Leading By Example
Adam B. Clausen
Professor Tony Gaskew, Ph.D.
September 20, 2012
Abstract: This paper examines the habits of two men whom have successfully re-entered society and shared their stories with the world. They prove that the criminal justice system is not inescapable and give hope to all those whom are interested in following their footsteps. "Getting Out and Staying Out" along with "Law Man" are two valuable resources that should not be discarded or discredited. Both authors are part of a small minority of men whom have NOT returned to prison so their words have more merit than those still incarcerated.
The modern American Prison Penal System is intended solely to incarcerate and not to rehabilitate anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves entrapped within it. The concept of "crime and punishment" has greatly evolved over the centuries but arguably at no point in history have sentences handed down been as draconian as the ones commonly received in this day and age. The reason for this many likely stem from the public's view of only the "effects" of the punishment without witnessing the means by which they occurred. It was not so long ago that the punishment of the law was carrie out right before the eyes of the public so everyone was much more keenly aware of the consequences which resulted from breaking the law. Nowadays men and women are tossed behind walls and left to their own devices for years, and often decades, at a time and shown little concern for their future well-being. As long as criminals are safely separated from society, the current penal system has been successful in its job.
It is indisputable that black men comprise the majority of the prison population in the United Sates. However, the suggestions made by ex-offender Demico Booth in his book Getting Out and Staying Out are useful to not only men of color but to anyone who is sincere in their desire not to return to prison. Mr. Booth lays out a wide path for others to follow and even points to certain mistakes or troubles he encountered along the way. There are certain aspects of what he suggested that I may not completely agree with but I understand that I am not within his target audience. I believe that the men Booth was targeting were those that spend their days playing games and watching TV instead of exploring ways to better themselves and improve their chances of a successfully re-entering society once they are released. The majority of men in prison have no vision of what a positive future beyond prison might look like and Booth is able to provide that for them.
According to Booth, rehabilitation while inside prison requires a serious desire and dedication to change both yourself and your circumastances. Reading, specifically non-fiction, is his primary prescription for self improvement. He claims to have read over 500 books and copied the entire dictionary twice during his 12 years in prison, and although that's likely to be an exaggeration that certain people will use to assail his character, his recommendations remain sound. Reading undoubtedly accumulates knowledge and that knowledge can prove to be extremely powerful once it is accompanied by supporting action. Countless men and women have been released from prison and become productive members of society, but we're unlikely to ever hear about them. Unfortunately, the media is more drawn to the tragic and often sensational consequences of crime so, we frequently hear of the recidivists but rarely hear of the success stories as Booth and others.
Another former federal inmate by the name of Shon Hopwood recently published his success story under the fitting title of Law Man (Aug. 2012). Like Booth, he served a lengthy term in federal prison and began his own successful journey down the road to redemption while still on the inside. Neither man ever claimed that the path they had chosen was easy, but both achieved their goals and in doing so proved that the "revolving door" of the modern penal system could, in fact, be avoided. Each man has become a success in their own regard and deserves a great deal of credit and respect for their willingness to share their stories with the world. Booth's and Hopwood's stories should serve as inspiration to all of those men and women that aspire to lead happy, fulfilling and productive lives once they have finally been released from prison.
The suggestion that the criminal justice system is inescapable has been disproven by not only the published accounts but also the countless success stories which never made it into print. A successful re-entry into society means attaining a "normal" life like that which is enjoyed by most citizens every single day. That life does not need to be deemed extraordinary in order to be considered a success. Remaining outside of prison is the chief object and each day that continues to occur should be deemed a success. Fame and fortune are not true measures of success for anyone but rather are measures for one's own ego. Getting out and staying out is a simple and realistic goal for the undereducated and underprivileged majority that dominate our prisons today. Implying that the criminal justice system is a modern "caste" system, as Michelle Alexander contends in her book, "The New Jim Crow," suggests that there is no hope of escape. The truth of the matter is that there must have been specific laws broken in order to gain entrance into this system. Likewise, it requires certain actions, this time positive, to be released back out into society. Hopwood and Booth are proof that exodus is attainable with noble actions.
Conspiracy theories concerning government misconduct and manipulation of the masses will always exist and it remains imperative to always question the work of government so that it never grows too powerful in any regard. However, what is most desperately needed at theis juncture is a positive plan of action. Instead of criticizing those individuals brave enough to suggest such plans we all need to come together and make our own contribution to the effort. Words without actions become meaningless and the future will judge us by our ability, or inability to act in a meaningful way. The most powerful means by which to move the masses is to plead for those persons of influence to lead (the masses) by example. Speaking out against the current draconian sentencing schemes w hich hae
I'm definitely NOT just your average guy that's doin' time...According to the Federal Bureau Of Prisons I still owe them a couple more centuries before they'll let me outta here. Despite my current predicament I've decided to fully embrace the immortal words of my man, the O.G. of Cool, Mr. James Dean who said to "Dream as if you'll live forever and live as if you'll die today". I may be stuck physically here in prison but I sure as hell ain't dead yet...in fact I figure that I'm still about 60 to 70 years away from my final day but that won't make me change the way I'm living today. This blog is my window out into the world and while I'm looking out you may just catch a glimpse inside mine. Let me know if you like what you see... and if you don't, feel free to disagree and let me know what's really on your mind.