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Archive for the tag “education”

Finding My Purpose In Prison by Eric Burnham

We’re pleased to introduce a new contributor to our blog, Eric Burnham.

My name is Eric Shawn Burnham. I was born April 21, 1979 in Las Vegas, Nevada, but I grew up in grad-speech-picOregon and California mostly. I came to prison in 2001, and I’ve been at EOCI ever since. 

When I was 21-years-old, I took another man’s life while intoxicated, and I was given a 25-to-life sentence in prison. I deeply regret the actions of my youth, and I’m ashamed of the lifestyle I was living that led to the death of another human being at my hand. But as much as I want to, I cannot change the past. I can use it to shape my future, however.

In 2003 I earned my G.E.D., and in September 2015 I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Counseling, graduating Summa Cum Laude (3.98 GPA). By mid-2017 I will have earned my Master’s degree in Counseling. In addition, I’m accumulating CEUs (Continued Education Units) in order to meet the requirements for state certification as an alcohol & drug counselor. (I’ll still need 4000 hrs. of clinically-supervised counseling after I’m released.) My education is important to me because I’m dedicated to helping young people avoid making the same mistakes I made.

I work as a tutor in the G.E.D. program here at the prison, and I love my job. It doesn’t pay well, but it gives me the opportunity to help young people and practice my skills.

Personal growth, to me, means becoming the person I was designed to be. I’m not too sure where the balance is found between nature and nurture in the formation of my spirit as a unique human being. I do know, however, that I’m just one incarcerated man trying to overcome my past mistakes and make a positive impact on this crazy world. I kind of think that’s what life is all about: taking the bad and using it for good.


Finding My Purpose in Prison by Eric Burnham

Can the prison experience be good? Inmates are crammed into small cells or overcrowded dorms like sardines, surrounded by some of the most difficult personalities on the planet, and ordered around by self-righteous, often power hungry and abusive authority figures. The cramped living quarters are physically uncomfortable. The lack of privacy is emotionally exhausting, and the empty nature of prison friendships is socially unfulfilling. The boredom is mind-numbing. The loneliness can be crushing, and the inflexible power structure imbeds anger into one’s personality. The incarcerated person is completely isolated from loved ones — few things hurt more than knowing your friends and family have moved on without you. Perhaps the hardest pill to swallow, however, is knowing this is all self-inflicted. After all, if you admit it’s your own fault, you are then responsible.

Read more…

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AI Quarterly E-Newsletter: Summer 2016

Hot off the presses, the AI Newsletter Summer 2016.

This publication was created for you – family members, friends, and advocates of prisoners. In each issue you will find useful resources for and from inmates; artwork, stories, and recommendations from both adopters and adoptees; and news from the staff. Don’t forget to print and send a copy to your inmate loved one. We do hope you enjoy it.
See the archive page for previous issues.

Page one is shown below, click the link above for the PDF file with clickable links.

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Letters From Prison: Integrate Now!

zshakur for blog

We’re working to match up veterans (or active duty) on the outside, with veterans on the inside. This comes from Zion, a veteran serving time in a California prison.


 

I am a US Navy veteran and would like to see a program specifically geared towards ex-servicemen that would place us in a separate environment from mainline incorrigibles that would focus on rehabilitation, avoiding prison mentalities and re-entry preparation. Service people have a  life-long fraternity, an unbreakable bond that aids in encouragement to change. Many county jail programs are now offered for vets. I think it would really go a very long way in helping those of us in the state penitentiary.

Most of the programs in my prison are inmate-run, thus the quality is generally nil. Programs facilitated by free-staff and experts from the outside provide much better curriculum and offer greater hope.

College programs at the Bachelor’s or Graduate level would be of greatest help in making this time productive. Not every inmate fits into a “vocational training” category. Higher education would increase my chance of staying out of prison, guaranteed!

Lastly, but of incredible importance would be the ending of forced segregation in state prisons. Housing white inmates only with other whites, blacks only with blacks, etc., is a terrible holdover from bygone days that only serves to make divisions deeper, prison more dangerous, and re-adjustment to the real world that much more difficult. It effectively stifles the social development of every inmate subjected to it. INTEGRATE NOW!

Letters From Prison: Mercy Precedes Healing

 

Michael in StarDem

Photo by Richard Polk. Michael F., escorted by two guards from Patuxent Institute, arrives at the courthouse in Talbot County, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005

Submission to: The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

Pride precedes destruction, and so every teenager dwells on the doorstep of disaster. I lived it; I was 16, an honor-roll student with loving parents and no criminal record. But i had serious emotional problems – maybe even PTSD – from abuse I suffered as a boy, and I refused to face it. I told myself i was fine, indestructible. I was wrong.

In February of 1996, I killed my mom, step-dad, and younger brother. I didn’t know I was going to hurt anyone. I didn’t want to, but I did – because I denied my problems. Because I thought I was infallible, I wrecked my community, devastated my family, and killed the three best people I have ever known.

I was saved by acceptance into a prison that offered both college and therapy. Through five years of therapy sessions, I learned about how stunted my emotions were and how to open up to people in healthy ways. In college I not only got an education, I was also exposed to new ideas and to our society’s many needs for community service. From that, I gained direction in my life.

Now, I have committed myself to two missions – starting the Susan Rae Foundation, a charity I’ll name in honor of my mom, and working to develop better community systems for recognizing and assisting at-risk youth. I want other kids in danger to get help before it’s too late. I mean “too late” for everyone; not only the victims, but the kids themselves.

Right now, a kid who commits a crime like mine is done in life. I have 90 years. Many similar kids get life without parole or huge numbers like mine. I’m an author, I serve as a facilitator in the Alternatives to Violence Project here at the prison, and I’m always seeking opportunities to reach out to and aid the community. I do it because it feels good to help, and for my mom. I don’t do it because I hope it will pay dividends; when it looks like you’ll never leave prison, you need hope, but not too much of it.

That is my wish for all the children who are entering prison – hope. Coming here at 13-17 years old and knowing you’ll never see the world again is crushing. Young people who might be saved by a realistic sentence and education are lost to drugs, gangs, and despair because they see nothing in front of them. Pride precedes destruction, but mercy precedes healing. If we save our children, even when they err, we save ourselves as well.

I personally know two men who received life sentences as teens, but they both got an education and therapy, and received sentence relief in court. One now owns to software firms and the other appeared in Forbes magazine. How many more stories like this could there be? We will only know if we show our children mercy.

Letters From Prison: Frequent Unexplained Deaths

From a prisoner in Sing Sing facility in New York.

ELeary

Q: Please indicate issues you would like to see addressed in your facility.

A:  Actually, everything, because management could not run a hot dog cart for a week without going out of business. Clearly they want recidivism. Keep the cells full – just like a hotel needs its rooms full. Sing Sing may be best prison in NYS, but very badly run.

Main problems are health care with ZERO education, prevention, healthy diet, age appropriate care or exercise for older men. We have frequent unexplained deaths of fairly young men. Our pharmacy is very prone to errors. After our Nurse Administrator was “fired” and arrested, they gave her another job in mental health which is technically a different agency. She kept her parking spot! Does it sound like a certain church? Educational opportunities are here only for those who fit profile of 20-25 years, above average IQ, interested in college, and no mental illness. That is about 150 out of 1600. My GED classroom has 20 seats. About 1000+ men need a GED. Obviously, this “does not compute.”

Roughly half the population has substantial mental health problems (on psych meds, zero impulse control, talking to themselves, self-medication / drug abuse, very low intelligence, illiterate in any language). Treatment of mentally ill is overmedication, zero exercise, poor diet and isolation.

For those of us who came to prison with skills and education, the problem is no opportunity to use or maintain skills. Our library is okay for fiction, otherwise zilch. Very old, e.g., vacuum tube electronics and a book on Fortran IV (might be valuable to a collector?). Car books have carburetors and crank windows.

Drug problems are major. Head in the sand about problem because “they” don’t want to explain how drugs can get through a forty-foot-high concrete wall. (Staff, of course.) Only control point is poverty of most prisoners.

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