Blogging is such a great tool for rehabilitation. That is one reason why Suzie and I created Stone City Blog. We want all inmates to have access to this new and effective rehabilitative tool.
I’d like to encourage everyone who reads Stone City Blog, to reach out to the bloggers, and prompt them. Ask them critical questions that will inspire deeper thought and self reflection. By doing so, you could be that one thing that inspires great change within an inmate and his rehabilitative efforts. Stone City Blog gives you access to over 1,000 posts written by over 100 inmates. All of these inmates can be contacted via email (JPay).
In this post I will respond to THREE PROMPTS from Sandra Rogers.
PROMPT #1) How will you achieve a balance between redemption and rehabilitation?
This prompt is awesome. It brings a whole new dimension to my thought process. Until now, I’ve never ever even considered such a question. Redemption and rehabilitation go hand in hand. For me personally, I can’t achieve one without the other.
My rehabilitation efforts are a daily process. Everyday I’m focused on love, compassion, and understanding as I live in an environment full of hate, conflict, and turmoil. It’s my job to rehabilitate myself while in the belly of the beast surrounded by demons. I do not react to negativity with negativity. Instead, I remain focused on my goals and dreams as I use my energy in a positive productive manner.
On a scale of 1-10, if my Rehabilitation is at a 8, well then my Redemption has to be at least a 4. Because Rehabilitation is Redemption to some degree. 4 and 8 is not balanced. Therefore, I need to get my Redemption up by at least 4 points. I can do so by contributing to society in a positive way. Such as saving dogs and doing volunteer work. Hey, I do that.
PROMPT #2) How will you find a balance between Selflessness and Selfishness?
By keeping in close contact with mentors I trust and respect. Such as Suzie, Alana, Sandra, and maybe even professional counselors. They will help show me the way and keep me focused. They will prompt me to a deeper level of consciousness and self awareness.
If it is brought to my attention that a segment of my life is unbalanced, then I will do whatever it takes to balance it out. To simply answer this question: I will seek the advice of all those who are educated, and those who have great perspective and insight.
Meanwhile, in here I enjoy great balance between working out, eating healthy, watching football, and reading & writing. (Selfishness)
And then (Selflessness), helping others, sharing, and volunteering.
PROMPT #3) What are the markers of the above mentioned kind of balance?
Happiness. The ultimate marker is happiness. When my life is truly balanced, I’m at my happiest. Regardless of my environment. When aspects of my life fall out of balance, my happiness is the first to suffer.
Another great marker is the opinions and perspectives of my mentors and the people I love, and how THEY view me. If they are happy with me and proud of me, that is a great indication that I’m achieving a high degree of balance in my life.
Thank you Sandra for such thought provoking prompts. The insight and self analyzation that it takes in order to answer these questions are very valuable. Your on-going prompts have taught me more about life and myself. They invoke deep thinking and self reflection that is critical to any type of rehabilitation.
It is my prayer and hope that everyone can recognize the significant value that is hidden within inmate bloggers and critical thought-provoking prompts.
There is a perception that jails and prisons are doubling as mental health institutions.
Perception is reality. As I look around the dayroom I see a variety of inmates with mental health issues. The severity of their issues range from mild to extreme. For the most part, everyone in prison has some type of mental health issue. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in prison. So yes, mental health and prison go hand in hand.
So how bad are the mental health issues in prison? I say, not that bad. All things considered, it’s to be expected.
Most of these men are exactly where they belong. But because the criminal justice system is so massive, there is a margin of error. There are a handful of men in prison who should be in a mental institution. And vise versa, there are men in mental institutions who should be in prison.
For the most part, the system gets it right. I wouldn’t classify the mishaps as a massive problem.
The bottom line is, these men are a threat to society. They hurt, kill, and victimize people. They need to be removed from society. Whether they go to a mental health institution, or prison, that is for the courts to decide. If the courts get it wrong, that is of little consequence. Just as long as they are off the streets and society is safer. That’s what matters.
For those who can be rehabilitated and re-enter society as a law abiding citizen, good for them. Those people come from both…prisons and mental health institutions. So it’s not so much about the type of institution as it is about the mind of the individual.
I will say that being mentally sick is no excuse for any crime. If someone commits a crime and they are so mentally ill to where they don’t know right from wrong, they still need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Especially if it’s a violent crime. Lock them up in prison, or a mental health institution.
Some people disagree. Why? Because he’s mentally ill?
So what now? Let him go free? So he can go hurt or kill someone else?
Put him in prison or a mental health institution. Which one…I don’t care. Just get him off the streets. What he does from there, is up to him. If he doesn’t have the mental capacity to ever get better, then he dies in an institution.
Sometimes reality is sad and harsh. But life goes on. And the main focus should always remain on keeping law abiding citizens SAFE from criminals and the mentally ill.
This is an interesting topic. Keep the discussion going by utilizing the comment section.
I was asked by Sandra Rogers, “What is your opinion about privatization of prisons in the U.S.?”
Based on my personal experience, it was quite enjoyable. From 2004-2009, I was transferred 5 times, to four different private prisons in three states. While in those facilities I had: Xboxes, Play Station 2’s, cellphones, porn, and anything else I wanted.
For more on my private prison tour, please read my ebook called, Stone City : Life In The Penitentiary. This ebook is full of pictures I took with my cellphone, raw and uncensored. Viewer discretion is advised.
My opinion on private prisons: They are bad for inmates. They breed corruption. They are full of misconduct. Most the staff are corrupt. The majority of rules are not enforced. There is a high turn over of staff. Most staff view their job as menial, whereas most DOC staff make their career in corrections. The staff in private prisons are under-trained and under-paid.
Most inmates would rather be in a private prison because they can get away with an absurd amount of misconduct. I knew of an inmate who had sexual relations with two female guards, one on first shift the other on second shift. And they didn’t know about each other until someone told.
I also knew of a female guard who had sexual relations with several inmates at one time. Only in private prisons have I seen such gross misconduct on a massive scale.
Here’s a little factual history on private prisons, according to Bryan Stevenson, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Just Mercy.” He says:
“Spending on jails and prisons by state and federal governments has risen from $6.9 billion in 1980 to nearly $80 billion today. Private prison builders and prison service companies have spent millions of dollars to persuade state and local governments to create new crimes, impose harsher sentences, and keep more people locked up so that they can earn more profits. Private profits has corrupted incentives to improve public safety, reduce the cost of mass incarceration, and most significantly, promote rehabilitation of the incarcerated. State governments have been forced to shift funds from public services, education, health, and welfare to pay for incarceration, and they now face unprecedented economic crises as a result. The privatization of prison health care, prison commerce, and a range of services has made mass incarceration a money-making windfall for a few and a costly nightmare for the rest of us.”
My bottom line is: Private prisons are bad and should not exist. People should not be getting rich from mass incarceration. Period.
My mentor, Sandra Rogers, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, asked me:
“In your blog titled: Those Who Will Re-offend And Those Who Will Stay Out, you imply why you feel like Paul will re-offend and Terry will stay out but you do not explicitly say why – can you tell me explicitly why? Or is it just a feeling?”
Its definitely just a feeling. However, I can explicitly explain why I have such feelings.
I feel Paul will come back because he’s in here gambling, using drugs, giving dirty UA’s, getting tattoo write ups, getting caught with tattoo guns and ink, and engaging in a constant stream of misconduct. He’s in prison and his activities are still criminal. He hasn’t changed one bit. Couple that with the fact that he’s been in and out of prison 4 times, and it’s easy to see he’ll be back for a 5th time.
But wait! There’s more! Upon his release, he’s going right back to the same environment that fosters his sad lifestyle. He’ll be hanging with the same bad crowd, doing the same bad things. Remember this post. Paul gets out soon. When he comes back, I’ll let you all know. It’ll be within 3 years of today.
As for Terry, I have a feeling he’ll stay out because he’s engaged in positive meaningful activities. He doesn’t engage in criminal activities. While in prison, he’s earned several degrees and has completed just about every program offered. He applies his newly learned skills on a daily basis. His actions are positive and productive. He gets along well with staff and inmates.
But wait! There’s more. Upon his release he’ll be going to a new environment that’s secure and structured. An environment that’s free of alcohol, drugs, and criminal culture.
Then there’s the statist factor that says people who serve 20 consecutive years or more, are less likely to come back.
Terry was 16 when he came in. He’ll be 36 when he gets out. His brain is completely developed now, he’s a different person today opposed to back when he was 16. He’s nurtured his mind with positive, productive material. And most of all, he has a strong will to live a happy life among the law abiding citizens of this country.
I would be shocked if Terry came back.
I would be shocked if Paul didn’t come back.
If you look closely at inmates and examine their daily activities, and how they conduct themselves, it’s relatively easy to predict who will come back and who will stay out.
For years I engaged in misconduct. As a matter of fact, I pretty much wrote a book on it. It’s called, “Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary.” Today I reflect back to those sad days (and beyond) and I ask myself, “What could’ve reached me? What would’ve it taken for me to change my negative lifestyle?”
The answer is clear: meaningful activities that inspire intrinsic motivation, guidance, mentoring, and I needed mental practitioners who would’ve constantly provided positive reinforcements.
I dream and hope for a program that could change countless lives all over the country. The details are complexed, but the concept is simple:
Offer programs that inspire intrinsic motivation. Every state has multiple correctional facilities. So implement specific programs in the facilities that are best suited for those specific programs. For example, one facility could specialize in automotive and mechanic programs, while another facility specializes in animals and veterinarian programs. Lessen the criteria of these programs and make them available to those who have never had such opportunities.
Strategically place mental practitioners around the facility to offer positive reinforcement, mentoring, encouragement, etc.
Work with outside companies that will hire some of these highly skilled men the second they’re released.
If this simple, realistic concept was properly implemented nationwide, I guarantee the recidivism rate would be lower than the current 66%.
Here are 8 questions from Sandra Rogers, PhD, OTR/L. Please click on each one to read my answers.
Back in 1994, I was in a drunken rage and shot 4 innocent young men. It is only because of their strong will that no one died. I got what I deserved: 43 years in prison. I’ve never appealed it. I’ve never seeked clemency. And I have no desire to be paroled.
I take full responsibility for my actions and I accept my sentence in full. I have about 13 years left to serve. I refuse to take my incarceration in vain. I am determined to match and exceed all my negative behaviors of the past, with present and future actions of love & compassion towards all of humanity.
My crimes of the past has set my bar extremely high for the present and future. As of today, I’m nowhere near where I need to be. I know I can never right my wrongs. But I can and will use it as motivation to give it my very best.
My setback is a 43 year prison term, and the fact that I hurt 4 people and all their friends and families, and all the bystanders and their friends and families, and all of my friends and family. Therefore, my equal seed of opportunity has to be extraordinary. And that’s exactly what I’m striving for.
The consequences of my crime has and will continue to inspire great change.
“I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by Occupational Deprivation.” ~Sandra Rogers
That single sentence stood out to me and is where the title of this post came from. First, I had to understand the meaning of Occupational Deprivation (OD). As far as I can tell, it means: The lack of meaningful activities. Hmmm…all of my activities have had some type of meaning behind them.
I hustled, gambled, sold drugs and tobacco.
The Meaning: to make money.
I got in fights.
The Meaning: to earn respect and to release pent up frustrations and aggression.
In a Penitentiary, or a Correctional Center, these truly are meaningful activities. If I want to spend the rest of my life locked up and miserable! Early on in my incarceration I knew I had to change. I wanted to change! (For an in-depth look, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary)
The cure to Occupational Deprivation is Meaningful Activities. But for years, I was denied. I asked numerous DOC employees for help. The answer was always the same, “No. Those programs are for short timers…you have too much time.”
My misconduct would continue and I’d end up in the hole. Again! I shed many tears in The Hole. Because that’s when & where reality really hit! Prison. 43 years. The pain I’ve caused others. Isolation. Being a failure. A loser. The list goes on…
One time when I was in the hole they cuffed me and escorted me to the recreation enclosure. On the way there I saw a flier advertising Anger Management and Victim Awareness. These classes were available in the hole. Two classes I desperately needed. So I submitted a kite requesting them.
To my surprise, they denied me. The reason: I wasn’t doing enough time in the hole.
That pissed me off! While in population I’m denied for having too much time. And in the hole I’m denied for not having enough time. But if I seriously hurt someone and get, let’s say,12 months in the hole, then I’ll get the classes and my long prison sentence is no longer a factor.
It’s logic like this that’s so discouraging.
Lucky for me, I have a strong will and a burning desire for redemption (see: Redemption, It’s My Choice). Despite set back after set back, I continued to seek understanding as I took moral inventory of myself. As I write this and reflect back, I now see that I had the desire to get better, but I severely lacked in the “meaningful activity” department. Therefore, I struggled.
Occupational Deprivation was my program! And I suffered greatly because of it.
Today, my life is full of “meaningful activities.” And as a result, I’ve never been happier or more productive.
I go to NA Meetings, which I gain so much wisdom & knowledge from.
I’m in The Dog Program and I have the privilege of loving a dog named, Yahoo.
I graduated from my Redemption and Roots of Success classes because I wasn’t told, “No. You have too much time.”
I’ve started reading Influential Books, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I mentor those who are ready to hear positive messages. I lead by example so my words have greater impact.
I’m the nations leading blogger from behind bars.
I have meaningful relationships with the people I call Friends.
I have a job passing out commissary to thousands of guys.
I prepare healthy meals for myself and I workout regularly.
The list of “meaningful activities” goes on and on….and my most treasured one is my marriage. I have the most caring, loving wife any man could ever hope to have. Suzie has blessed my life beyond what I thought possible. The love I feel for her in my heart is stronger than any other feeling I’ve ever known.
All these “meaningful activities” have completely wiped out OD. Perhaps I should’ve titled this post, “How I Am Affected By Meaningful Activities.” Because this is where the beauty is. This is where true transformation is realized.
Its great to learn new terms and articulate my journey under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. But the truth is: If someone wants change, they must want it for themselves, then relentlessly pursue it everyday for the rest of their lives.
It is now, after I am well on my way, that I make the connection between “meaningful activities” and rehabilitation. It would’ve been nice to learn all this years before I did. Better late than never.
Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.
Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:
JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.
After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.
Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.
I understand where I went wrong in the past.
If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.
Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.
I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.
Hello everyone! How’s life in the free world? Enjoy it! Life is too short not to.
Here’s whats going on in here:
Two Year Wedding Anniversary:
Suzie and I celebrated our two year anniversary on February 27th. We tried the ol GoFundMe route in hopes we could raise enough for a weekend visit. Thank you for the donations… however, we came up short. But the good news is we used the funds for phone time. Phone time is huge for us. Thank you! I absolutely LOVE hearing my wife’s sweet voice.
Starting March 17th, all phone calls will drop down to 11 cents per minute. And we’ll be charged by the minute. No more losing $3.20 because of a bogus “3-way calling alert” 4 minutes into a call! Now its minute for minute. Gotta love that. (I Will Blog For Phone Time)
JP5 Mini Tablet:
I recently received my new JP5. It’s an Android touchscreen with spell check and auto complete. No biggie to the free world, but huge for guys who’ve been locked up for 20 years or more. It also has a photo gallery for all my pics. Along with video games, calendar, calculator, and several more features I’ll never use. My main usage for it is music, photos, and blogging. And oh, emailing my baby!
I got a $20 credit on my media account for turning in my JP4 when I upgraded to the JP5. With that credit I bought some music. I love listening to music! I’m practicing my dance moves for when Suzie and I get our EFV’s. I’m gonna give that woman the time of her life…GUARANTEED! All my moves are specifically designed for her viewing and physical pleasure. And for those of you who want to know, you got it! An ebook will follow each and every EFV, co-authored by us both.
Black History Event:
On March 3rd there will be a special event held in the visiting room. This event will feature a guest speaker named Gilda Sheppard. Gilda Sheppard, Ph. D. is a member of the Evergreen State College in Tacoma. She is also an award winning filmmaker. After her speech…its time to eat. Menu: Salad, Fried Chicken, Rice & Beans, Collard Greens, Cake, and Juice.
This is a fair that’s sponsored by The Redemption Project. It’s for guys that are within 12 months of release and are seeking valuable resources that will hopefully aid in their success. The following organizations will have representatives at this Resource Fair:
Affordable Care Act
Bank of America
Children’s Advocacy Center of Grays Harbor
DOC Housing Voucher
Department of Licensing
DSHS – Division of Child Support
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
DSHS – Financial
Grays Harbor Community College
Employment Security Department
Express Employment Professionals
Family Service Unit – DOC HQ
Northwest Justice Project
Pioneer Human Services
Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe
Social Security Admin
STOP Program (DV)
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Natives with disabilities
Work Source Grays Harbor
I don’t know about you, but I find this to be pretty impressive. I wish I could attend. Its never too early to prepare for life after prison. I share this with you to show how much opportunity there is in prison. So now you can call BS when your inmate runs drag about how prison is just a warehouse and rehabilitation doesn’t exist. IT IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT TO BE!!!
This is the Dog Program here at Stafford Creek. Since the program’s inception back in 2009, almost 300 undesirable dogs have been rescued from shelters, rehabilitated by inmates, and have found permanent “forever homes”. I am a part of this program and I absolute love it!
The program allows us to live with our assigned dog 24-7, for 10 weeks. We use that time to teach the dogs basic commands, social skills, and so much more. Not to mention all the things the dog teaches us. After the 10 weeks are up, these once “undesirable dogs” are now highly sought after. They’re intelligent, obedient, well mannered, and ready to bless a family with unconditional love and companionship.
The Sustainability In Prison Project:
I attended a lecture on Salmon. Did you know there are 7 species of Pacific Salmon? Yep. And they lay 4000 eggs. 90 days later, 800 of them hatch. 200 make it to sea. 10 reach adulthood. And only 2 return to spawn. Moral of the story: Be nice to Salmon. Eat Sardines!
“If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
“Forgive them not because they deserve it, but because you deserve it.”
A Call For Action:
Please check out my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary, and help make it a success.
Blogs & Social Media:
Real Love Letters – Suzie & I have decided to share our journey from the very beginning. We will be posting our personal letters to show the world how we met and fell in love. A lot of people wonder how a good wholesome Mormon girl could fall in love and marry a man in prison serving a 43 year sentence. This blog will answer many questions as Suzie and I share our transparent back & forth dialogue.
Stone City Blog – A collection of blogs written by men in prison. If you have a loved one in prison, give them the gift of blogging. Our services are free. (For more information, please read: Submitting Blogs)
Suzie M. Jennings – What’s it like to be the wife of an inmate? Follow Suzie’s blog about love, life, & success. Everyone is on a journey…all are the same, yet all are different.
Steven D. Jennings – I am the nations leading blogger from behind bars! I share my journey towards rehabilitation & redemption. Please follow my blog as I share my experiences with you.
Jonathan Gordon – I recently met this guy in here. He is a fellow inmate. He’s a cool dude. He’s driven and smart. He has been contributing to Stone City Blog, and he also has a blog of his own. Check it out at: http://www.jonathankeenangordon.name/jongordon/
Thank you to my awesome wife for giving me the gift of love. I love you and appreciate everything you do for me. You truly are an amazing woman.
Until next time, live in love and watch your blessings increase.