Inmates and the public alike are fed copious amounts of bureaucratic garbage about prisoner reform and rehabilitation. Literally billions of dollars are thrown away on State backed programs that have limited impact on recidivism or the public’s safety. Inmates can smell bureaucracy, limited-belief and programs that won’t change anything from a mile away.

We know B.S. when we see it and once we do, we check out. There are many of us who have been through so many rehabilitation programs that the state wants us to go through and we do so because we have hope that when we do, the public will find us acceptable again. So when another one comes along and the leaders don’t have heart, neither do we.

Every once in a while someone comes along who has heart, who has tenacity and this almost foolish belief in us. Against all odds these people navigate the red tape, yellow caution tape, and all the rules designed to keep us and you separated at all costs and their impact is felt in ways that I have difficulty expressing.

Defy Ventures Washington is led by a man named Leo Novsky. Mr. Novsky has been a man of his word, which is important, but of greater importance is what drives him. This is the stuff that inmates sniff out first to vet a program or person running it and when we meet one another. One of the first questions we answer internally is what’s this persons angle? What’s in it for them? Why are you here!? Everything else comes second.

I am halfway through this Defy Ventures course and today something happened that I will never forget, not for as long as I live I watched our Defy sponsor, Leo Novsky show his heart.

But I wanted everyone to know, no, to see what a REAL program that will produce REAL change looks like. It looks like Defy Ventures. It is not the curriculum alone that is effective, no, it’s the people. Its the motives! You cannot fake motive, it always surfaces, always. Today, in group, Leo’s motives surfaced. Want to hear what they are?

He believes in us. He believes we have talent. He believes we can accomplish things, like entrepreneurship and success and rehabilitation. Even when its hard, even when he has a room full of inmates who are insecure and mistrustful he stands. That’s when a persons motives are revealed, what happens when you get put under pressure, scrutiny. If they aren’t real a person is gonna pack it up and bail.

Not Leo, he stands because his belief is absolute. Guess what else, so is ours. Today we formed a bond as a team and we have chosen to follow Leo as a leader, a mentor, and guide because he’s the first one in my entire prison sentence to have that kind of tenacity and NOT be incarcerated.

So I will close with this, I won’t disappoint that man.

Thank You Defy Ventures, thank you Leo Novsky for having the courage to stand. Thank you for making a difference in your community and allowing me to be part of it, I feel truly privileged because this program is going to change the world. check it out, they need support, they need you and quite frankly, so do I.

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With Love
Jeff aka Ruth Utnage