I once lived in the most beautiful city in the South, Charlotte, NC. At one point I no longer worked for the community college as a Curriculum Specialist nor English adjunct. The former president of the college and the owner of the Charlotte Hornets hired me to do some private consulting work for them. They were interested in the recidivism rates (convicts who are released come back into the prison system). ; they wanted me to write a proposal to be presented to the state legislature that would address this issue with an educational solution and its costs.
George Shinn gave me a temporary office at the Hornets HQ to do my calling and scheduling. I did all the research I could before I began to draft the proposal. I went to several prisons to see their current educational programs. Especially interesting to me were the teens who were incarcerated. I had to go inside an elevator and up three floors to visit their educational lab. Each floor we had to stop, the doors opened, and a guard with a gun pointed at us would look around us and then let us go to the next floor. It was a terrifying experience. The inmates at this juvenile facility had to work in the gardens around the outside of the building where they grew the food they were served.
I went to state prisons as well as federal prisons which were much more modern than the state prisons. The state prison that I visited looked like an ancient castle. We walked down some spooky marble stairs to get to the basement (more like a dungeon to me) where the prisoners were studying for a GED test.
The prisons were all very different, but each had its own rendition of what they should be offering to the inmates at the time. Most had a high school completion course (GED). The most interesting prison was the Federal prison where the inmates wore “preppy” clothes and the guards wore “orange” jumpsuits. The dining room was very nice and that day they were having steak and baked potatoes. I even saw a cell that was better than the dorm room that I lived in for four years! Each cell had two twin beds, two desks, two chairs, and a TV set on the wall up high. The prisoners were allowed to take drama and put on plays/musicals. Some nice jail, if you ask me.
My job was to propose an educational program that could be used upon their release to give them a better chance at life in order to keep them from returning to jail. I started my proposal after all these visits.
I designed a learning center that could be replicated in any prison, complete with high end computers, college level courses, and teachers. I did a cost analysis on everything that it would take to set up this center. I took statistics about the cost of upkeep for returning inmates and the cost of educating inmates before they were released the first time. The report showed an almost equal impact on our tax dollars.
I loved doing that work. I had my own hours, my own office and phone, and a clear course ahead of me. My bosses let me do the entire proposal without requesting updates every other day. They implicitly trusted me to do the job correctly.
I don’t know much about the outcome of that proposal, but years later I keep reading and hearing about new educational methods being implemented within the prison system. I do know they presented the proposal to the legislature, but I am not sure if it passed.
Everyone has special skills that God has given us for a purpose. I saw that one small job as a mechanism to impact our world in a positive way. Perhaps that was God’s reason to prepare me for such a time as that.