Monday, October 17, 2016

LGBT Peer Support System...Check

One of the main drivers of me starting a blog like this was to raise awareness of how desperately LGBT people need a support system in prison. If I could humanize myself to people outside of prison, maybe they would not be afraid or hate me. 

Over the past two years I have done what was necessary for my peer support group to be taken seriously by local administration. Bureaucratic officials made it hard to implement a system that actually helps offenders change. 

Traditionally, restorative programs are created by the state and healthily funded making fixing us worth while. But when a highly effective system comes about and it is free, meaning there is no profit of funding for it, bureaucratic officials offer drag. This was my first experience witnessing this money making giant called prison.

I want to end prison. Not because I think crimes should be legal, no. I want to make prisons unnecessary. No longer needed. I want a paradigm to happen where your money isnt going to house offenders in cages. I want the current system to be dismantled and rebuild with a true restorative justive system. The reality is folks that the reason there is so much crime is because our upbringing is drastically different then it used to be. The introduction of hard drugs over the past 60 years has thrown mankind a serious curve ball. 

People are taught that it is only OK to be happy. Anger, depression, anxiety, and stress are all signs of sickness and a brokenness that must be fixed. When in fact anger, depression, anxiety, and stress are all normal emotions that if taught to deal with properly can be useful tools in autonomy.

This brings me to my point, if you hang out with drugs n' thugs it is almost inevitable you will learn that value system and perpetuate that forward into your children and community. 

However, if you change what you put into your body, meaning change your peer support system, you put will begin to experience a new value system. This is what I will accomplish with my peer support group. I will start with LGBT people, my heart is with them the most. But the concept is applicable to anyone. The introduction of love by those you respect in a group setting will heal much. 

I say all this to set the foundation for what happened Friday, October 13 2016, I was told that my peer support group is being implemented for LGBT people in November and will be open to the entire population. It has been approved for nearly two years, but approved and implemented are vastly different. 

I stay up at night and my days are driven by thoughts of my community. Thoughts of how I can help, what I want to teach them, how it applies to those outside of prison, the pain caused by trauma, the uniqueness of the LGBT struggle and its many challenges and faces. I think about my own crimes and if I will ever outlive my past, if anyone will ever look past what I have done, what about others? Is there any hope for us, will everyone cast us away forever? These things keep me up at night, until last night that is. 

Last night I slept through the night, I even woke up late. I know now that help is coming. Our facility is implementing real trauma recovery systems, real restorative justice programs and allowing for real love to try and heal what was broken. 

I hope that all of you who read this will begin to love everyone you come in contact with. You will inevitably change lives. 

I will continue to write about my work here both in myself and others. Our joys and struggles will be shared and hopefully someone out there will help. 

With Love
Jeff Utnage

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