A bloody good idea: How StreetDoctors is teaching young offenders to save lives

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.

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Among the many things students learn from StreetDoctors is the fact that there’s no “safe place” on the body to stab someone.
(photo via StreetDoctors on Facebook)

Stabbing a bottle of juice with a pair of scissors is actually a pretty good visual aid to teach someone about blood loss in a knife fight. If you remove the scissors, the juice spurts out. If you lie the bottle down, more liquid stays inside.

This is the type of interactive demonstration that UK-based organization StreetDoctors uses to teach young criminal offenders what to do if they’re involved with or witness to a stabbing or shooting. Every second counts when it comes to stopping blood loss, and young people who are out on the streets are often the first at the scene.

“Some of them will come out with quite horrifying stories about witnessing a violent attack,” says Dr. Charlotte Neary-Bremer, CEO of StreetDoctors, in a recent Student BMJ article.

Instead of preaching non-violence, anti-gang messages to the young offenders who may be deaf to them, StreetDoctors wants the kids to take away two main ideas: apply pressure and call an ambulance.

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Interactive models help students learn how to apply pressure.
(photo courtesy of Adrie Mouthaan)

The organization started in 2008 when two medical students, Nick Rhead and Simon Jackson, were teaching first aid to young offenders. They figured out that what the kids really needed to learn wasn’t CPR, but how to deal with blood loss.

“From then on, Nick and Simon started teaching young offenders in Wavertree [near Liverpool] informally—just a few times a year. After a year they thought it would be better to build a team of people… We gradually formalized our teaching and from there it just grew organically,” says Neary-Bremer.

Since then, StreetDoctors has taught more than 1,400 young offenders in six cities around the UK how to survive street violence—and how to help.

Though the impact of this kind of effort is hard to track, the message seems to be getting through to at least some of the youths.

A week after taking the StreetDoctors class, one of Neary-Bremer’s students was out walking with a friend when they were attacked. Thanks to his training, he knew how to apply pressure to the wound, and ended up saving his friend’s life.

Read more about the story behind StreetDoctors in the full Student BMJ article.

With safety and empowerment in mind, what other skills and subjects should we teach young offenders to help deter street violence?

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Bronx Reentry: Life after prison, from the grassroots up

Each day, people like you have ideas about how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put them into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling social entrepreneurs tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.

The idea

Pamela Valera grew up in South Los Angeles, where she witnessed friends, family members, and neighbors face tremendous difficulties after they had served time in prison and attempted to reintegrate with their home communities.

Ramon Semorile grew up in the Bronx in the 1970s and knows firsthand the barriers returning citizens come up against when they leave incarceration and try to get back on their feet.

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Long story, but Ramon and Pamela were cool enough to try on
some of our wigs when they visited the Idealist office.

The two met in New York a few years ago through professional connections and quickly learned they were both interested in tackling the same question: how can we help people who’ve been pummeled by the correctional system come back to society feeling hopeful and whole, especially when they come up against a slew of external hurdles as soon as they’re released?

“Returning from incarceration is a nationwide issue,” says Pamela, who is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University. “We currently have 700,000 people coming home annually nationwide. In the Bronx alone, thousands of people are coming home from jail and state prisons. The implications of reentry are many, and they impact everyone. If we don’t do something to make this scenario better now, future generations are going to pay for it.”

For the past three years, Ramon and Pamela—with many other colleagues and volunteers—have been growing the Bronx Reentry Working Group (BRWG), a grassroots coalition that helps returning citizens of the Bronx get social support, find jobs, stay out of jail, and work to overcome the societal stigmas associated with involvement in the criminal justice system.

“We help one person at a time,” says Ramon, who is now a Crew Supervisor at Bronx Community Solutions, an initiative of the Center for Court Innovation. “When you come home [from prison], you don’t feel secure; you’re afraid of going back. You don’t even want to cross the street, you don’t want to talk to anyone. The BRWG wants to give people confidence that they can make it. That if they commit themselves to change, they can hold their heads up. That it’s a long process, but it will happen.”

Obstacles

Though they describe their journey so far as mostly an “upward climb,” Pamela and Ramon have of course faced challenges.

Obstacle: Identity crisis

Since it’s founding, the coalition has won state funding for a Bronx County Reentry Task Force; hosted large community forums and support groups; and offered returning citizens services to help with basic needs, from education and employment to physical health, food, and housing. It all seems essential, but Ramon and Pamela wonder how they can better focus the BRWG.

  • Solution: Agree on what you can

“We’re all volunteers—none of us work full time on this—and it can be difficult to reach consensus on our direction,” Pamela says. “But we do know we want to work more with individuals—to help more people write their resumes, help them talk about their incarceration with those on the outside. We know we want more people who have benefited from our services to come back and help others. And we know we want to spread the word—to profile successful returning citizens in the media so others know it’s possible.”

Obstacle: Lack of funding

“We’re a grassroots community group, not a nonprofit,” Pamela explains. “We don’t get any financial support besides what we ourselves put in. So that limits us in a way—limits the speed at which we can work.”

  • Solution: There is an upside—focus on it

“Lots of wonderful projects have collapsed when their funding is depleted,” she says. “But we’re not tied to any external funding, so we’re not always stopping to look for more. Our people are doing this because they want to. We can’t move as fast as some other organizations, but we’re free to do what we want; we’re sustainable.”

Obstacle: Societal biases

“Not everyone who’s killed someone did it because they like to kill people,” says Ramon. “There are all kinds of circumstances. You never know what will happen. There are so many reasons and ways—truly, anybody can wind up in jail. But a lot of people who have no experience with incarceration think all ex-cons are bad. The biggest problem we face is the stigma.”

  • Solution: Education

“We have to educate people so they know that helping returning citizens helps everyone,” Ramon says. “People do want to change, they don’t want to go back to prison,” says Pamela. “But there are systems in place that tell them they’re still criminals. We have to change that so people are given a true chance to change. If you’re a ‘model inmate’ inside, you should be given a chance to become a ‘model citizen’ outside.”

Their best advice: stick with it

Despite the challenges of shifting focuses, money issues, and stigmas, Ramon and Pamela say they’re in it for the long haul.

“You don’t have to have a college degree to bring people together—you just have to have a passion for the work,” says Ramon. “You have to be committed for the long term. We’ve been able to really help some people. We know they’re not going back to prison. We know it. And that helps me sleep at night.”

If you’d like to volunteer with the Bronx Reentry Working Group, or have a question for Ramon and Pamela about their experience, get in touch with them through Idealist or email info@bronxreentry.org.

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This food truck is driving change for youth just out of prison

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.

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Jordyn and her sweet food spread. (photo courtesy of Jordyn Lexton)

In her English class at East River Academy one day, a school for incarcerated youth on Riker’s Island, Jordyn Lexton had her students read Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem (A Dream Deferred).”

After the group discussion, one student asked if he could be an architect someday. She told him yes. Another student who had been sleeping throughout the class raised his head and shouted, “Hell no! No disrespect, Miss, but you’re selling dreams.”

In that moment she realized that most of these kids would never actually have a chance to live their dreams—not because they didn’t have the potential, but because the system was broken.

Her students were all 16, 17, and 18 years old, yet charged as adults in the New York state prison system, one of only two states to do so. And even if they were lucky enough to leave East River Academy with a high school diploma or GED, the chances of them ending up back in jail were high—70% would return, in fact. Future employment and further schooling would be also tough due to their felony record.

“Regardless of what I was doing inside the facility, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to literally stop selling dreams and actually create channels for young people to have a successful reentry experience,” Jordyn says.

So she left teaching at the beginning of last year to start working at the Correctional Association of New York on the Raise the Age campaign. She got interested in prison reentry, and afterward, worked at the Center for Employment Opportunities.

An unabashed foodie, Jordyn then had an idea: what if she opened a food truck in NYC and hired her students once they got out of jail? The idea stuck with her. So she started working at Kimchi Taco Truck to learn the ins and outs of the mobile food world.

“If knew if I was asking people to pick up the truck, drive it to a site, turn it on, get it going, do sales, clean up, bring it back—I wanted to know what that entailed and felt like. And it’s not easy by any means,” Jordyn says. “The knowledge of that experience gives me an edge.”

Food with a side of social justice

While organizations like Homeboy Industries and Mission Pie have been touting the therapeutic benefits of culinary arts for a while now, Drive Change is really the first of its kind.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re trying to take the program and put it onto wheels,” she says.

One goal is that Drive Change will play parent to a bevy of other food trucks. Its first child, set for a soft launch at the end of November, is Snowday, inspired by the time Jordyn was 12 years old and had “the most amazing food in her life” on a family trip to Canada: maple syrup over snow. Other mouthwatering items on the menu include maple bacon Brussels sprouts and pulled pork bacon maple sliders, among others.

“I don’t want someone to come up to me and say, ‘This tastes like it has a social mission,’ ” she says. “I want you to walk away having this amazing food experience and then later, if you find out it’s one of the trucks by Drive Change, then you feel even better about the fact that you contributed to a lofty social goal.”

Although it won’t hit you over the head, that lofty social goal is the main entree. Jordyn envisions hiring a cohort of eight to ten formerly incarcerated youth, and training them over a period of eight months on everything from how to use propane gas to social media marketing to accounting.

The overarching goal of Drive Change is expansion: to train more kids who can use the skills they learned to get a job or open their own food truck; to make Drive Change the go-to caterer for social good events in the NYC area; and to help start lots more trucks in other cities.

The journey hasn’t always been easy for Jordyn, but it’s always felt right.

“If you have a good enough idea and the experience to know what it takes to bring it to life, and the ability to get investment from a number of community stakeholders, then I truly believe there’ll be enough support and noise whatever the hurdles,” she says. “And something positive is going to come out of it.”

Interested in seeing how this story progresses? Follow @DriveChangeNYC and @Snowdaytruck on Twitter, and like Drive Change and Snowday on Facebook. 

Drive Change is always looking for partners. If you know a corporate sponsor who might be interested in events or catering, or a food business interested in developing or donating menu items in exchange for promotion, get in touch with jordyn@drivechangenyc.org.

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3 things you can learn about entrepreneurship from prisoners

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.

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Days before his release from prison, Brandon Biko Reese reads during a session of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. (photo from Tamir Kalifa and text from Maurice Chammah via The Texas Tribune)

An all-health food vending machine in schools and companies. A publishing house that only publishes words and art from prisoners. Car repair training for teens in the juvenile justice system.

Sound awesome?

These are just some of the many projects that are being given a fighting chance because of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Houston, Texas-based nonprofit that aims to reduce the country’s high recidivism rate by helping inmates in Texas prisons start their own businesses.

It works like this: any man with an idea from one of the state’s 60 prisons can apply to the competitive program. Once accepted, participants go through a six-month MBA boot camp, complete with top business executives as mentors. After the cap and gown come off, help with funding, network building, schooling, and more continue both inside and beyond the prison walls.

“Really, it’s reinforced my belief in the tremendous, untapped potential of people in prison—both with respect to entrepreneurship and life prospects more broadly,” says Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state senator who recently spent a year in jail and is now a PEP advisory board member.

Since its start in 2004, PEP has served over 800 graduates, with only five percent going back to prison three years or less after their release. To date, 120 of their plans have come to life, from a food truck enterprise to a shoe shining business to a company that provides legal assistance to inmates.

What’s more, for those on the other side of the barbed wire, it’s shifting perceptions of how we view the formerly incarcerated.

“It helps executives from around the country see that most people in prison aren’t that unlike them—they have families they love and miss, career goals and aspirations, dreams of something better,” Jeff says. “They made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean society should write them off.”

 

What can you learn from prisoners?

Jeff is a firm believer that inmates have some of the shrewdest business instincts around. Remember Stringer Bell’s unfailing dedication to macroeconomics in The Wire?

Here are Jeff”s three tips from inside prison that can help you with your own entrepreneurial project:

1. Cultivate side hustles.

Whether it was ironing another man’s jumpsuit, opening one-man barbershops, or smuggling cigarettes inside, Jeff witnessed lots of hustles happening in prison. The risks varied, as did the rewards, but there was something to be said about going the extra distance.

“Hustles can help you diversify your approach to solving problems, gain a new perspective, and broaden your networks,” Jeff says.

So in addition to your big project, considering picking up some side hustles to both increase your cash flow and your opportunities.

2. Make strategic alliances.

Jeff worked at the prison warehouse unloading food shipments. In order to allay suspicion that he might snitch on his warehouse colleagues who sold stolen food, he soon found himself taking an orange here or an apple there, and distributing them strategically upon returning to his cell block

Of course, in the outside world, building strategic alliances takes more than handing someone a piece of fruit. But the principle applies to entrepreneurship just the same.

In a letter to current inmate and former Illinois governor Rod Blogojevich, Jeff gives some advice for how to make the most of prison. Some of these include: corresponding with anyone who writes to you. Forgiving your enemies. Not complaining about how bad your job is, nor bragging about how good it is. Embracing your background, but not imposing it on people.

And finally, staying open to the possibility that your allies might end up being more meaningful than you think.

“When the novelty wears off and the people who approach you are doing more than rubbernecking, don’t discount the possibility of making lifelong friends,” he writes. “You will meet some of the most fascinating people you have ever met, from all walks of life. Listen to their stories, and learn from them.”

3. Tap into your ingenuity.

Doing more with less: that’s what prison life is all about. Like cutting hair with toenail clippers, or cooking grilled cheese with an iron.

If the genius juices just aren’t flowing and you need a fresh perspective, break free from your routine. Talk to people you haven’t seen in a while. Follow folks on Twitter who have different viewpoints from yours. And read, read, read.

“Think about problems you’ve thought about before, but from new angles. Then leave your desk and sit outside on a nice day and just think. On good days, somehow it flows,” Jeff says. “Failing that, write it down immediately whenever you get a flash of brilliance, no matter what time of night, etc. Gems can be so ephemeral, you gotta capture ‘em no matter what.”


Interested in prison issues? Search Idealist for almost 2,500 prison-related opportunities around the globe.

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Balkan brass band plays a new venue: Sing Sing prison

This week’s spotlight: all things prison.

Slavic Soul Party! is a nine-piece New York City brass band dedicated to the Balkan brass tradition and its incorporation with American music. Formed over ten years ago by drummer and bandleader Matt Moran, the group plays upwards of 100 times a year in venues throughout the world.

In 2009, SSP! started performing in a much different space than nightclubs and concert halls: Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York—a maximum security prison.

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Slavic Soul Party!

About five years ago, a friend of Matt’s who worked at Carnegie Hall told him about a new program the venue’s Education & Community arm was initiating, called Musical Connections. The program would seek to “bring musical inspiration to people living with challenging circumstances,” and was recruiting musicians to play in places like hospitals, homeless shelters, senior centers, and correctional facilities.

Matt applied right away. For him, it was a no-brainer. “We wanted to be part of the program because as a brass band we’re always looking for situations where the fourth wall gets broken down. That’s what we’re about: street music, life music—not the separation of art and life.”

“When we auditioned, the Carnegie people asked us a lot of questions about ‘building community.’ I said, ‘We know about building community—building community means showing up. We’ve been playing at the same club in Brooklyn every Tuesday for ten years; we’ll come and play at the funeral when someone in our musical circles dies… That’s community: Be who you are, be honest, show up.’ “

They got the contract.

Sing Sing loves SSP

A portrait of the band painted by a Sing Sing inmate (Hurricane Sandy swirls in the background)

When they were accepted, the band was asked what type of place they wanted to perform in. They said prisons.

Matt explains: “For one, we’d never played in a prison. Two, of all the non-traditional venues Carnegie was serving, prisons were the one we as a band had the closest connections to, via personal experience or family members. And three, there is the undeniable cache of ‘cool’ about it—think of the history of music in prisons!”

SSP! was given their first gig at Sing Sing in the fall of 2009. Matt tells the story:

We were nervous as hell. We really didn’t know if what we were doing was going to be appreciated. We went through a tremendous security detail—they searched us personally, our instruments, our equipment… Then we were led to a room where we were suddenly turned over to a group of inmates. It was like, “What?! After all this security, we’re just let loose with these guys? Are we safe around these people?”

It turned out that the entire performance setup had been given as a task to a group of inmates—a handful of “good behavior” guys, who were also musicians, but no one had prepared us for that. We weren’t even sure what we were allowed to do—could we shake hands with them? There had been zero rules of engagement set.

Looking back, I realize that initially, their presence—because they were inmates—made us very uncomfortable, but that then they themselves—because they were so welcoming—soon made us very comfortable.

So we got on stage in the Sing Sing auditorium. The room filled up; over 400 people came. We got up and played hard; we didn’t want to leave any doubt that we were a really good band. They might not like it, but we wanted them to know that we were for real. It’s safe to say we all got goosebumps in that first concert.

The inmates are not allowed to stand; they have to remain seated. The fact that they’re in prison is always evident. They’re on total guard, personally, at all times. They’re always watching—everything.

But they still let it out, man! We have never played for an audience that’s yelled for so long between tunes; they even started chanting our names. When we were done and filing out, we continued playing in the hallways, which apparently you could hear in many places throughout the prison. We heard later from the Carnegie people, who had heard from the prison staff, that that little touch of empathy, that touch of rebellion expressed from us to them, made a big impression.

We went back to perform the next fall and the next—we’re currently in our fifth year—and in between we’ve been going back to teach some of the guys music and trade scores with them. Now when our band plays there, some of them get on stage and play with us. The community that’s been established there through Carnegie is incredible.

And the inmates’ own music group that they’ve formed together—they call themselves the Unofficial House Band—has codified into a real society within the prison. You can see they give each other tremendous support, and it’s given them peace, because it’s bringing music to everyone. Being part of that group offers a very real kind of protection: yes, emotional support and education, but also it increases their value in the prison, so they don’t have to worry as much about being threatened or shivved. That’s what inmates tell me.

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Matt on vibraphone
(image courtesy sokillingman.com)

For anyone who’s interested in working with an incarcerated community, Matt says, “There are a lot of volunteer programs out there. It’s a bigger commitment than a lot of other volunteer work, that’s true. But it’s not that hard. Just go out and do it!”

He also offers these insights:

Dealing with the bureaucracy
“The paperwork load in advance of this gig was tremendous,” he says. “The Carnegie application process, background checks, researching to see if we had gang affiliations, security at the prison… Plus when you’re there, there are all these rules, like you can’t take photos, you can’t record any music situation where anyone’s full name might be said… But the experience has been so meaningful that I quickly got over the tedium of the logistical mazes.”

Rolling with the unexpected
Though the red tape Slavic Soul Party! has encountered has been extensive, they haven’t always been informed about what would or could actually happen. All that preliminary work and still they had no idea they’d be left alone in a room with a group of inmates minutes after their initial arrival? Or how about the time their performance was delayed because there’d been a slashing in the cafeteria?

“Yeah, it’s a tight system, but it’s still a volatile place,” Matt says. “Prisons are not the best places to work, as you can imagine. You have to realize that it’s potentially not going to be a Mr. Rogers experience all the time, and try to be okay with that.”

Relating to the inmates
“Almost everyone I’ve met at Sing Sing has seemed to me to be a serious, kind, compassionate person,” Matt says. “It’s hard to see people you’ve come to care about live their lives in there. You want to help them find ways to be happy and find peace.”

“No one talks to us about why they’re at Sing Sing. When our band is there, we’re all focused on getting into the music, because music helps you transcend adversity. It’s very clear that we all know that, and that everyone in the room is using music for that in their own way. So in that space and time, we’re all equals.”

Do you have experience working with incarcerated communities? Share your story in the comments.

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Why I keep sending books to prisoners

This week’s spotlight: all things books.

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Letters from prisoners requesting books. (Photo via Kristin Stadum.)

I hate Wednesday.

I really hate Wednesday. The day wrecks me. I end up cold, tired and hungry, except in the summer I end up hot, tired and hungry because after work on Wednesday, I spend hours with DC Books to Prisons.

When a couple of friends mentioned the group, I started volunteering and in no time at all, I found myself wrapped in the cogs of this purely-volunteer organization that seemed almost organic in nature, surviving despite itself, because of itself, without rules, without structure, to put books in the hands of prisoners.

Over the years, I have picked and packed books, established a data repository, taken packages to the post office and fought to find a fiscal sponsor. Photography, writing, fundraising – whatever the group needed, I tried to do, but it wasn’t until I spearheaded a holiday fundraiser that I realized how wildly unpopular prison issues could be.

The project doesn’t have a steady source of income. The group survives on meager grants and responses to letters of appeal. The only real costs are the cost of the website, the mailbox, and shipping (media mail), which continues to rise. Even operating with such lean overhead, the organization struggles to survive.

Over the holidays, a local bookstore gave us the opportunity to tie together our skills – books and wrapping – by giftwrapping customers’ purchases for donations. The first year, I worked eight of the nine shifts we had, serving as the public face of DC Books to Prisons.

We don’t have a charming mascot, color or theme. We send books to an underserved and incarcerated population. A lot of people have problems with that. Very few are likely to wear our name on their sleeves and raise funds for prisoners. Many believe that prisoners just ought to be punished.

“Why?” a man asked as I wrapped his books. “Why do you care?”

While I quoted statistics on the current rate of incarceration (higher in terms of both sheer volume and per capita than anywhere else in the world), all I really wanted to say is that I care because somebody has to.

Our system is broken. Our justice system claims rehabilitation as a goal, not punishment, but in a world of diminishing resources, prisoners suffer. Libraries are cut as are educational programs, and recidivism is high. Those who enter prison on minor drug offenses walk out as hardened criminals without skills, resources or hope for the future, with criminal connections, without an education, and literacy helps stop that from happening. Showing basic human decency helps stop that from happening.

“Maybe in a way it’s a form of hope, which is nice considering all this negativity,” a prisoner from California recently wrote, expressing his wonder “to actually know that there are people out there who can do what they want, anytime they want, and still donate and volunteer their time, raise money… now that has an effect on a person to make him stop and think.”

The (mostly) men who write us don’t extoll their innocence. We don’t ask them to. We read their letters, try to find books that match their requests and include a brief note wishing them happy reading.

Even such brief notes reach their readers. Sometimes, I feel more than vaguely uncomfortable with the letters I get in response, the ones calling me an angel, a savior, a princess, the ones asking how many bedrooms I have, the ones offering information about impending parole dates. We don’t sign our full names or give personal addresses but we would not be hard to find, any of us, and I do get a lot of letters.

A lot of letters.

For some reason, though, I keep going on Wednesdays. Wrecked. Uncomfortable. Unsure of my own motivation but for the fact that someone needs to care. Then, something happens to remind me why I volunteer.

The day before Christmas, with a broken water heater at home and plans for one final giftwrapping shift, I found myself engaged in a conversation with the plumber’s assistant. In the July just past, he was exonerated of a crime he did not commit and released after serving 23 years of someone else’s sentence, someone identified through DNA evidence, someone who would never be tried because the statute of limitations had passed.

What do you do after 23 years behind bars? How do you move from 1989 to 2012 without climbing the steps in between? Cameras, music, and communication in pocket-sized computing devices with far too much information about everyone ever met with people checking in, checking out and checking their email all at the same time.

How do you explain a 23-year gap in a resume? How do you develop a relationship after 23 years on the inside? How could you ever go back inside any building ever again with the sun shining and a breeze blowing? I gave the man my attention, some cookies and a book on exoneration from my own shelves at home; then, I went to raise money for the project.

Since 1999, DC Books to Prisons has been answering individual inmates’ requests for reading material –fiction and nonfiction – with requests from all 50 states. Volunteers work with a donated library in borrowed space (from a local church) to pick and pack books. Requests range from dictionaries, drawing books, and westerns (all incredibly popular) to history, psychology, woodworking and electronics. Some of the prisoners are lifers, on death row or “in the hole” (solitary confinement) looking for a mental escape while others hope to learn a marketable trade for after their release.

Most of the prisoners who write us weren’t wrongfully convicted. They very well might deserve the sentences received but the ones who write us have nothing, no family or friends for support, no money, no options. We are their last resort, and whatever they did, they are serving their time. We can afford them basic human kindness and maybe a chance to learn, and so every Wednesday, cold, tired and hungry (except when I am hot), I send books to prisoners.

20130609_NYC0165Kristin Stadum lives and works in Washington DC, volunteering regularly with DC Books to Prisons as well as The Reading Connection where she reads books to (and encourages a love of reading in) children at a domestic violence shelter. In her free time, she travels, writes, walks, and raises money and awareness for breast cancer research.

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Headlines: The budget; Girl Scout cookies; meditation in prison

A not-comprehensive roundup of some things that caught my eye.

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By Cameron Brenchley (Flickr)

Proposed 2012 U.S. Budget

How it might change:

I think I need a Thin Mint.

  • Inside the Girl Scouts’ New Cookie Strategy (The Atlantic, Feb. 4): “Since 1917, we’ve had a laser focus on goal-setting, decision-making, money-making, business ethics,” Pesich said. “I’ve heard people reflect as adults that Girl Scouts was their first foray into business.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Send us a headline: In the last 72 hours, did you read something that moved you to action or gave you hope? Leave a comment below or tweet it to us @idealist.

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