature led by partisan politics is attempting to circumvent this amendment.

I am a strong advocate for education for everyone.   A high school diploma is not enough. Only continued technical or college instruction will provide the tools necessary to gainful employment and competitive skills in the labor market. The failure to provide an affordable education to all young people has resulted in stunning statistics showing the United States trailing other industrialized nations of the world in areas of societal stability, happiness, and productivity. We, the wealthiest nation on earth, cannot provide for our citizens a healthy lifestyle free from the fear of unemployment or neighborhood violence. Our nation is depleting the future of its young people due to its unwillingness to spend a mere modicum of its wealth on education enabling economic advancement for the socially or economically disadvantaged.

That would include prison inmates who have made mistakes, erred on judgement. Due to an unfair for-profit prison system, the USA has highest rate of incarcerated men and women in the industrialized world. A controversial approach has been undertaken by the state of New York, a state which has 53,400 inmates. BPI (Bard Prison Initiative) has 300 of these inmates enrolled in a program funded by private donations to provide college degrees. Of its graduates only 4% return to prison after parole compared to a 50% rate overall. Opponents cite the expense to taxpayers, but this is not government-funded. Opponents claim educated convicts will become smarter criminals; this also is proving to be untrue. PBS has aired a 4 part documentary, ‘COLLEGE BEHIND BARS”, addressing a novel solution. We have a choice – spend the money on education or spend the money on prisons.

 WASHINGTON POST

Calling out racism

Washington Post

SPLC

The above two links were part of my morning read today.  Although I have made a commitment to disengage from the name-calling and the finger-pointing, my conscience will not allow me to disengage from the issues which are controlling America’s destiny.  It is too important for our children and grandchildren for us to dismiss these issues as a passing occurrence, a blip in history.

The Washington Post article addresses the inevitable conversation with one who is racist and initiates a racial rant or an inappropriate racial joke.  (Yes, I still believe in politically correct speech, it is not a sign of weakness).  It happens to all of us at some point in our interactions with the world and more often than not, unless we are prepared to speak out, we will defer any comment or correction.  Usually, afterwards, we feel extremely uncomfortable with our decision to remain quiet.

For me, the strategy is to tune in to key words in the conversation which will engage my offense strategy.  When slurs or demeaning comments are made, I find that simply and CALMLY offering an alternative opinion is usually enough to change the conversation to the weather or the price of beef anuses on the stock exchange.  If the offender becomes agitated or threatening, plan B, escape, becomes the action of choice.  Physical confrontation never resolves any issues.  Please refer to the POST article for further pointers.  We cannot remain silent when racism occurs.

The SPLC article entitled “AMERICA, THE TRUMPED” details how the current Administration has been whittling away at our civil rights.  People of color, LGBT, physically disabled, people of faiths other than Christianity are being threatened by the powers which control our government from the Executive Branch to the Legislature to the Supreme Court.  This dismantling of rights which have been gained by blood and tears throughout America’s history often occurs behind the smoke screen of bluster and bullying which have become hallmarks of Trump’s presidency.   We must remain informed and prepared to take action in the elections of 2018 and 2020.

As I have stated, it is not my desire to dip into the cesspool which we call contemporary politics, but every voice which speaks out for civility, tolerance, and equanimity will be heard by the most Sovereign of all powers.  May we find that voice and use it constructively.clapping