Earlier this month, with the Susquehanna Valley Leadership Program I’m taking we went to visit the Medium Security Unit at Allenwood PA. If you’ve never visited a prison, you should. It’s a visceral experience you won’t forget. Once the door clangs shut behind you, and you look around, you receive a lot of rapid fire visual information about who is tried and sentenced in this country.
As state and federal budgets are squeezed, there’s less and less money for helping classes in the prisons that will help inmates find legitimate jobs on the outside and fewer and fewer resources outside. (And of course, if our returning veterans and their spouses are having a hard time having jobs, people with felony records will not be in the running. Without legitimate jobs, they will return to former lifestyles. There was a recent sad, sad case in our area, a recently released prisoner, elderly with health issues and no work skills, was living in his car. When United Way folk stopped to talk to him about finding him housing, he just wanted to go “home to prison.” He didn’t know how to function in this world.)
Enter Center for Employment Operations (C.E.O.). They’re doing great work, helping former prisoners develop skills that will help them in the outside world. Sadly, it’s one program. But the more we read about these things, talk about them, support them, the better the odds for their continued existence and for copy-cats to spring up. In the coming times, I believe we’re the ones who will have to step up and provide solutions. It’s great to have good models. In addition to C.E.O, I suggest you follow The NY Times’ column Fixes. Every week on Friday, they report on things that are working in our world. That’s a column this Priestess can whole-heartedly endorse!