Twenty years ago, I didn’t give inmates a second thought. I lived 25 minutes from a medium security prison and it never entered my mind to have any type of interaction with an inmate. I had what is probably a very common attitude toward those in prison, "They made their bed, let them sleep in it. And why should taxpayers even consider paying for air conditioning, or carpet or worry about the comfort of inmates"? When once I heard that jobs were in short supply, I said to myself, “Why don’t they pass out shovels and have them dig holes one day and fill them in the next”?
Twenty years ago, I worked as a director of operations for a health care system. My graduate degree is in health administration and I had worked in that field for 20 years. Then, one day a friend of mine stopped by to lend me a video tape. It came from a prison reentry program in Texas that was coming to Iowa. My friend was impressed and thought that I might be interested in volunteering. Long story short, I took the volunteer training and began as a volunteer in a prison at Newton, Iowa. But my volunteer status was short lived.
Twenty years ago, I quit a very successful health care career to work with men in prison.
And now, I no longer think about inmates as I did then. Aren’t there evil, wicked people in prison who should never be released? Yes. But realize 95% of all people in prison will be released and will be someone’s neighbor. Do people have to come out of prison the same way they went into prison? No. Contrary to some beliefs, people in prison can and do change. I have had thousands of inmates in my classes and have mentored many men as they reentered the community. Would you like to know my biggest lesson learned over the past 12 years?
Here it is: there are many people in prison who have an unbelievable capacity to become productive citizens of our communities. And some have become my closest friends.
Why the web page? Because families left behind find it very difficult to access good information. They don’t know where to look or it just doesn’t exist. I hope to provide resources to help those dealing with the incarceration of a friend or loved one. The incarceration process is very difficult, so is the reentry back into the home and community from a stint in prison.
(Interested in how I built this web site? Click here to learn about SiteSell.)