As a volunteer for the program, Step By Step, I helped facilitate workshops for women in jail. The workshop leader and I were there to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for these women. It was an opportunity for them to open up and be seen.
A majority of the women in jail have experienced physical, verbal and emotional abuse. Many said that this was the first time they could express their feelings without consequence.
It’s programs like Step By Step that show people who are incarcerated that they matter and there is hope. Hope of stopping the cycle of abuse, poverty, addiction and jail.
But programs like Step By Step are few and most (Step By Step included) are grossly underfunded.
Bill Whitaker reports in the CBS 60 Minutes segment entitled Crime And Punishment, “We (the US) have 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners.”
He also states that we incarcerate more of our nation’s citizens than any other country in the world at a cost of $80 billion per year.
According to a report by the National Justice Institute,
the US has 5 times the number of prisoners than Britain and 9 times more than Germany.
But is our prison system working?
A 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that 56% of prisoners released were rearrested in the first year. That number jumps to 67% by the third year and 76% by 5 years.
That means that over 3/4 of the people released from prison today will be back in prison within 5 years.
Our prison system does not work. If it is not changed, we will continue to have a growing criminal population and debt to go along with it.
Currently society sees people who commit crime as disposable. We put people in jail and forget about them because it doesn’t seem to effect us.
In some cases, we treat animals better than we treat those who commit crime.
“I don’t matter” is the message a lot of prisoners have gotten all of their lives and our current system reinforces that.
Germany uses a different approach to incarceration. They focus on treating prisoners as human beings and they work to rehabilitate them.
Joerg Jesse is a state Director of Prisons in Germany. He says of prisoners,
“If you treat them as if they are your enemy, they will react as enemies.”
In Germany, they create personalized programs for each prisoner that includes counseling, classes, vocational training and work.
As the prisoners work their program, they earn more and more freedom.
The results? Germany spends less and they have 1/2 the recidivism rate of the US.
Is it a perfect system, of course not. But it is working better than our current system.
John Wetzel, the Secretary of Corrections in Pennsylvania, says:
“…we’ve– frankly screwed up the corrections system for 30 years and it’s time to do something different. It really starts with understanding that, you know, a human being’s value isn’t diminished by being incarcerated.”
We need to wake up and see that what we are doing is not working.
What’s it going to take to change this?
We begin by treating criminals like human beings.
Instead of meeting them with anger and retribution, guide them with a strong hand of love and rehabilitation.
Redirect them to a road other than the path of destruction (for them and society) they are currently on.
Ultimately, we have two choices, we can do nothing and continue to watch crime rates, our debt and prison populations grow.
Or we can start a dialogue to let go of the old mindset of “lock them up and throw away the key” and embrace the change needed to make a difference for everyone.
I witnessed first hand, women who came through the Step By Step program, did the work, and changed their lives and the lives of their children forever.
It’s time to stop retribution and reform our prisons. Rehabilitation that includes counseling, education and programs similar to Step By Step are the key to transforming not only our prison system but our communities, society and ultimately the world.
Have you ever thought about your relationship to money? I say relationship because we all have a story about money.
I grew up thinking we were poor. There never seemed to be enough money for what I wanted.
Now mind you, I never went without food, decent clothing, anything really. But as a kid, I wanted certain things, as all kids do.
There never seemed to be enough when I wanted things like candy or a toy. I didn’t get an allowance so I would ask my parents for money when I wanted something. The answer was sometimes yes, but most of the time, no. Sounds normal, right?
But as a kid, I made up the story that I couldn’t have those things because we were poor. And my mind took it one step further down the victim trail to, “I can’t have what I want but my brothers always get what they want.”
What my mind failed to realize is that my brothers are 5 and 6 years older than me. They worked on a local farm or at the 5 & 10 store and earned their own money so they could buy what they wanted.
But my mind was determined to hold onto this scarcity mentality.
Fast forward to adulthood. I perpetuated this story by putting all of my families needs above my own. The kids needed new school clothes, ok. My husband wanted to go on his annual fishing trip, of course.
But when I even had the thought of spending any money on myself, my mind immediately went to, “No! You can’t have what you want! Remember, there isn’t enough for you!”
So I became resentful.
When I had enough of my resentment, I would just go and buy what I wanted. Then, guilt set in.
I felt so much guilt from spending anything on myself, I would sometimes not tell my husband what I bought. I thought he certainly wouldn’t understand spending $40 on a tube of face cream.
That left me feeling dishonest and like I was stealing from my family.
I knew I needed to break this pattern of behavior before I could really welcome any amount of abundance into my life.
My best friend, a former financial broker, suggested that in order to break through this, I simply needed some mad money. A certain amount of money each week, I could call my own.
My mad money was mine to do with what I wanted. I could burn it, give it away, buy a bunch of little things or save it for something bigger.
This made so much sense to me and immediately lifted a weight off my shoulders. I know this sounds crazy but this “allowance,” so to speak, opened up possibilities for me to not only get what I wanted but to give up the destructive pattern of guilt and resentment.
By releasing the emotional tie it had on me, I no longer let money control my life.
Now I’m rewriting my money story from a perspective of abundance and having all of my needs met. Even if it’s candy!
What is your “money mindset?” What would you like your relationship to money to be? What is something you can do today to begin a shift toward your new “money mindset?”