August 16, 2012
Thursday, 2:30 p.m.
Letter #238: Back to Business as Usual!
Now that I no longer have the Cognitive Behavior class to time-snife my days, I’m back to teaching business and holding one-on-one meetings on Exit Strategies. I teach the Business P.R.E.P. (Prison Rehabilitative Entrepreneurial Program) three days a week to a class of 30 participants, and I hold Exit Strategies meetings two mornings a week. I’m booked usually a month in advance, with prison staff referring to me inmates who parole soon.
After successfully running the business class on my own for 20 weeks with a class of 10–15 core participants, I drafted a proposal to the prison staff, formulating the class as an officially sanctioned organization, which requires a board and a staff sponsor. As an officially sanctioned organization, we can request donations of business courses and hold fundraisers.
I enlisted the support of several class alumni as well as Ms. Aven, a staff member, and we relaunched the class last week to a select group of guys, by invitation only, due to space constraints limiting us to a class size of 30. Our kickoff night went really well, and I got great feedback from many of the guys. At the next class, we maxed out enrollment, despite the stringent qualifications and hefty amount of homework I require.
Each week, I lecture from a college textbook on business, emphasizing the components that would be especially useful to someone starting a small business in a tough economy. Since I require each man to formulate his own business plan, many stop dreaming about what they’d like to do someday once they are released and instead start working toward those goals, turning them into reality. So far, among our last classes’ alumni, three have launched real-world businesses.
Because we are limited as to what we can legally be involved with while incarcerated, I help the guys stay profitable while staying legal at the same time. Also, each man had to go through an application process (my idea, my creation) 🙂 so that I could deny anyone whom I deemed to be a distraction to the class or not serious-minded. Interestingly, since I used a shared computer in the law library, and my files are not password-protected, the official library passes now look identical to my Business Class Passes! (Why does it not surprise me to find thieves working in a law library?)
Imitation is supposedly “the sincerest form of flattery,” though “a flatterer spreads a net for your feet” and imitation chocolate tastes like chalk, which isn’t very flattering to the taste buds. I’d rather look at it as an infringement of my intellectual property rights, which isn’t covered in the class until next month.
During this past week’s class, I had each man stand and give a brief account of who he is and why he is in the class. This is one of those experiences I get to have that you don’t—but I wish you could have.
I wish you could hear from the staggering number of guys who have a family member in prison—some with both parents in prison, and I have a set of brothers in my class as well. I wish you could see their struggle to come up with something they’ve done that they’re proud of. And I wish you could be there to see the glimpse of hope, as they express how much they need this.
I asked for a show of hands: Who is doing more time than me? No hands, and I’m glad for that. Hopefully something I teach will effect change inside, give hope, give purpose, and show love to the unlovely.