Redemption: MIT’s Prison Education Program

– As you begin the transition
and journey into the unknown, keep your head high,
mind focused and sharp. And never, ever look back,
and remember you’re not alone. But yet, be warned, your addiction, the
lifestyle in the devil, is plotting your arrival, so before you walk out those doors, it’s time to man up and pack
the 12 steps of that Bible or Koran for survival. Those books you held
onto with a strong arm behind these prison
walls, will in the end, be a life line to protect
you from that downfall. When situations arise and
things are looking grim, don’t be afraid to embarrass
or open those books and learn how to live,
and learn how to win. Now you renter society
coming straight out of jail, you found ways that didn’t work, it doesn’t mean that you failed. You made a living the
best way you knew how, but it was just a little bit more, than the judge and the law would allow. You said you have nothing, but yet, you possess everything. God, family, friends,
and AA and the know how, how to be a productive member of society. You possess everything. But some would say, coming out of jail, I can’t put that on my resume. I understand your despair, to honestly tell them, yes I was in prison, I was being rebuilt, I was in a state of repair. I need courage to face the world. You see that’s fear taking action. My brothers, my sisters, let’s face the world together, and then the courage will come after. What do I say to my family? Man just go home and right that wrong. Speak from the heart, and
let the spirit guide you on. Family, it’s been so many
years since we drifted apart, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I was lost in the dark. I was trapped in the maze
trying to find my way, I have to confront my fears
to keep from going insane. But yet the drugs and
the lifestyle got a hold and they won’t let go. It’s telling me that I need it, but yet it’s killing me slow. But yet in my heart, I refuse to succumb. Never again will it be second to none. What do I say to those that I
physically and verbally hurt? Well I first say nothing. Let your repentance and
actions do the work. If you feel the need, then invite them to church. And if that doesn’t work, then give it to God. That seed that you planted,
will eventually spurt reentry. Thank you. (clapping) (gentle music) – The core of what we do is we conduct, what are called inside out classes, where I bring about 10 MIT
students in to take class with about 10 incarcerated students. – [Girl] I’m very excited for this. – Yeah, I know. – So we’re gonna talk about forgiveness, which I’ve always founds
to be a very rich topic to discuss in these classes. The class I teach in prison is nonviolence as a way of life. We discuss subjects like manipulation, coercion and consent. We discuss cruelty and kindness. We discuss forgiveness,
we discuss honesty. I don’t know these guys,
I probably never met them. Unless one of them was in
my class last semester, last spring, I probably won’t know them. Like you, they’re coming
at this completely naively. – Massachusets has a rich history in leading the way in terms of progressive correctional reform. (gentle music) – I first went in in the late ’80s. I thought it would be
interesting to meet with people who are more intimately
acquainted with violence than most MIT students are. My MIT students are all
scientists and engineers. They’re all kids who have
really excelled in their lives, they’re the cream of the crop. They’re not used to failure. For the most part, people who have never thought
of any other path in life other than that they would go
to college and do really well. My incarcerated students, my inside students are for the most part, people that haven’t finished high school. When they came to prison,
a lot of them stopped going to school when they were eighth grade. (police siren ringing) We’re meeting with the Peace Unit, which is youthful offenders
between 18 and 25, so they’ll be people around your age. Some of them might be exploring
taking college classes too. I think when the students
first come to prison, the very first time, it’s a very dramatic experience for them. Thank you. (ringing) Visitor’s badge. Okay. My students all have the experience of, you go through a metal detecter, you get checked in a lot of ways. For the first time in their lives, they walk through the huge steel door and then it shuts behind them with a slam. (door clanging) And then you’re in prison, and that’s a very visceral experience. I remember, I can still
remember the first time it happened to me, and
it was a long time ago. – [Woman] The sounds makes you nervous. – That feeling like I’m in prison. (laughing) It’s a little scary. I think that’s good, I think that’s really
part of the experience for my students, is to feel that feeling of what it feels like. The helplessness of being
an incarcerated person. – Come out. If you haven’t, hang in there. Okay, just chill out then, come on back. – [Man] Yeah you can walk that way. – [Man] You guys sign the wavers? Go ahead and sign the wavers,
then you guys can come out. – Hey everybody. I’d like us all to spread out
so we’re calling the people in blue the inside students, and the people who aren’t in
blue the outside students. Thank you all for coming. This is a one shot version
of something I’ve been doing inside for a while. I would like to just have a discussion. The topic for today is forgiveness. We’re gonna work on what that means, but let’s just get started. So let me throw out, I’ll start the general conversation, and then I think we’ll
break into smaller groups. So let’s circle up so
we’re closer to each other. The inside students often
come up with very powerful understandings of what forgiveness means, because they’ve thought about it a lot. – I believe the first
question Lee wanted us to think about was someone you
feel like you have to forgive in your life. – One of the things in
life that I went through was I grew up without a father. I grew up with him, and without him. He was in and out of my life. I kind of blame him for that. I’m still, to this day,
I’m still living and just, I blame him. Sometime I think, you know,
when I get out of here, I’m gonna go talk to
him, tell him how I feel. I come to the point where it’s like, we only life once, and I committed mistakes in life that I wanna be forgived for, and I don’t think he did what he did just to do it. Maybe he had his own obstacles in life that he was going through. – I think education helps
with building resilience, because men and women
are seeing themselves in a different light. It’s building their self-esteem, and their self-advocacy. They understand that
they are more than just the worst crime that they’ve done. Or the sentence that they’ve served. They are a full person who has potential and who can contribute to society in a meaningful way. – In winter break of my sophomore year, my sister passed away. And she was my age. – My mom/mother passed
awaywhile I was here, because this is not where I wanted to be because I didn’t want
this to be her last memory of me being here. – Once you find a peace with that person, I think you have to do
it through realizing that they’re human, and I think forgiveness kind
of comes down to humanity a little bit. – In the end, it’s just
people taking class with other people. – If you hope that people forgive you, you have to forgive people. – You have to be
responsible enough to know it’s a possibility for me to go to jail doing what I’m doing. – I still hold on to a lot of
anger against him for that. I don’t know if I can forgive him until my younger brother does. – You’re holding a lot of pain, and you aint did nothing. You did the best you could do. What I’ve learned in life, is that as long as you
do the best you can do, it’s always gonna be good enough. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re a good big brother. I heard you. I commend you for taking
on that responsibility in that role. – Sorry, what’s your name? – David. – Thank you for saying that David. – Yes, sir. – At the end, we always
collect evaluations, and a very common thing I get
from the incarcerated students on their evaluations is, I came into this thinking
I was gonna be sitting with the smartest kids in the world and I was gonna feel really dumb, and in the end, I figured out
that I’m really just as smart as them in my own way. (upbeat music)

1 Comment

  1. Do the best that you can possibly can, feel good about that. Try your best to stay on the straight and narrow for the rest of your life, help others with that also, easier said then done of course. Do your best to stay away from the things that send you to the "Joint".

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