Tuesday, April 19, 2016


LifeLine to Success modifies the behavior of people that have been convicted of felonious crimes. We equip them with the tools to reenter society as positive, productive citizens. We develop strong work ethic. We build value in the individuals. We give them a purpose. WE MAKE CRIME UNATTRACTIVE…

Success to us is the redirection of criminal behavior and commitment to negative behavior into a direction that creates safer, more pleasant neighborhoods. And we have been very successful. We successfully reprogram our members. But there is an unintended consequence that never fails. The society and support system doesn’t know how to deal with the new person.

Recently, we have had members to lose relationships and living quarters because the support system doesn’t fully understand the benefit of the transformation. It eventually boils down to money. Many of our members were very effective criminals and had a lot of money and stuff, all from ill-gotten gains. While the support system didn’t necessarily approve of the method of the gathering of stuff, they didn’t refuse to accept the benefits. So, when we are successful at redirecting the behavior and making crime unattractive, that costs real money!

I believe that the support systems care for our members. But, they don’t know how to accept the fact that in the real world, working doesn’t pay like crime. I believe the support system wants our members to remain free and not return to prison, but it’s difficult to reconcile that with the loss of revenue or things. Crime is attractive because the benefits outweigh the risk. The greater the risk, the greater the return. It is a fast paced life and it is addictive. LifeLine’s responsibility is to make all of that unattractive and create a new person that values others, is respectful to authority and refuses to continue a life of crime.

It breaks my heart every time a member loses his/her support system because they don’t want to live a life of crime any longer. Keep in mind that leaving the life of crime removes the benefits of criminal activity. So, while the support systems want our members to become new individuals, they don’t want to lose the benefits of the criminal activity. And, in my opinion, they would rather the member GO BACK to crime to bring in the stuff. In theory, they want a new person. But the reality of the cost flies in the face of that theory and the reality of the loss sets in. 

I’m extremely frustrated because we, LifeLine, don’t have the resources to serve as the total support system until our members are able to readjust and thrive. I am so wounded right now because I feel like it is my fault. And I am helpless… Success shouldn’t cost this much.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Are We Serious About Reducing the Prison Population?

Not many days ago, I had the opportunity to serve as a facilitator of a breakout session for Shelby County’s Operation: Safe Community during a town hall meeting. The purpose of the town hall was to lay the framework for Operation: Safe Community 3. The session I facilitated was “Repeat Offenders”, which was combined with the “Alternatives to Incarceration” session. During the session, one of our topics was the conflict of interest that the State of Tennessee has concerning criminal justice due to its contract with the private prison, CCA, that requires that the facility remain 90% occupied. If the 90% benchmark is not met, the state will pay.

I operate an ex-offender reentry program, and our mission is to reduce recidivism in Shelby County. Reducing recidivism means keeping people from re-offending and being incarcerated. I made the case during our session that the reality of the state’s position is oxymoronic. The system has flaws that need to be addressed- immediately. Our program, in this climate, is a direct threat to the state’s position, and I am sure it is unintended.
In a recent Huffington Post article,  Mississippi Jails Are Losing Inmates, And Local Officials Are ‘Devastated’ By The Loss Of Revenue, this is a direct quote, “’If they do not send us our inmates back, we can’t make it,” said one county supervisor.” Clearly, this is a conflict.

During our session, I offered an example. Our program equips men and women that have felony convictions with the tools necessary to stay out of the prison system. With that in mind, how can the state fund our program (which is not currently happening) at $1,000 per individual to keep them out of the system, when the contract with the private prison has an agreement to remain 90% occupied? Will the state pay us $1,000 to keep the bed empty AND pay $1,000 to the prison for the empty bed ($2,000 for an empty bed)? While those numbers are hypothetical, the theory isn’t. And the actual numbers are higher. How do we reconcile this? 

If we are sincere in our efforts to reduce crime and the prison population, we need to come up with a system that makes sense and is fair. The shadow games must end. I am hopeful that this can be accomplished.

UPDATE: Read this!!! 

Private Prisons Threaten To Sue States Unless They Get More Inmates For Free Labor

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rethinking Public Safety

With the departure of our police director, Toney Armstrong, I believe it is time for a conversation on a new meaning for the commonly used term “public safety”. Generally, this term is used to refer to the presence of police officers or has some relation to law enforcement. While I believe that law enforcement should play a major role, I do not believe that the current trends should continue as they have. Society has changed, morals have evolved and what is socially acceptable is not what it used to be. Taking those facts into consideration, it is time for a new, fresh approach that involves the public.

In my opinion, public safety should be the primary responsibility of the public. There is a term that has become widely used- “stakeholder”, in reference to those that should be consulted with when things are about to take place in communities. That term, while it has the potential to carry much weight, has been used too loosely and it has not been truly defined.

What is a stakeholder? Businessdictionary.com defines the term as a person with an interest or concern in something, especially a business. A stakeholder has ownership, or stake in whatever the subject is. When we are discussing community stakeholders, they should have a sense of ownership of the community. Ownership equals the assumption of responsibility. Anything short of that strips that individual from the right be called a stakeholder. 

Stakeholders have the responsibility to guide the culture and assist in setting parameters of what will be tolerated in the community. Stakeholders should rally the community around those values and see that they are being followed. We have the awesome responsibility of caring for and developing our environment. 

For far too long we have not assumed the roll of stakeholder and we have reassigned, unfairly, the duty of setting our culture and parameters of socially accepted behavior to law enforcement. Law enforcement should be our last option, not our first choice. The first line of defense MUST BE the stakeholders. 

To stakeholders, this is my position: no longer can violence be a viable option. I challenge each of you to speak up and calm down conflicts. We know when things are about to take place. Instead of videoing to share, step in and stop. Use the influence of your relationships. We have the ability to create our environment. We determine how safe we will be. Violence can no longer be tolerated and cannot remain the norm in our communities. Stakeholders must say, “We don’t behave like this”.

There will be some that chose not to live within the values that are shared among the majority of the residents. Some still see violence as a method of expression and conflict resolution. When reason is ignored, law enforcement should be deployed. They will enforce the law and, if necessary, remove that individual for the environment. If law enforcement is the first option, who do you turn to when individuals no longer respect the authority of the officers? Who is next in line? By allowing the officers to be the last resort, in cases where that is possible, you build value in community leadership and true community can be established. Anything short of that puts us on the verge of seeing a “police state” as a reasonable solution. Consider this, if the police are being deployed, in most cases, it’s too late. A crime has already been committed. Police don’t stop crime. They respond to it. We don’t need more officers, we need more empowered stakeholders. And, together, we will make the public safe. Public Safety on Display