Sunday, September 16, 2012

The real and [raw] reality of what goes on inside our nations prisons>>> focusing on a subject that many simply do not wish to acknowledge...>>>>>>The Sexual Violation of our prisoners:

Many men and women in Texas experience sexual abuse at the hands of officer and other prisoners. Their pleas for help go unanswered by administrators and staff.

*While sexual abuse in prison is not a problem that is unique to Texas, federal statistics suggest that it's most pervasive in the Lone Star State.

The well-being of our prisoners isn't a topic that often garners much sympathy. Perhaps that is why few Americans know that rapes and sexual assaults of U.S. inmates have reached epidemic proportions.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics confirmed this human rights crisis. It says that nearly one in 10 prisoners report having been raped or sexually assaulted by other inmates, staff or both.

That's why the release of a separate report by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, which was created by Congress in 2003, is so important. It challenges our society to take seriously a problem that has ruined many lives.*

Thursday, February 9, 2012

CURE-Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants

Criminal justice reform organization, CURE

What is CURE?

protest Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) is a grassroots organization that was founded in Texas in 1972. It became a national organization in 1985.

We believe that prisons should be used only for those who absolutely must be incarcerated and that those who are incarcerated should have all of the resources they need
to turn their lives around. We also believe that human rights documents provide a sound basis for ensuring that criminal justice systems meet these goals

CURE is a membership organization. We work hard to provide our members with the information and tools necessary to help them understand the criminal justice system and to advocate for changes.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

Understanding CURE:

On the surface, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) is typical of many other US-based nonprofit organizations:

  • CURE has obtained 501-c-3 status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, making it tax-exempt and contributions to it tax-deductible.
  • CURE has obtained consultative status with the United Nations, enabling it to participate in a wide range of discussions on issues affecting civil society.
  • CURE is multi-layered with International, National, State/Issue, and local chapters governed by CURE's constitution and bylaws.

In some very important ways, CURE is unique:

  • CURE is a grassroots organization – from top to bottom. It does not hire professional leaders. Instead, its leaders come from the ranks of people formerly in prison and family members or friends of prisoners. These are people who are passionate about seeking improvements in the criminal justice system. CURE’s members are also largely prisoners, ex-prisoners, and family members and friends of prisoners.
  • The vast majority of CURE’s funding comes from membership dues and contributions of members. Because our members often come from the ranks of the lower economic strata, annual dues are relatively inexpensive and may be waived for the indigent.
  • The budgets for CURE Chapters are typically very small. The work is done by volunteers, with little or no paid staff. “Offices” are usually in the homes of leaders. Equipment is basic – often just a computer, printer, and phone. We must be good stewards of the resources of our members. The money entrusted to us is to be spent carefully to promote the changes necessary to make criminal justice systems constructive. The largest expense categories are generally printing and postage.
  • CURE leaders are cautioned not to accept funds that might obligate them to support any other entity’s positions or actions. Since we are working to improve the criminal justice system, it is important that we are able to speak the truth and act autonomously.
  • Because we operate on small budgets without paid staff, our members can trust that we will act with their best interests in mind.
  • CURE’s leaders work to improve the criminal justice system and to empower members to help with that work.
  • Country, state, and issue chapters are relatively autonomous. Each is expected to incorporate as a non-profit. While a chapter is expected to support any positions established by International CURE, it is also expected to establish its own policies and priorities and raise and manage its own funds.
  • Unlike many nonprofits, CURE does not provide services. We exist solely to promote positive changes in the criminal justice system. To do that…
    • We work with policymakers in all branches of government,
    • We provide information and encouragement to our members so that they will work with policymakers to foster constructive changes.
One other feature of CURE that is worth mentioning is that it is a secular organization. That does not make us unique, but it is important. Our members all share the view that the criminal justice system must improve. All should feel comfortable and welcome, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of religious affiliation.

It would be impossible to achieve many of our goals without entering into coalitions or working with other organizations. For example, often the best way to help our members is to refer them to another organization that deals specifically with the problem that is troubling them.

Research and policy organizations can provide direction for our advocacy. Their position papers may serve to educate our members on important issues. Sometimes, the only way to achieve a policy change is to enter into a coalition with a group of organizations sharing that common goal. As we work with other organizations, it is important to be mindful of several guiding principles:

  • The work must serve to advance one of our criminal justice policy goals or assist our members.
  • No element of the effort should promote a goal that is contrary to a CURE position.
  • The effort should not be done solely to promote another organization or its broader agenda.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A REAL Second Chance

Our society in its mentality of indifference as it specifically relates to affording [real] employment opportunities to the formerly incarcerated person is a form of  roadblocking these individuals from the avenues of leading successful lives.   Instead of perpetuating the economical handicaps that this already disadvantaged population encounters within their communities, we [must] engage in the empowerment of these individuals to become productive members of the communities they will [all] eventually come home to.  
There exists a raw reality that there is MUCH needed development of resource collaboration and education as they apply to this unique individual, the formerly incarcerated person.
The bottom-line being the overall need of constructive, PROACTIVE assistance in securing gainful employment and housing upon release, therefore enabling persons returning from prison institutions towards a more fruitful and successful reintegration into society.  A Real Second Chance.

No More Shame in Having Prison Connections: By Jean Butler

This following is a fantastic piece that really makes one think.  I mean, what is it really that we are so afraid of in that opening our hearts and minds to the reality of these individuals seems so taboo?   Acknowledging our fallen population is a grace not a shame.  
–Leann “Mina’ Sowell
R.I.F.T. Executive Director

No More Shame in Having Prison Connections 
By Jean Butler

For those of you who forget that the incarcerated humans in this country are indeed just that – human – I’d like you to think on this the next time you talk about “inmates, criminals, convicts, etc.”

These humans have families and those who love them, despite whatever they did. Look around you and wonder, because this is who we are:

We take care of your children and grandchildren in nursery school.
We give them shots in the doctor’s office.
We’re dental assistants, school teachers and Sunday school teachers.
We stand behind you in the grocery line.
We prepare your medicine in the drugstore.
We work in banks, approve your loans and service your insurance claims.
We work for newspapers and television and radio stations.
We read your electric meters and water meters.
We are your landlords and your neighbors.
We take care of your elderly parents in nursing homes.
We’re nurses, lab technicians and wry technicians.
We own beauty shops, flower shops and printing shops.
We’re welders, plumbers and tree trimmers.
We work for the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department, the courthouse, schools, churches, drugstores and toy stores.
We’re lawyers, legal secretaries, school board members and school-bus drivers.
We prepare meals for your children in school.
We’re city council members and bank tellers.
We process your checking account and savings account.
We work at your Social Security office and your insurance company.
We take care of your IRA, stocks and bonds.
We sell your children bikes, school supplies, clothes, shoes, and eyeglasses.
We repair your cars.
We’re real-estate agents, car dealers, college professors, safety engineers and ranchers.
We work at Wal-Mart and Kmart and sell Avon products.

We’re not all “on welfare,” no matter what the government would like you to think.

There are 2 million people in prison in America, and twice that many are on parole and probation.

Add in mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends, and you’re touching about 16 million people affected by the prison system in the United States. We’re tired of letting ourselves feel humiliated or embarrassed because our loved one is in prison. We did nothing wrong. We’re tired of fearing the loss of our jobs or evictions from our housing should anyone find out we have a loved one in prison. We’re tired of being made to feel inferior or unwelcome in churches, clubs, organizations or society in general simply because we refuse to abandon our loved ones.

We’re ready to unite, to come out of hiding and openly support each other and our loved ones.

We’re ready to speak out against the “they deserve  what they get” attitude we hear you talk about in stores, lines and restaurants. We number in the millions. We’re everywhere, in every state, county, city and town. We may even live next door to you. Sixteen million (or more)Prison Connection.

Formerly Incarcerated Persons: Who are they really?

                                              Realistically Breaking the Cycle of Recidivism
Formerly Incarcerated Persons:  Who are they really? These are individuals who at some point in their lives have made some form of a mistake that is classified as a criminal act according to our laws.  In doing so these individuals thereby become enmeshed into our criminal justice system.  
They are branded-metaphorically speaking, with either a felony or misdemeanor convictions on their records.  Most cases the offenses committed date back a decade or more. 

These individuals are sentenced to a period of time within an institutional setting: prison or jail.  
Once their [time] is served they are then released back into our society, their debt paid for the crimes they have committed.  Upon reentering society these people face many challenges.  Adjustment: after the time spent inside the setting of an environment that most could not possibly comprehend let alone fathom, they are to adjust to a normal way of  life once again within their communities on the outside.    

Progression:  Moving forward in their lives with a renewed sense of moral character that is of benefit to themselves, their families and the communities that they are indeed a member of…despite the pasts they cannot simply erase. 

As productive members of society these individuals are expected to move forward and pursue achievements that are beneficial to the communities in which they dwell.  These individuals are either a family member, your neighbor, a friend of a friend, or simply put:  some passerby in the grocery store or gas station or Blockbuster Video store you do not even know.  In order for our nation to achieve a break in the cycle of recidivism we must make possible a realistic avenue for these individuals to become the productive members of society that they are already punished for for having fallen below the bar and grace of due their past mistakes with the laws as we know them to be. 

Real employment opportunities for this disadvantaged population is monumental.  Every human being has an innate instinct called survival.  If we bar these individuals from the means of supporting themselves and the families that they are a part of then what exactly are we to expect these individuals to do?  Are we not paving the path toward recidivism?  And if so…Why?

(c) 2012 Leann M. Sowell

Trophies of Grace

Trophies of Grace 01/21/2012
In our national news coverages you hear the very detailed accounts of the instances and scenarios of the crimes committed by persons across our country.  You hear and see the names and faces of the so called “menace to society”, the so called “social rejects”, the criminal(s) of and within our communities.  

You hear the extensive follow up details of where these individuals are at today; their prison institution locations and the number of years they are sentenced to serve and a recap of the details of their crimes.  
But what our national coverages don’t really put out there are the countless [success] stories of  those 
who have not only served their time, but who are leading very productive lives. Raising families, pursuing degrees in education, working within the communities as leaders and role models in many aspects relating to social and economical development and causes in the areas of humanity. 

These individuals are Real Trophies of Grace.  People from all walks of life who in their natures of imperfection have at some point of their lives [stumbled] broken a law, committed an offense; yet have paid their debt to society by way of completing a court imposed prison sentence.  

These Real Trophies of Grace, are walking out of  penitentiaries across our country only to be greeted by what at most is an unforgiving society.  By the very Grace of God, these individuals are staying the course and pushing forward and upwards.  At R.I.F.T. we are committed to walking alongside these individuals in the effort to assist in the restoration of those formerly incarcerated; because we truly believe that [everyone] deserves a Second Chance.

(c) 2012 M. Leann Sowell

Monday, January 16, 2012

Realities of Prisoner Re-entry

It is a shame that you never really hear about the many success stories of those, formerly incarcerated,
and how these ex-offenders, men and women from all lifestyles, can actually be a very vital part of the solution instead of the classification of being the core of the problem.

Instead, ex-offenders in their very existence are floating at the bottom levels of equal opportunity and regard, in our communities and almost unbelievably, in our churches as well.

Many ex-offenders if given a fair chance could bring innovation and solutions to a decaying economy.
However, we as a nation must be honest and not hide our heads in the sand and take a realistic look at sensible solutions while breaking the system out of its old habits of prejudice and greed.

Ex-offenders too must become organized and unite together under spiritual guidance and sound leadership and take a stand, as our forefathers that stood before us from various cultures and generations; to speak up and speak out about the injustice of the perpetual state of punishment through employment discrimination. Doing so with the hopeful intent of making a difference.

Progressive efforts that may foster a change for the better; as opposed to the current course down the endless path of a silent state of uncertainty.

The R.I.F.T. goal of prisoner outreach with other ministries, agencies and organizations is such that together with a determined emphasis on developmental strategy coupled with spiritual direction, we may help pave the road toward [real] employment and educational advancement opportunities for Ex-Offenders.

We invite all ex-offenders, agencies and organizations to become an active participant toward a hands on developmental strategy, working together to not only place people into the working force, but to help keep people out of prison!

What kind of persons, agencies, organizations and churches would want a population of ex-offenders to become or remain social castaways from equal opportunities and or Christian congregating?

It is NOT the fanciness of a building, stained glass on a church house, the color of our skin, the clothes on our backs, the cars we drive, the neighborhoods we live in, the titles of our positions in a work setting, nor the “gift of our biblical gab”, that exemplify true Christian character of the heart.

True Christian character is 1st cognizant that we are ALL human beings, and that not one human being is infallible.  No matter how close we walk or stand to a pulpit, NOT ONE of us has wings on our backs;
not one!

The practiced smiles, cordial gestures and formalities unfortunately found and seen inside of many churches,
agencies and organizations, are all fascinating and quite impressive on the surface.
An ex-offender who has spent years inside a penal institution setting however, has attained a rather unique and sharpened sense of perception that dips low and deep beneath the surfaces of your most practiced, polished, and perfected persona's and “stage” performances in social settings.

Together We CAN Make A Difference!
The aspect of Prisoner Outreach and or collaborative Reentry efforts are NOT about territoriality or competition>>>It is however about those directly impacted by these efforts. It is a national and
international reality.

(c) 2010-2012 Leann M. Sowell-
Executive Director
R.I.F.T. Reentry Initiatives For Today's Prison Complex

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