I was locked up in 2011 when all the federal funding had run out for major programs. Programs that really impacted recidivism rates, like education. 

Did you know that an inmate who receives an Associates Degree while incarcerated lowers his/her recidivism rate by nearly 33%? Its proven that educated people tend to commit less crime. I’m not writing this to convince you of that though. Just a side note.

What I do want to point out though is that when the federal government pulled major funding from state prisons, it left a big ole problem for DOC to figure out. When things get shut down around any community people get a little depressed. People get touchy, point the finger and crime rises, which fuels even more important things getting shut down. This is any urban community where resources are dwindling. Prison is no different. As the inhabitants become increasingly hopeless and defiant, the ones who have the biggest challenge are the ones who still care.

When I came into this system in 2011 staff was fed up with all the whining from inmates. A giant separation had emerged, even bigger than what was already there. Inmates were especially bitter that the therapeutic things they used to do were one by one shutting down for lack of funding. Of course, the immediate staff paid the biggest penalty because they became the ones to blame. Which isn’t fair.

Here we are 6 years later and some real superheroes have emerged within the Department Of Corrections. I wish I could name them so they could get credit, but I cannot. But I will say this, so many people who shouldn’t give a crap have risen to the challenge to create life altering programs out of nothing. By using the passion of the brave inmates who are willing to help I have seen programs emerge that have helped thousands, literally. None of them funded except the newest educational programs. 

Recognition is due. Some of these people (DOC staff) have spent sleepless nights trying to figure out a way to help us change our lives without any help from anyone but the average Joe, you. By God they’ve done it. By empowering us to help ourselves, take part in the creative process, mentor one another, speak from the heart with staff involved those bridges are being built again. Much needed bridges. 

So while most will say DOC as a whole has done nothing, there are those of us who know better.

To those who try…thank you. Hopefully this will inspire more people to join in the fight to end victimization.

With Love
Jeff Utnage