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PLATFORM : Never to Be Trusted

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After years of minor convictions for minor offenses, some jail time and finally a prison sentence, I decided it was time to change. I began to prepare myself for release from prison by polishing up on high school courses and taking a few college correspondence courses. When I was released, I enrolled at San Francisco State. In those years (1950s) there was a very developed rhetoric about rehabilitation and there was some attempt to actualize that rhetoric. There were high school programs in all prisons, lots of vocational training and some rehabilitation strategies. The programs were a little hollow in actual substance and in the delivery; but there was an attempt to rehabilitate.

However, rehabilitation--as a purpose--has almost disappeared in California. They once conducted prison high school courses much like high school courses on the outside. There’s nothing like that going in California prisons now. There are self-taught courses and some tutoring but it’s very difficult to complete anything.

However, the most important barrier to rehabilitation is the public attitude toward ex-convicts. There has to be some shift in attitude which will allow a convict to return to society with dignity. We have to go back to some earlier values. The idea that a person pays a debt by serving time has been forgotten. The idea that prevails now is, once a person has committed a felony, we can never trust him again. That’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.

It’s important to change the public’s attitude if we really want thousands--in fact, hundreds of thousands of persons--to return and live a life that will not be a threat or burden to society.

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