The Curious Autodidact

May 27, 2016

Point of View: The Return

Filed under: cool internet stuff,media related,prison reform,social justice — Honilima @ 12:15 pm

It’s summer, the time of year to suspend the Netflix account and spend more time outdoors when there is ample daylight. But if you are having an inside night don’t let educational opportunities to learn pass you by when there’s so much quality free content on-line.

Point of View (POV) is a showcase for some stunning documentaries that are shown on your local PBS station. Many people don’t realize that you can watch these marvelous independent films online or stream them onto a larger screen with a  device such as a $30 Chromecast (you can find them on sale for $25). As of this writing there are over 100 selections to choose from and trailers for many of the offerings to access.

The other cool thing is that the website provides interviews with the film makers and other educational resources to learn more on the topic. A major bonus for those thirsty for knowledge.

I watched The Return and Neuland both of which follow the pattern of the POV series by taking you intimately into other worlds. Each give viewers a “you are there” perspective which I find to be helpful to learn new viewpoints.

I have been a prison advocate for decades. Most who are paying attention are unable to grasp how we wound up imprisoning so many people and treating them like animals, instead of encouraging them with education to make the best out of their potential, from a young age. We should educate not incarcerate.

Along comes The Return, a film by Kelly Duane De la Vega and Kelly Galloway, an eye-opening look at what it is to be released from prison after thinking you would be there the rest of your life. Not only that but how your family and community might accept you after thinking you were going to be behind bars for the duration.

California was the first to adopt the three strikes law and their over-crowded prisons and incredible cost caused them to consider releasing those who were given unreasonable sentences if they were convicted of nonviolent crimes. This wise documentary follows several men who are released to see what life is like after being behind bars for years. This is one of those films that you will watch and think about weeks or possibly years later. For me, there weren’t major revelations because I am so familiar with struggles of integrating back into society but it was sobering to see Ken, with so much family support in place, wander about like he was visiting from another planet. This film will inspire you to work for prison reform and possibly to hire one of these former prisoners or provide support for families of the incarcerated, especially the children who are so impacted by this separation.

For me, there weren’t major revelations because I am so familiar with struggles of integrating back into society but it was sobering to see Kent, with so much family support in place, wander about like he was visiting from another planet. This film will inspire you to work for prison reform and possibly to hire one of these former prisoners or provide support for families of the incarcerated, especially the children who are so impacted by this separation.

Neuland, takes viewers into a Swiss classroom to learn what these young new refugees must deal with as foreigners in a new land. The emotion in the room is highly charged. The teacher is passionate about helping young people. It is interesting to see his approach compared to those you might see in America. His students have fled all kinds of tragic situations at home and he is trying to get them integrated into his culture and help them to set their goals realistic whilst understanding the feelings of home-sickness and agita that are in the hearts of his students.

These are films that have staying power and remind you that your burden may be heavy some days but others have different struggles and it is best we understand we all have room to grow and understand one another’s days.



April 15, 2015

One Person Can Make a Difference: Kim Bogucki

Filed under: media related,nonprofit,prison reform,social justice,women heroes — Honilima @ 2:00 pm

What do some police officers do with their spare time? Some more than you might imagine, you have already read here about Detective Bouldin’s Chess Club.

Well Seattle Police Detective Kim Bogucki is a co-founder (with Kathlyn Horan and former WCCW inmate Renata Abramson) of the IF Project.

She tells in this TEDx presentation of the $47,000+ a year it costs to keep prisoners locked up in Washington State and how her work helps people in prison to tell their stories to discourage others to enter that same pathway.  She encourages us all to mentor young people, to give a felon a job, a place to live and a chance.

From IF Project’s website:

“We are a unique collaboration of formerly and currently incarcerated adults working together with law enforcement personnel to affect change for those who are facing issues and challenges regarding incarceration and recidivism. Our work is built upon — and inspired by — these people sharing their personal experiences surrounding the issues of incarceration.

This project is based on the question:

If there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?

“If someone would have told me I was relevant…”

“If someone would have cared about me to console me…”

“If I would have met someone that has been where I have been to share their mistakes”

What the IF project allows us, is a highly unusual but greatly needed path for collaboration as it brings together inmates and law enforcement in an unprecedented manner. Officer Bogucki’s alliance with the inmates provides a break through to discover the real reasons behind our system of mass incarceration and access to the personal stories and intimate struggles that are leading people down this dead end path. We watch as she offers them access into a new world and they discover their ability to change, to heal and to find forgiveness – both from society and for themselves.

We provide ongoing support and education to the inmates who participate in the project, we offer monthly meetings/trainings inside the prison. The monthly topics are chosen by the inmates and can include domestic violence, healthy relationships, sexual assault and abuse, child abuse, parenting, and gang violence.

To support their project click here.

  • At age 14 I decided I wanted a baby because I wanted to have someone to love me unconditionally. At age 16 I was a mom and scared as hell.— Woman at Washington State Prison

April 4, 2015

Eleven People Who Used to be in Jail….

Filed under: prison reform,social justice,women heroes — Honilima @ 12:19 pm

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The issue of what happens to people when they are released from prison is real. How can we make sure former prisoners have options for real work and housing despite their previous records? What do you do if you have not been offered an education and have no support system on the outside upon release? It is tough. You have nothing and you are expected to be able to get an ID card never mind anything else with little or no money and no where to sleep. It makes no sense. We have to examine and break down the current system and take a page from other countries that also have a prison system with lower recidivism rates and better educational options inside.

Stories of former prisoners who have made a difference should be highlighted and we should all remember these people are all someone’s son or daughter, and possibly someone’s mother or father. Here is a great story of eleven former inmates who have made a difference.

We have to work to change our system so that education is put before incarceration on our national list of priorities. Why should anyone leave prison without a GED or a trade they can parlay after release? It makes no sense. You can make a difference by giving someone a second chance or encouraging someone who has been released from prison by being part of their support system.

March 31, 2015

Youth Prison or a Youth’s Community

Filed under: prison reform,social justice — Honilima @ 4:22 pm

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March 18, 2015

Six Million Worms: Sustainability Behind Bars

The dream of a sustainable prison? A sustainable farmer on the inside? Yes, this is an inspired TEDx Talk by Nick Hacherney that took place at Washington’s Monroe Correctional Center about how sustainability can work behind bars and change lives forever. Everyone needs something to get them up out of the bed in the morning. Nick found his inspiration in a sustainability program in prison.

This sixteen minute talk about their worm program and how they spread the gospel of the worm to other facilities. 36 million tons of food waste is disposed of in our country and this inmate and others are making a huge difference. This talk is inspiring and shows that no matter where you are you can make the world a better place!

You can donate to the Sustainability in Prison Project (SPP)  here.

from their website:

“Although each endeavor and corrections institution is unique, our experiences point to five

Essential Components for every SPP program:

1. Partnerships and collaborations with multiple benefits

2. Bringing nature “inside”

3. Engagement and education

4. Safe and sustainable operations

5. Evaluation, dissemination, and tracking”

March 4, 2015

How Do We Reduce America’s Prison Population?

Filed under: prison reform,social justice — Honilima @ 11:35 am

This Marshall Project interactive infographic, shows how difficult it is to reduce 
the prison population substantially by focusing solely on low-level offenders.

This interactive infographic tool will make you think about how we can and cannot 
possibly reduce the prison population, the highest incarceration rate in the world, 
by only focusing on the lesser offenders.

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