John Eddings’ story

This past Spring, we spoke with John Eddings, a returning citizen who spent
forty years in prison, from 1973 to 2013. Today, he works as a secretary for Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 3.30.05 PMAlpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, and he goes back into prison once a week to work with prisoners in the Dr. Regina B. Shearn Corrections Transition Program.  We are grateful to John for sharing his experience in prison, his experience returning and what he wants students to know about how to reform the prison system.

Listen to our phone interview below:

Mark Your Calendars: Newton Discusses Criminal Justice Reform on October 17

Great news! Our Strong Returns Massachusetts State Captains, Harry Breault and June Sass — who are high school students in Newton, Massachusetts — have successfully organized a tremendous event about prison reform happening in just two weeks.

Earlier this year, Harry and June approached their local Newton Democrats and Newton Republicans and challenged them to co-sponsor a bi-partisan discussion about prison reform. The two groups agreed and shortly thereafter, prominent Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis and prominent Massachusetts Republican Sheriff Frank Cousins, Jr. — both inspired by Harry and June’s commitment to making bipartisan prison reform a reality in Massachusetts — have signed on to headline.  If you are in Newton, Massachusetts on Saturday, October 17 from 2-4 PM, you won’t want to miss this.  Head over to the First Baptist Church of Newton (at 848 Beacon St, Newton Centre, MA 02459) and witness how political change starts: when neighbors at a local level go outside their political comfort zones to reach across the aisle and start a conversation about how to solve a major public problem.

To attend, come by the First Baptist Church of Newton on Saturday, October 17 from 2:00-4:00 pm.

To learn how to throw your own bipartisan prison reform event in your town, contact Pete@StrongReturns.org and we will put you in touch with Harry and June to learn from those who have made it happen.

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The President has reached behind the wall…how can your campus?

We at StrongReturns.org believe it’s important for young people to reach out and encounter the reality of the American prison system. The President — in the spirit of the prison reform efforts of politicians like Newt Gingrich, Rand Paul, Van Jones and Cory Booker — recently became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison:

What can you and your campus do to follow in the footsteps of the President and built a campus-to-prison bridge?

There is an alternative

Thoughts about criminal justice reform often suffer from TINAism: believing that “there is no alternative.” We think: “This must be the way everyone always has and always will run the criminal justice system.” We need to break this habit of thought if we want restore the rehabilitative mission of prisons. Fortunately, The Marshall Project is running a great series on one such alternative: the German prison system.

Bernie Warner, the corrections secretary of Washington, noticed the faint smell of smoke—all the prisoners can smoke here, unlike their counterparts in the U.S. Inmates live in rooms and sleep in beds, not on concrete or steel slabs with thin padding. They have privacy—correctional officers knock before entering. Prisoners wear their own clothes, and can decorate their space as they wish. They cook their own meals, are paid more for their work, and have opportunities to visit family, learn skills, and gain education. (Inmates are required to save money to ensure that they are not penniless upon release.)

There are different expectations for their corrections officers—who are drawn primarily from the ranks of lawyers, social workers, and mental health professionals to be part of a “therapeutic culture” between staff and offenders—and they consequently receive more training and higher pay. There is little to no violence—including in communal kitchens where there are knives and other potentially dangerous implements. And the maximum time inmates spend in any kind of punitive solitary is eight hours.

Check out the most recent episode of the series on Germany’s prisons here.