True Transforming Power
Over the seventeen years of my incarceration I have witnessed a huge
influx of young Black men coming into the prison system. Through
teaching classes on personal development, facilitating workshops on
different issues, I have come to know many of these young men. Many
of them are in prison for violent crimes and are or at one point were
in gangs. The majority of these youth were raised in impoverished
neighborhoods riddled with crime, drugs and violence, and grew up
without their fathers present or a positive male role model.
Many may say that being raised without a father figure in a crime
ridden neighborhood is no excuse for a person to engage in
criminal/gang behavior. I agree. However, I ask what role does it
play and how is incarceration making these young men better? I know
first hand that warehousing a person in prison for years does not
change their criminogenic attitude. Nor are the conditions in the
communities they come from. So what really causes a person to change
the way they think and live? What makes a person realize their own
self worth and that of others?
In my quest to find answers I realized that many of our young people
who are in gangs and have committed violent acts against others, are
in many ways experiencing a disconnect from their own humanity as
well as the humanity of others. I believe that in order for a person
to intentionally take the life of another, something inside of them
has to die first. Something internal has to be disconnected from
one's own humaneness, and one must bot see the value in their own
life, in order to take the life of another.
Imprisonment does not address the antisocial behavior and crime
generative attitudes and behaviors of our youth. What our young
people need are people who honestly believe that not even the most
heinous acts necessarily separate those incarcerated from the circle
of humanity. Our young people need people who have a genuine interest
in their lives and want to see them be better to themselves, families
and communities. Our young people need mentors, counselors,
educators, spiritual leaders to help them navigate a journey of
introspection, so they can re-connect to their humanity and realize
their own self worth and the value of others.
It is only through this level of intervention that we will begin to
see a change in the attitudes and behaviors of our young people.
Interpersonal relationships with quality people who believe in them
is where true transformation begins. There is something life changing
about someone believing in you when you have never believed in
yourself. Receiving validation for doing positive things and not
negative ones is what our young people need.
Throughout my journey of incarceration what I've learned is that,
incarceration in and of itself does not necessarily cause a person to
change the way they think and live. People who care do! When people
believe you are more than a your criminal act, and do not define you by
it, you are inspired to be more. True transforming power lies within
the people, the people who care enough to take an interest in those
who have made poor choices and are incarcerated.
Bruce Bryant can be reached
at: Bruce Bryant 96-A-5569
Sullivan Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 116
Fallsburg, New York 12733
2012 sep 2
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2011 may 9
As a teacher, I often wonder how I can better serve students in my classroom who don't take personal responsibility for their choices. Is it best to focus on being a positive male role model generally or is there more specific advice you might give to us for the classroom?