Posts tagged ‘stories of transformation’

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.

 

 

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September 29, 2012

Winfield House: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

At Winfield House this month and October, we are collecting new or gently used outer wear for men. Those items include: coats, vests, sweatshirts, gloves, hats, and boots.

To all of the knitters and crocheter’s out there, we need handmade scarves and hats. If you are inclined, blankets, too. All items are collected and given in love to the men who live under the bridges in Cincinnati.

Why?

Because they need you!

Have you ever driven a car and accidently lost control? It can be likened to the downward spiral of homelessness or poverty. Sometimes we are driving through life without a care, all of the sudden something comes at us, or perhaps we were not paying attention, and we need to move the wheel quickly to avoid an accident. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Life is that way, hard to predict. If, when driving, we are startled, we jerk the wheel, and over-correct ourselves, as our adrenaline is heightened; we either miss the object or we are hit from the oncoming car.

If we swerve and still hit the object, we are now off the road and perhaps in an undesirable position. The car is tilted to one side, half on rock and half in the dirt.  Last night’s rain has made the dirt mud, so our tires are quickly sinking. We are somewhat immobilized by the shock of the accident, wondering if we have killed a person or animal we hit. Afraid of the tilt of the car, we try to examine our options. There don’t seem to be very many. We try to call for help, but find we have no phone service.

Seeing that the tilt of the car could be dangerous, rather than abandon the vehicle, we try to restart and maneuver the car into a better position.  In doing so, we have now sunk the tires deeper into the mud. The spinning noise is bringing us to hopelessness, and we realize the vehicle is truly stuck.  To leave the vehicle may not be safe as we are in now unfamiliar territory. Worried about the other vehicle, we pray, try 911 again, and are wracked with fear.

It might occur to us to now look for our own wounds, as we feel a sharp pain in our side, and see the oozing of blood on our forehead. The dizziness of the whole event has now brought us to a paralyzed state. We need assistance!

So, it can be with life circumstances. We sometimes need assistance. Whether we are brought to a low place by another, our own decisions, or a pervasive lifestyle, we have spun out the tires in exhaustion and cannot find hope for our circumstance. There seems to be no one to help us dig out from the accident.

At Winfield House, we are dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Poverty is defined as a state of mind or financial situation where there is lack to sustain life and/or a healthy emotional condition.

Anyone can be affected at any time of their lives by poverty. Either one is born into it, or somehow brought low by circumstance.

For 20 years, Winfield House has helped individuals and families strive to become independent, self-reliant, and successful in both public and personal life.

Here is a three-pronged approach to helping:

Dignity- helping with basic needs, food, clothing, and life-sustaining supplies.
Discipline-helping with life skills to help avoid future problems, and to create a new life.
Direction-spiritual help to bring richness to our souls.

Regarding the poor, I hear this all the time, “Why don’t they just get a job?”
In responding, I have to have as much mercy on the giver as the receiver. Understanding poverty and homelessness is not as easy as it seems. The dynamics are as diverse as the people. In the Bible, we are mandated to take care of the widows, orphans and the poor, so I am especially honored to be part of the restoration team.

Please open your hearts to our friends under the bridge. You, too, may swerve off the road one day and need assistance. You never know.

 
by Karyn Alexander

Voice of the Nations column for RED!
Executive Director, Winfieldhouse.org

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, bringing hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations, Rev.5:19 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, language, and nation.”

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 10, 2011

Mistakes 143 – Column by Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell

My “Mistakes 143” column on this occasion takes us to another day at the University of Higher Education and lower learning.

Imagine this: it seems as though when most things change, most things stay the same. Recently, it was very, very interesting – a lot of excitement in this incarceration facility. The “Camp” corrections officers (C-O’s) found contraband and, so, now guess what?  Sixty-five to 70% of the Camp is drinking as much water as they can.

Those around me heard of this finding, and they heard that there is a strong possibility that the “whole” camp will be drug-tested; they are dirty. Weed (mostly).

Someone copped to the incident. Gang members usually cop to theirs.

Change – the individual placed so many others in danger. First of all, he placed himself in danger, and then the family of the individual that made the so-called drop.

Maybe I am only one of the only individuals that does not smoke anything – myself and a few others are clear of this debacle. My bunkie is forced not to; he has two (positive) tests. One more (positive) and he is back to the yard with about four months or so added to his sentence and Camp program discontinued. He is not the only one here that has lost time or is living on the edge.

Fire Camp, as we call this facility, is maybe one of the only facilities that is “free”; that is, it is out in an open space in northern California, where inmates have total access to the free world. And in which all races, gangs, and ignorant activities exist. It is different from behind the walls. The other night I saw something I thought was special: N. and S. sharing virtuals together. I said, “Look at that. They are intermingling.” Behind the walls they would run a piece of metal, etc. so far up each other it would take a day for them to take it out (they would attempt to kill each other for something small).

Now, the “day after the storm.” This is late February. Officials tested the whole camp on the related issue of contraband I indicated above. Inmates began to harm themselves by drinking bleach and an enormous amount of water.

There were only about 10 to 20 inmates out of 122 inmates that willingly went up there to test and had complete confidence in a positive test. A nice ratio. Even those that have been tested negative over the last two to three months were in question of their test. An ugly sight: the fact that they have already lost time, and especially knowing they are under mandatory testing. Sad thing.

God has blessed me to stay out of the way and allowed my peers to have the floor at this time. As I say, I am just passing through and I do not want any problems.

I am patiently waiting to be inserted back into the game (hoop slogan) by God, so that I can have The Last Laugh. Oh! God allowed Blake Griffin of the N.B.A.’s Los Angeles Clippers to perform a dunk in the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest that, in fact, I “patented” over 20 years ago. Put me in, coach. I am ready!

I pray that my words are able to reach my column in RED! the breakthrough ‘zine because they are the gatekeepers that I have to pass. I know who is running the show. I am about hope and health.

And, by the way, I still have not seen the Blake Griffin contest-winning dunk. And, too, after the testing, my peers are back in business with the garbage. Half of the camp is on the edge of their seats. Hmmm. Another day at the university.

         –Peace–

I thought I closed this message, but in life as I have learned, when the storm comes, it continues. The C-O’s are earning their keep, as today they found more stuff. It’s a pernicious cycle, but I know that God is working in my life.

February 27, 2011

Growing and Evolving

Greetings, RED! the breakthrough ‘zine Readers,
As RED! moves into another year of publication, and nears its third anniversary, we are proud to unveil a new look. RED! continues to grow and evolve.

Thanks to the design talent and innovations of RED! web editor, Christine Grote, we are moving to a blog format. Please be patient with the transition.

You’ll soon notice that news and information will be even more quickly delivered. We went “fluid” (more than weekly) in April 2009, and now that fluidity will be ramped up. The opportunities for you to offer feedback and interact with RED! will be more prominent. The new site will enable RED! to come alive in a fresh new way.

If you currently rely on the RED! rss feed to stay informed, as part of the transition you may need to sign back up on our new page. We recommend you also subscribe. There will always be new posts.

So, here’s what’s coming soon:
• more regularity of news, features, Jeff’s Blog, and columns – with additional columnists forthcoming
• heightened multi-media
• new work (including inmate art) in the next few days and weeks by columnists, The Legend – columnist Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell – Karyn B. Alexander, Angela Derrick, and Melissa Vanover; drawings by inmates Jimmy Brown and Matthew Moore; stories by writers Melissa Parnell and Drew Fox; and “Action Words” essays by Brian Crawford, Dale E. Jones, and “Irish” Johnny Harvey; video interviews and more
• look for a video feature by Grant McDonald
• intensified coverage of two organizations with which RED! partners: Sonje Ayiti and MissionRise
• quicker updates on urgent issues facing the criminal justice system globally

I thank you endlessly for your support. I thank you for your dedicated reading. Thanks for spreading the word on, what we believe, is one of the most unique and original internet magazines in the world. It’s because of your belief in stories of transformation, hope, positive life-changes and breakthroughs, and innovative leadership that RED! generates the thousands of readers it cherishes.

Onward,

Jeffrey Hillard
Editor & Publisher / RED! the breakthrough ‘zine