They say when someone is sentenced to prison it is for rehabilitation. Yet I will be eligible for parole before I am eligible to participate in one of the vocational programs at the ACI. Here in medium security, there is a carpentry, HVAC and barbers’ apprentice program. But prison policy says only inmates with fewer than three years left on their sentence can participate and I’m serving a seven year sentence on a drug charge.
We know vocational programs reduce recidivism, but I must wait four years before I can enroll in such a program. I can go see the parole board, get parole, and not have learned a trade or skill before re-entering society. Where’s the rehab?
The three-year-and-under policy denies crucial opportunities for job training. When inmates, like everyone, are properly trained, it becomes easier to attain steady employment. This will help us not walk back through this revolving door. By not coming back and working, we can provide for our families and become a positive role model for our children, and also become a better person, father, husband, son, brother, uncle, and law abiding citizen to our family, friends, and community. Vocational programs should be expanded to include electrical, plumbing, welding, culinary arts, fitness training, auto mechanic training.
But the three-year-and-under policy also denies a critical opportunity to show we are ready to reenter society. Parole is sometimes contingent on participation in prison programs, and some inmates aren’t eligible for prison programs until after they are eligible for parole. How else do we show the Parole Board, which represents society, that we are ready to reenter?
Staff members’ efforts are being made within the bounds of the existing policy. A counselor may push for an inmate to participate in some programs, like mine did. Right now I am currently in General Sociology, Men’s Trauma and a few other programs that don’t give so called ‘good time credit’ that anyone may attend. To his credit, Lieutenant Lanoway does a good job at handling the programs, but the three-year- and-under policy makes it impossible for inmates like myself to participate in a vast majority of programs.
This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute.