- The challenge you/we have is earlier. Our kids’ initial contact with the system is around 13 – 14. Since that is the “initial contact” point – then the “warm-up” or preparation is much earlier (possible 5 – 6 yrs old). So these “initial patterns” are seeding much earlier. Part of this has to do with deficit self- and cultural-identity models. These are developed very early in life – but that is another conversation.
- Education has to be relevant to (a) life experiences, and (b) the projection of life experiences. The lack of relevance in our current education system to these children’s lives (who they are, where they are, where they see themselves going) serves to keep #1 (above) as “normal.”
- Because our penal system is based on a “business model,” there is no incentive to decrease the prison population. It pays us to jail them.
- Because there is financial reward, vis-a-vis census, in building prisons in rural areas (we get the numbers while retaining the politics of “safety”), there is no incentive/reason/cost to stop.
- See “The Delinquents” – a program done by 60 Minutes on the consequences following the removal of elephant bulls from the pack. Briefly: Without checks & balances, young children become “adultified” – increases in testosterone, estrogen, et cetera. They become sexual very early. They become aggressive. Removing adults from the environment leaves a void that will be filled. Voids are “always” filled! You may not like what it’s filled with, but it will be filled. See Chicago: With the increased incarceration of the gang leaders, our kids are blindly killing themselves and each other. VOIDS WILL BE FILLED.
- Now we come to post-incarceration job opportunities. Color is a factor. Everything being equal, there is a different internal (guttural) impact that Barry Bonds has on the “hiring” population than Roger Clements has on that same population. This is natural. We may not like it – but there are many things we do not like that are what they are. Do not harp on it. Do not make it the central course. Simply recognize that race is a factor. Access is a factor. Education is a factor. Financial solvency is a factor. This is as true for 2013, as it was for 1850.
So you will have to (a) identify, through research, those areas, jobs, business people who would be most present to offering jobs – not a second chance…a job. What are the personality characteristics that would lend someone to be willing to engage in this process…to be willing to offer an ex-convict a job?
- You will have to increase the percentage of first-generation ethnic minorities (Blacks, Latinos) who have businesses, and whom you can leverage to offer job opportunities. (SECRET) You will find a greater level of “willingness to engage” amongst first-generation ethnic minorities than any other. Promoting and marketing toward ethnic minority athletes and entertainers who are already doing this would be useful.
- Practical preparation: Jail is not a cognitive environment, despite all the rhetoric. Jail is authoritarian-behavioral. It is, at best, behavioral-cognitive. (You do as I say, or else!!!) The only other environment that has “demonstrable” success in behavioral-cognitive leading to insight, is the Army. The challenge, therefore, is: recognizing and acknowledging the truth of the jail system (authoritarian), given the success of the Army system (authoritarian) – how do we train these young men for jobs post-sentence. There is a potential marriage somewhere here. Good luck with that one. (I did not articulate this as clearly as I would want, but I hope you get the idea.) There is a successful model out there. Use it. Engage with it.
- Finally (and closing the circle): Recognize that we, all of us, become less and less malleable as we get older. You are trying to impact change, you are trying to mold as early as possible. It becomes more and more difficult to mold a plant (a person) the more it (he, she) matures. This is not simply a behavioral concept or an observation. This is both biological and necessary. This is how the mind (necessarily) lays down memories, which become patterns, which become automatic, which become “normal.” When “normal” becomes shared, it becomes “cultural to the environment.” Not “cultural” – – – “cultural to the environment.” Those are two different things. You are actually, therefore, trying to shift “normal,” not through pathologizing, but through advancing a new theoretical concept of “normal.” This takes time, and the development of a critical mass – that offers a shared alternative, perspective. It’s like a teeter-totter. You’re trying to balance it. If you try to takeaway “normal” you will be rejected. Establish an achievable alternative, which opens up new avenues, which establishes and new “normal.”