Prison is a State of Mind…

Archive for March, 2012

VICTIMS OF CRIMES – The GOGI Perspective

Breaking Law = Breaks Lives
As the founder of the nation’s emerging leader in inmate self-corrective education, I am often questioned why I bother attempting to help 2.3 million individuals who have a difficult time playing by society’s rules. Some citizens get downright angry at the idea of providing criminals with anything, let alone education they can barely afford for their own children. There are strongly held opinions about what should happen to someone who willfully or aggressively causes another individual harm and very few of them include higher education or employment opportunities. Compounding this anger are the news reports of prisoners being let out of prison, only to cause more harm and accumulate more victims. Overall, there is very little community compassion for those who break the law.

This is because the victims of crimes suffer greatly at the hands of those who appear to have no concern for others. The pain of crime runs deep in the hearts, the souls and even the pocketbooks of the victims; the harm is oftentimes irreparable. And the victims of crimes are not only those who are personally injured or harmed, but also those who are shaken by the ripple of the deeds of others. The fallout and collateral damage of someone else’s crime is sometimes the most difficult thing in life to overcome, it may be a wave of destruction reverberating through every minute of every day, all caused by a human being who appears to be heartless.

Make it Go Away
When we humans are financially, emotionally or physically hurt, we want the harm to go away, forever. Is it any wonder a victim will want the harm to be locked away in a prison, far, far away from the ability to wield more harm? The logic goes like this: if the heart cannot heal, at least the person causing the harm should be punished for the rest of their life.

In addition to the literal physical harm caused by direct crimes, the ripple of seemingly “harmless” crimes has clouded all our lives, causing doubt, fear, and suspicion as the standard fare in the course of our every day. Trust is not something we offer each other automatically anymore, because businesses and individuals have been burned too often by people who willfully do things good people oftentimes do not understand.

We are all the victims of each and every crime committed; each and every one of us suffers at the hand of others who make their own rules. From the higher cost of goods resulting from the actions of thieves, to the irritating security measures we all face when attempting to cash a check or board an airplane. We all suffer — every last citizen — for the crimes of those who seem not to care, those who seem not to have feelings, or those who seem not to understanding the far-reaching damage that can be caused by even the smallest infraction of our laws.

Our children need escorts to school because they are unsafe walking our streets. Our credit cards are not safe from cyber hackers or drug addicts selling a stolen wallet for 20 bucks. Our homes and cars are vulnerable to those who think nothing of popping out a window or rattling our sense of security by entering our homes. Our businesses must be built as fortresses against the criminal, complete with surveillance cameras, security locks and higher prices on each and every item.

Society Under Attack
The very core of society is under attack by those who selfishly seek gratification at the expense of the rest of us. Someone who enters a convenience store and steals even something as small as a candy bar or a bottle of beer is directly attacking each one of us, causing heightened security and suspicion of those of us who are law-abiding citizens. The thief at a local store may think they are getting a “free” electronic gadget but it is at the expense of those of us who work hard to pay for the items we purchase. As part of the ripple of the criminal’s actions, the rest of us are scrutinized and must “prove” our honorability and identity. We, the honest citizens, are constantly under suspicion because a few of our citizens choose to steal from the rest of us.

Fundamental Flaw – Lock them Away
It has been our national policy to rid our community of the offenders, locking them away so they cannot cause us further harm. As a society, when we lock away the thief, the drug dealer, the drug addict, the bank robber, or the fraud we get a reprieve from the wave of destruction one single individual can wield upon their environment when they selfishly ignore the core human values of honesty, integrity, and kindness toward other living things or the property of others.

But the fundamental flaw in locking away the criminal is that 90 percent of all crimes committed require a prison sentence that, at some point, ends. Ninety percent of all criminals are released back into our communities, and many are released with fewer resources, but increased criminal skills and a long list of new “friends” who will also be released back into our society.

It is called “re”-habilitation but, to be honest, the individuals seeking to learn the positive decision-making tools we teach at Getting Out by Going In (GOGI) tell us they never had those tools in the first place. How can you attempt to rehabilitate someone who was never “habitualized” to society’s norms and rules? And why are a majority of prisoners stating that they didn’t know how to make a positive decision as a child?

What are the real reasons people fall into living a life of crime? Maybe it would help to understand who the criminals are in our nation.

The criminal in our nation is the young boy, raped by a neighbor, who begins to drink or join a gang and beat people up to prove he is a man. The criminal in our nation is the wife, who after years of abuse, finally can take it no more and kills her husband. The criminal in our nation might be the high school student who, for his very life’s sake, must join a gang because it is unsafe to walk to school without the “protection” offered by the reigning hoodlums. The criminal might be the individual released from prison or jail who cannot find employment and, in truth, has no employable skills who resorts to stealing, yet again. And the criminal in our nation just might be the insecure teenager sucked into a methamphetamine addiction to deal with the fact that she feels fat. The most significant part of the entire sorry scenario in our nation is statistics prove that once these individuals enter our prison system, the cycle of the downward spiral continues and few ever recover.

Victim, What do You Want?
Can we continue to ignore the fact that criminals are being released with fewer resources and opportunities and are reoffending at a staggering rate? Here is a question for you. If you are a direct victim of a crime, do you really want that individual to be released with the likelihood that they will commit more crimes, hurting others as they have hurt you? Do you really want a reprieve from the crimes, or do you want that person to stop hurting others, altogether?

We Want the Crimes to STOP!
At Getting Out by Going In (GOGI), the nonprofit founded in 2005 to address the need for positive decision making tools for our nation’s 2.3 million men, women and children in prisons, we want the crime to stop. We don’t want to make excuses for crime, coddle the prisoner, or dismiss the great harm caused by crime. What we want is for the crime to stop. Period. To make this happen, we ignite a revolution within the heart and mind of the individual so they have the positive decision making tools that allow them to walk away from the poor decisions leading to a life of crime.

Enough is Enough
Frankly, we are tired of people robbing banks, causing our banks to require bulletproof glass and raising the fees all of us pay. We are tired of people stealing from stores, causing the cost of goods to be raised so we pay more for items we need. We are tired of dope dealers not realizing someone just broke into our cars to give you a few bucks for the dope you offer. We are tired of people stealing our credit or debit cards, causing our credit to be damaged and raising the rates we pay for those cards. We are tired of having to carry two forms of ID to prove who we are when we make a purchase.

We are tired of paying $60,000 per year of our hard-earned wages in taxes to house a criminal so they will simply leave us alone for a little while, knowing that when they are released they are ostracized and outcast by society, and propelled into more criminal behavior. We are tired of the sad fact that the budget for our nation’s prisons is larger than the budget for educating our children. We are tired of the need to put bars on our windows, alarms on our cars We are tired of chasing criminals only to watch them waltz in and out of prisons and jails as if incarceration was simply a vacation from the havoc they cause.

And, more than anything, we are tired that no workable solution has been identified by our government. The default is to build more and more prisons, and release more and more ill-trained and unemployed people back onto our streets, and ultimately create more and more problems.

Doing Something About It
We at GOGI (www.gettingoutbygoingin.org) are so tired, in fact, that we have taken the matter into our own hands and offer tools for positive decision making to any individual behind bars who is as tired as we are of the cycle of incarceration. Why? Because we believe that until the criminal mind becomes a mind dedicated to good and to the service of others, nothing will improve. At GOGI we believe that until the criminal mind becomes a mind dedicated to good and to the service of others, nothing will improve.

Fix Yourself – GOGI and Self-Correction
In offering a simple set of tools for positive decision making for any individual interested in making positive decisions, we count on one thing; most criminals want to be good. Very few individuals want to be bad, hated, scorned, and resented. Most people want to be good parents, good sons and daughters, good neighbors. Very few criminals, or anyone else for that matter, wish to be a disappointment.

At GOGI, we believe and it is our experience that most individuals feel remorse for the harm they have caused. Most individuals wish they could have done things differently and struggle to find a way to make things right. And, surprisingly, most people in prisons today are willing and want to learn ways to be better humans.
In truth, there are some individuals who feel no remorse, who are incapable of empathy and who must be locked away because they simply cannot exist without causing great harm to others. But in a nation where we incarcerate a greater percentage of our citizens than any other county on earth, we know through personal experience that most of the millions of prisoners in our nation want to be better citizens, but do not have the skills needed to make lasting changes in their lives.

In our nation, in our homes, in our media, in our schools, and in our neighborhoods, we do not teach individuals how to make positive decisions. We assume parents do that, but many parents did not get that training, either. We have generational families of criminals because no one is bothering to teach anyone the tools needed for positive decision making and our media, our nation’s most powerful educator, glamorizes poor decision making as making people happy, famous, loved and rich.

At GOGI we have listened to the experiences of former prisoners, psychologists, addicts, religious leaders, 12-step program participants, chaplains and other nonprofits and we deliver what we believe to be simple tools which can be used by anyone interested in making more positive decisions which we offer to individuals, to groups and to organizations to use in their efforts to help individuals self-correct.

We call them the Twelve Tools of GOGI and we call it GOGI Self-Correction, the ability to use the Twelve Tools of GOGI to stop harming oneself and others with criminal behavior. Then, we go even further to suggest that ULTIMATE FREEDOM occurs when the harm-causing individual self-corrects and dedicates their life to living as a good example and being of service to the communities they once harmed.

What’s In It for the Victim?
When a harm-causing individual stops any future harm, we believe something good has happened. Nothing can replace the death of a loved one, credit that is ruined, or the long-term sense of violation experienced because of a burglary, a rape or battery, or drugs being sold to the children who then break a window or steal your mail, but at least the harm stops. To stop future harm is a good thing; it makes our communities safer and, we hope, assuages the grief of the victims, if only a little. The endless cycle of the revolving door of incarceration can stop. And, at GOGI, we want those who have harmed others to return to our communities and help heal those communities through their dedication to service. While that does not completely heal all the wounds of crime, at least it will protect others from harm.

The Only Real Solution
The only real solution to our nation of over-incarceration is for the individuals who harm businesses or other individuals or themselves to learn tools for positive decision-making. Crime will only stop when the criminals choose to do something else with their time. GOGI provides the Twelve Tools of GOGI for Positive Decision Making as a way to create alternatives in the lives of those who desire a change. The only real solution is within the individual and GOGI empowers the individual with the opportunity for change. And it is why GOGI exists, to give people a choice and the chance to live as productive and positive citizens

Giving Back
The victims of crimes suffer long after most of the criminals have moved on to their next wave of destruction. For that reason, GOGI is dedicated to providing the Twelve Tools of GOGI to the victims of crime, understanding that the psychological and physical ramifications of injury can be healed, somewhat, through the techniques used to inspire positive decision making. Additionally, we are intensely interested in the development of insight, empathy, and compassion within the hearts and minds of those who have injured others, teaching the incarcerated how harmful even the most seemingly innocuous action can be to others.

We support all efforts to help heal the victims, their families, and the communities who are damaged by the acts of others. We wish more than anything GOGI could have been taught to each person who killed another, sold a drug, robbed a store because we believe that when armed with the Twelve Tools of GOGI, individuals can and do make more positive choices. And, through offering the Twelve Tools of GOGI to a nation of poor decision makers, we are hoping to generate the support of those hurt most by crime. More than anything, we want the support of the victims, as only they know the pain caused by crime. They, more than anyone, should want the crime to stop, and GOGI provides the way to make that happen.

Teaching the Twelve Tools of GOGI is one solid way to begin the healing of our communities. And, because we understand the importance of insight and remorse, we encourage our GOGI students to dedicate their life to being of service to the communities they once harmed. We call that living a life of ULTIMATE FREEDOM.

Positive Decision Making Tools for All
Until we teach all citizens how to make positive decisions, we will have a nation of poor decision makers. It is not a matter of punishing the criminals, it is a matter of realigning out nation to the time-tested values at the core of all successful societies. Until we have a nation of individuals who can make positive decisions, we will have a nation of locked doors and generational incarceration. Is that the legacy we are prepared to have associated with our generation? Have we really declined as a society to a nation of poor decision makers pointing fingers and blaming everyone but self? We are all guilty of feeding the machine of a declining society and therefore we all suffer for the crimes of the few.

The Choice is Clear
The choice is a simple one. As a nation, do we really have the luxury of promoting poor decisions as having any other outcome other than despair and hopelessness? Whitney’s death and Demi’s rehab; are those really examples of the best we can do as a nation? Are we really so miserable that all we can do is focus on the misery of others to make us feel a little bit better about our lives?

The prisoners in our nation have expressed an overwhelming desire to self-correct, to fix themselves through their learning and application of the Twelve Tools of GOGI for Positive Decision Making. Just as crime hurts all of us, the poor decisions we each make dictate the direction of our nation. Where are you leading us?

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