Posts tagged ‘incarceration’

December 11, 2013

Maurice Clarett: ESPN Interview

This excellent interview with former football star for The Ohio State University, Maurice Clarett, aired on ESPN radio’s SVP & Russillo Show on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Here’s the link to the program: SVP & Russillo.

It was heartening to hear Clarett describe the positive life changes he has adopted since his prison sentence ended not long ago. Talk about transformation and healthy life-choices made in recent years: the former thug and potential N.F.L. star spelled out the positive changes he’s embraced that can be traced back to the sequence of infractions and crimes that culminated in his prison sentence.

During his football heyday at O.S.U., Clarett was involved in multiple questionable life-choices, which endangered not only the lives of others around him but his own life.

Clarett very capably describes the moments when the fortress of collegiate stardom came tumbling down. This is a must-listen-to segment. Cudos to Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo for inviting Clarett into the ESPN studio.

Clarett is featured in the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 series documentary, “Youngstown Boys.”  The documentary airs Saturday, December 14.

 

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July 20, 2013

WOOF! – Part 2 (by Patricia N. Wernert)

The “big house,” “stir,” “crossbar hotel,” “slammer,” and “joint” are a few of the names one hears in movies, on t.v., and in books when a person goes to prison.

Such adjectives are colorful and likely can cause those of a curious nature to pause a moment and say, “Hmmm.”

From my perspective and too close for comfort in personal experience, such adjectives are so many smoke and mirrors. Let’s just be honest and say “prison.”

Society generally prefers to view those inside prison as less than human. There is a bit of a “silver lining” in that dark cloud and that happens to be people who decide to think for themselves. These kind and independent individuals chose to look beyond the prisoner title and see a human being.

Positive thinking led me to the unique opportunity to train dogs while in prison. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

I grew up with cats, dogs, bunnies, horses, and a variety of “rescued wildlife” much to the dismay of my mother. “A garden snake…good grief, get it out of here, now!” she’d say. It seems like only yesterday that I heard those words. I feel that my childhood growing up in a rural setting set me on the path to wanting to train and care for animals.

Prior to coming to prison, I worked in veterinarian offices and learned firsthand what is involved in treating small animals. A lot of caring for pets is good old common sense. When a person takes on the responsibility of a pet, he or she should be willing to provide for all of the animal’s needs.

Fast forwarding to approximately 18 years into my incarceration: I was given the chance to raise and train puppies for Pilot. In my last essay, “Woof [part 1],” you met “Wells,” my first puppy. I felt I had a real purpose and was doing something positive and productive with my time.

Training dogs in a prison setting throws a few unexpected twists into one’s routine. In prison, there are set times a prisoner must adhere to or face disciplinary consequences. Specific times are mandated when an inmate must be in her room/cell to be counted, go to meals, or go without eating, room clean, shower, do activities, and take on many other aspects of day-to-day living.

Add a six-to-eight-week old puppy into those activities, a puppy that has no real control over bodily functions, wants to cry and bark in the middle of the night when your roommate wants to sleep. Imagine that I have to navigate long corridors to get the little bundle of fur to the yard to go to the bathroom. It can make for some interesting adventures.

Puppies and adult dogs all need four things: fair, firmness, consistency, and love should be shown in all aspects of their training and life.

July 20, 2013

MY TIME – Column by Melissa Vanover

 

Before my incarceration, I was not very educated. I dropped out of school in the eighth grade to give birth to my daughter. After that, my life eventually spiraled out of control and into a life of organized crime: fast cars and even faster men.

All I had wanted was a better life for my children than I had at that time. I seemed to make all the wrong choices. I put myself and my children in dangerous situations. I simply wasn’t thinking! I was too caught up in the “good life,” the life of the world. That world ended up being not so good afterall. It was a lifestyle that led me to prison to serve a sentence of 25-years to life.

Since my incarceration, I have grown up a lot in these past 15 years. I finally earned my G.E.D. and completed several group programs to help better understand myself; these programs included topics and experiences covering “Who am I,” depression, self-discipline, victim’s awareness, eating disorders, “Cage of Rage,” and “Thinking for a Change.”

I have also increased my occupational skills. Although not licensed, I have become quite the “handywoman.” I have done plumbing and general maintenance, such as building things and repairing just about anything, painting, and laying tile. I can drive a forklift and I can weld.

For the past year and a half, I’ve had on-the-job training as an electrician, which is something I absolutely love. My crew saved the state of Ohio thousands of dollars by taking on the project of wiring and putting up security cameras in all the housing units. It has been great experiences to have under my belt.

I can also operate a ‘scissor lift’ and I have had the exhausting opportunity of using a jack hammer when tearing up and replacing a concrete step. Doing all this hard work has humbled me.

I attended church at home years ago. But I was never serious about it. Again, as I’ve written before, I had my spiritual breakthrough in 2001. Now, I’m serious about my salvation, and I know I’m not perfect and I do fall short sometimes. I fight it, but God knows I’m worth it. And I’m so thankful that He will never give up on me. I just need to learn to be more like Him and less like “myself,” and that I should never give up on Him.

February 11, 2013

WOOF! (by Patricia N. Wernert)

“How would you like a puppy?” I was asked. Sounds like a pretty straightforward question that is posed everywhere. I would like to share why that very question was anything but ordinary when I was asked it in the early 1990s.

In 1993, I had been incarcerated 18 years and certainly had not experienced the touch of silky ears or big brown eyes looking at me during this time. I was being offered the unique opportunity of helping to start a prison program of raising puppies for “Pilot Dog.” As puppy raisers, we receive eight-week-old to raise as potential service dogs for visually impaired individuals. In my mind, gosh, what a great opportunity to give back to others.

Puppies require care, love, and gentle direction in learning basic commands. Prison rules put a good deal of added structure into what is usually easy. My puppy may need to “go potty,” but if it is “count time” the puppy has to wait. Try explaining that to an eight-week-old puppy in the middle of the night.

The upside of doing something like this is watching and guiding the tiny puppy as it grows into a beautiful dog. Your time and hard work develop before your eyes. No matter how bad a day you may have, you have to smile at the antics of a puppy. You start smiling, your mood improves, and you respond in a positive manner with other inmates or staff.

One of the few things a person in prison has any control over is how she or he reacts to any situation. Inmates are told when to go to bed, to get up, to perform bodily functions, to go eat, what to eat, what to wear, and what to do in about all aspects of life. I have found that keeping a positive mindset, even when adversity abounds makes a situation easier to get through. Having that puppy trip over its feet or run up to you makes you smile and it defuses whatever negative event that may have transpired earlier.

I am still training dogs in 2012 and 2013, and no one could have told me that I would still be doing it in prison. The incarceration sentence of 20-years-to-life is now approaching 38-to-life. Yeah, that is pretty depressing if I dwell on the negative aspect of this time. I look down on the nine-week-old black Lab I named “Cricket” curled up at my feet and see the positive. I am privileged to raise this puppy and she will eventually give a person freedom.

When a dog is partnered, we see the letter that Pilot Dog sends to the institution, and I feel a ssense of helping another person. We never know the actual name of the person, only if it is a man or woman.

I have worked with training other service disciplines in another prison-based program. This is very worthwhile, too.

Dogs are so much more than pets and capable of doing a wide variety of tasts to help humans live a fuller and safer life. If you happen to see a service dog guiding its person along, it just might be a dog that began its service in a prison. People in prison can begin to their future, too. We just need a chance.

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Patricia N. Wernert is incarcerated at Dayton Correctional Institution. She is one of the leaders in a special program that helps raise dogs that provide future assistance to visually impaired individuals.

 

 

September 29, 2012

The World Without Me – An Interview with Sherrie Kleinholz

The following exclusive interview with Sherrie Kleinholz, author and advocate for the homeless, appears on the eve of the publication of her first book, The World Without Me.  The book is an anthology of stories by homeless individuals in Greater Cincinnati, compiled and edited by Ms. Kleinholz over a number of years.

Interview by Jordan Bailey

RED! – What sparked your interest to begin researching such a major crisis in society today
such as homelessness?

S.K. – My interest in those who are without has been growing within me since my teenage years
and has peaked greatly in my adult years. I look around and I see so many beautiful
people who are disconsolate and suffering deeply with no one to help guide them
through it. I watch as there is no one sharing love with them and I am heartbroken.

RED! – Have you done any volunteer work – for instance, in shelters or in a food pantry – in
terms of assisting the homeless?  What were any of those experiences like and what are
some things you have learned being around them?

S.K. – I have worked at a homeless shelter doing counseling as part of my internship and this
has been very rewarding. It gave me a great sense of being a part of something so much
greater and my heart would be filled with a little more respect, humility, and love for
those I interacted with each time I left. I also enjoy making lunches to pass out to those
on the streets or take to the soup kitchen and have developed meaningful relationships
with these I interact with.

RED! – Tell us a little about your book and how it came about.

S.K.The World Without Me is a compilation of stories told by those who live them
every day. Stories about what it is like to be on the streets without your basic
needs readily available such as food, shelter, clean clothes, medical care, and
love. A great deal of the stories are written in dialogue form. This is done so that
the reader can get a better understanding of what the person being interviewed is
feeling, thinking and seeing from their perspective. The book came about because
it has been a part of my life for many years and to watch as others spit at,
degrade, and ridicule those who have to live it deeply saddens me. It saddens me
for the person on the street, as well as the person who is ridiculing and the world
as a whole.

RED! – You and RED! technical assistant, William Lambers, also a legendary advocate of
global food assistance, have worked together recently on issues of homelessness and
food advocacy. How successful have you been?

S.K. – I cannot say enough about William Lambers. What a kind hearted, giving, intelligent,
talented, and genuine man he is! My work with William began in my undergrad years at
Mount St. Joe when we held a fund raiser for international charities on hunger to which
was a success. He has also shown me how to help feed those who are hungry by playing
a game for free that donates rice for international hunger. We have also done an honorary
food drive in his mom’s name which helped three local pantries, and he has been a
profound help in the writing of this book. I’d be lost without him! I am quite certain that
we will be working together for a long time to come.

RED! – What kind of impact would you like your book to make?

S.K. – It is with my deepest hope that the stories inside this book grab the reader’s heart to help
them realize that the person behind the story is just like the person who is reading it.
They have feelings that hurt, thoughts that are important, needs to be met, & wants that
are forgotten. I hope that the reader can see that more often than not the person behind
the story had it all once and lost it because of reasons that could happen to anyone
including the person reading the book. These reasons consisting things such as physical
illness, death of a loved one, tragedy and mental illness. I want the reader to close the
book with tears in their eyes and love in their heart and realize that not every person on
the streets is trying to scam them and if they are trying to scam them to ask “why?” I
hope that the reader sees that person on the street are just people who are not lucky
enough to have the social support or means that others who are not on the streets have
had. If a person believes that it could not happen to them then they need to open their
eyes and see life for what it is. It can happen to anyone at any given moment and it can
break you.

RED! – What are some things you believe the city of Cincinnati, or the region on the whole, can
do to better address homelessness, especially as indicators suggest it is on the rise in
this particular U.S. economy?

S.K. – Sometimes when we look at a problem we feel alone and overwhelmed and we cut
ourselves off emotionally in order to protect our overall wellbeing. More often than not
we just don’t understand something and we fear what we do not understand. Therefore,
I encourage each person to educate themselves in understanding homelessness for what
it is.

Many times we create comforting self-soothing stories about those who are homeless
such as “they’re just lazy, a drug addict, and/or worthless criminals. I believe we do this
because we have to fill the void of “not knowing”. We simply cannot see a person who
is in need and drive by them because we would feel bad so we put a spin on our thinking
to justify driving by. Does this mean that the person on the street is not plagued by
mental illness, addiction, the loss of desire to help themselves, or is not a criminal?
Absolutely not!  However, keep in mind that inside each of us is our own personal evil
wolf lying in wait that could break free when pushed to our own thresholds. So maybe
ask yourself, “If this person really is one of those things then why and how did it come to
this and how can I help stop it or prevent it?” Remind yourself that you to could lose your
job have someone you love die and take your spirit with you, get a debilitating mental
illness, or lose your health and can’t work. You too could be pushed to your threshold
and wake up with nothing.

Therefore, to best address homelessness educate yourself to get a better understanding
of it, know it could happen to you, realize how powerful you are in the fight against it, and
advocate! As individuals we often do not understand how powerful we are. One person
can reach many people but they underestimate their own power and think to themselves,
“What I have to offer and contribute is not really making a difference.” That thought is
incorrect. Trust me; you are powerful in the lives of others. Inside each of us is a hero.

July 3, 2012

Justice Advocate Stephen JohnsonGrove Speaking @ Partners with Justice (7-5-12)

May 26, 2011

What a ‘Changed Me’ Can Do for My Family and Society – by Erin Catching

What a “changed me” can do for my family and society.

First and foremost, all praises are due to the most gracious and most merciful Creator, without whom nothing is possible. I would also like to give thanks to Mr. Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell – columnist for RED! the breakthrough ‘zine – for being instrumental in my quest for knowledge, discipline, growth, and change. It has been a blessing to have Hook as a mentor and an honor to be referred to as his student and protege. (See the Bible book of I Corinthians 13:11.)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, and I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Every morning when I awake, I am living, learning, and growing. Unfortunately, it has taken thirty-five years, numerous trips to jails, three terms in prison, and countless mistakes to reach the stage of maturity that I am currently in. I have come to the point where I live without regrets. I am blessed to be alive, and I am gratefuly to have never received what I truly deserve.

I am tempted to go into depth as to what a “changed me” can do for my family and society, but it is time to “show and prove.” It is time to stop being reactive to the position I’ve placed myself in as a felon and an “ex-con” and start being pro-active and utilizing the gifts and blessing God has given me. So, nowdays, I don’t do much talking.

I look forward to re-adapting to society and becoming a responsible father and role model to my children. I have faith that everything else will fall neatly into place and through my actions, not my words, my family, in-laws, and loved ones will once again invest their time and resources in me. I only ask that they prepare themselves for my return and welcome me with open arms.

The changes in me will be evident.

Peace and love.

__________________________

Erin Catching is currently incarcerated in Lewiston, California.  His essay appears as part of a group of essays from inmates gathered and edited RED! writer, Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell, which RED! is publishing.

May 25, 2011

Viewpoint by Calvin E. Nunley III

Prayer, faith, works – Freedom, Plan, Action.

These words that I have written are in two separate sequences. While either set of words may be viewed as having little to any relationship, they may also be bound to one another to work in conjunction for a great cause and to great effect.

Society has been long overdue for a make-over. As such, in a contribution to a cause, I am more than ready and willing to give great efforts. Not only will my effort be given to changing my previous courses of action, but I have begun to take some inventory or necessary changes to my community – changes in the direction of values.

By first monitoring and evaluating my own children’s and relatives’ level of awareness with input and feedback, I could then lead more children and young adults in a more positive direction.

I am more than certain that prayer, faith, and works will be very essential to freedom, plans, and action.

Calvin E. Nunley III is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

Mr. Nunley’s short essay is a part of RED!’s “Action Words” section, which consists of writing and art by incarcerated individuals internationally.

May 25, 2011

How Can a Changed ‘Me’ Help My Family and Society? – by David Jennings, Jr.

I’ve been incarcerated 36 months and I have a month-and-a-half remaining. During the onset of this term, I realized that, with this being my first time in prison, a door had been opened up for a return into this system multiple times, or a permanent residence in this system.

I was 26-years old at that time and I knew from Day One that this wasn’t something I wanted to make a lifestyle out of: prison. I’m the father of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 5, the youngest of whom I haven’t even had the chance to hold in my arms – because of the error in my thinking – in order to tell him that he has a father who loves him. He was born while I was fighting my case.

I have two uncles who went through the system before me. I wondered if I was in the same cell or walking the same yard they had experienced. It hit me that one or all of my sons could wonder the same thing about me when they grow to be the age one reaches when one could be put behind bars; if they would be in the same cell in which I had been; or walking the same yard I walked; or might have any of the experiences I’ve had while going through the system. I thought about those things, and I didn’t want that for them. I knew I had to change my thinking.

When I lost my freedom, the mother of my children promised me that she would wait for me. That lasted about a year. We wrote back and forth, speaking about how much we loved each other, how much we missed each other, and what we were going to do for each other when we were reunited. Then came a period of unanswered silence. I would write her, begging her to write back – but, no answer, which lead me to curse her out in letters. And still no answer. I didn’t want to accept that she moved on. Well, I got a letter in which she told me that she, in fact, had moved on.

I felt victimized. How could she lie to me? How could she do me the way she was doing me? Then I realized that I had done it to myself. I used to be real selfish on the streets. And I was continuing my selfish thinking in prison. I acknowledged that negative thinking, and I have taken responsibility for my actions. I got myself locked up. I’ve taken myself away from my family. Through my selfish actions, I caused her to need someone to be there with her to take care of her needs, as well as the needs of my children. This is in no way, shape, or form meant to be a sob story. But, to be honest, this is an example of the error in my thinking.

My point is that my personal experiences have taught me so much. Accepting the responsibility of my actions has truly been an eye-opening experience. The consequences of one’s actions run deeper than what appears on the surface. When I saw how much I was responsible for, I realized that I was changing, because I made the choice to discontinue pointing the finger elsewhere. No longer thinking selfishly as a child does, I’ve grown into a man. Now, as a man, I pray to God for my family to be restored. I pray that I can be the leader my sons and their mother need. I pray to continue growing. I pray for success.

I’ve put my faith in God and He’s the one who has changed my thinking. All I did was listen to what he’s been saying to me through my experiences. I have faith that He’s going to restore my family. If it happens, then there is nothing He can’t do. All of the people around me will hear of what He’s done for me. For I will always proclaim His goodness toward someone who didn’t deserve it: me.  Amen.

David Jennings, Jr. is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

May 25, 2011

“How Can a Changed ‘Me’ Help My Family” – by Terrel Dupelay

I am encouraged to write about a changed ‘me’. I can help my family the best possible way I know by showing them that I have actually changed mentally, and for the better, I’ve changed my whole self, first and foremost. I have learned over the years in my life that I cannot help anyone else unless I help myself first. So, by my own changing the way that I think and the way I view a lot of situations I encounter in life into opportunities which will turn my negatives into positives, I can then be of help to them. I truly believe that the “G-Man” up high and my being incarcerated have helped me to do that.

Also, my taking advantage of every opportunity to advance myself and being a leader by example in showing positive actions can be more motivation for them to do the same. Overall, it all starts with me, I believe. As long as I continue to strive to be the best person I can, and continue to grow and expand myself each and every day that I’m blessed to see, then that would be a great help to my family and others around me.

Also, I would like to tell my brothers, Torrin, Damion, and Trovelle to continue to keep ya’ll heads up, because ya’ll ain’t forgot about. To my mother and the rest of my family: I love you all and miss you all a lot. To my ‘patnas’ ‘Gene, Zach, Juan – thank you for the support. Special thanks to Mr. Hook Mitchell for giving me this opportunity to express my thoughts in publication. If I’ve forgotten anyone, my apology, and much love to all ya’ll.

Terrel Dupelay is currently incarcerated in Lewiston, California.