On Education, Change Starts With Our Youth.

Greetings readers my name is Brandon C.L. Hope, and today I will be writing to the topic of how I think people incarcerated can benefit from a higher education. Now, while I do believe that people incarcerated can benefit from a higher education, I also believe that a higher education should not just be a privilege, but an obligation. My brother and role model so gracefully pointed out an age-old saying: “if you know better, you’ll do better.” So, if the point of incarceration is really rehabilitation, then our political leaders and captors would make sure that we knew better.

I also do not believe that it should start here with incarceration, it should start in society and in our homes. Now, not to say that college is meant for everybody, because everybody has free will so they should do with their lives whatever they choose. However, I do think that there shouldn’t be so many obstacles for those who do choose the path of higher education. But, having said that, I still believe that we should be focused on the generation under the ones who are preparing for college.

See, I was the generation under those preparing for college when I ultimately made a decision that was so life-altering, that if I had known what the outcome and consequences would have been, I know that I would not be incarcerated. More than likely, I would be pursuing my higher learning at this point in time. If I would have had faith in the school system, then maybe I would have actually gone to school. During my 9th grade year of high school, I only had four full days of attendance that were accounted for because at the time, I didn’t care. School was just so boring, and I didn’t understand why I would possibly be doing this school stuff when I could go hang out with the guys in the neighborhood.

Now, I am not justifying the way I felt, but I am saying that even when the youth doesn’t have the understanding to care about these things, it is our jobs to care for them. But there’s only so much we can tell them at that age, we are no longer able to watch over them and tell them what to do, as they will make their own decisions whether we like it or not.

Being that it is our job to care, we must find a way to make school interesting to the younger demographic. I know that you’re probably saying “I heard this before”, and I’m pretty sure that you have, because I have heard this before. But somehow no matter what we try, we still get the same results… or maybe that’s not true. Maybe the truth is that no matter how hard we say that we try, in all actuality we don’t try hard enough. Because I know that this idea that I’m stating right now that everybody has heard before was definetly an idea when I was that kid in 9th grade, yet somehow, no matter what they said they were doing it still doesn’t account for why I only had four full days of attendance and nobody cared.

It’s the school system that failed me and the system period, for allowing the school system to fail me. Nobody cared, and this can not be a continuing cycle or we will continue to lose our brown and black children to incarceration and/or street violence. So it’s time for change to happen, and change starts with us starting with our youth. Thank you for your time.

– Brandon C. L. Hope, From Hampton, VA

Education is the Key to Every Problem

Here’s a topic that I live to expand upon, due to around the time of my incarceration, even before then, I honestly know that had I knew then what I know now, things would surely be different!

Education is the key to every problem. In order to solve a problem, you have to be educated on its solution. I strongly believe that applies to every dilemma that occurs (day-in/day-out). Proper education keeps us ahead of problems that may occur. From the smallest of them, to the big ones.

Prime example here is this Coronavirus that is plaguing the world right now. With the proper education, we can safeguard ourselves, while learning the correct chemicals to combat those sickened by it & it’s spread. “That means to mask up!”

There’s a quote that I always reference because of its realness, and it goes like this: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance…” I reflect upon that quote to the bitter end, due to my personal experience. I’ve paid dearly for my ignorance. A very steep price that no amount of money can compensate, and that I can never get back or replaced. I’ve paid with precious time – over 25 years. That comes from the lack of a proper & healthy education. Now I know… too little, way to late. But the lesson is definitely learned.

If people are properly educated in certain areas of life aspects, trials, and tribulations, then they can avoid the many pitfalls life will throw their way. Take it from me, I’m living proof. For those of you out there, take complete advantage of the education highway and learn all that you possibly can to help you evolve into the best person you were destined to become. Education is the key to life.

D. Moyler #1119539, Lawrenceville Correctional Center, Virginia

Education Helps People Gain Self Worth

I believe people can benefit from a higher education while in prison because education helps a person gain self worth and belief that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to accomplish for themselves in life personally, and from an educational perspective.

I believe there should be additional educational courses provided to all prisoners who have and/or don’t have a GED. This would be a tool one can use to further their education and complete their education if they don’t already have it. I believe the state department of education funds haven’t been used to its fullest potential when it comes to prisoners having options to receive their education. As it stands for VADOC, a GED is the only option provided from the state. The educational funds can be utilized with outside schools who would agree to offer high school diploma programs to prisoners, to receive their education as well.

– Kamu Lumumba

Prompt: Education and the Prison System

Can you agree with the age old saying, “if you know better, you’ll do better?” I, myself, take the phrase as a praise to education as a means to curb criminal behavior in light of a better society. I believe that education, especially at the collegiate level, can help to reinforce moral values of ex-offenders and strengthen them with critical thinking, creating a line of innovative professionals and reputable contributors to society. This would ultimately result in curbing violent crime and would be a more effective use of the state’s rehabilitative efforts. Education is defined as training. So, lack of proper education can be synonymously linked to criminal behavior. Thomas Jefferson even linked being a good citizen to education by saying that ‘no one can properly use their freedom as Americans, if they do not have a proper education.’

Examining my own shortcomings, I could say that many of us who had turned to crime suffered from a sort of mental strangulation brought on by lack of education. Not only were we captives to our resources, being children of poor black families, our belief in getting a college education was shared amongst us too far and few in between. Having been one myself, its hard for a poor young man to really get behind the idea that an education would solve all his problems. Hefty tuitions discourage many poor people from even believing they could actually go to college. College to them is a pipe dream and fit only for the affluent; increasing the gap of disparagement mentally and literally. Instead, they see school itself as a waste of time and shortsightedly decided on faster, more lucrative options to relieve very real, very immediate stresses. It is becoming a common fact, the money it takes to house a single prisoner, could be used to send a person to college for four years. Why do we as a country continue to allow the school-to-prison pipeline target and claim wayward young black men’s lives? Corruption of the prison system became racists’ main weapon in retaliation to the emancipation black people. Now, it has been a system in motion coldly devouring young black and brown lives before bloom. Making higher education readily available to incarcerated people would at least help put us on a path to correcting some of the damages caused by the corruption of a justice system plagued by generations of oversight.

Rehabilitation through education… that isn’t a hard idea to get behind, is it? Maybe even a community college program could work with justice departments and start getting involved with lost youth looking at potentially life-destroying sentences. Me, I sacrificed my high school education because I became a teenage parent. I knew it was a bad decision then, but failed find another way. If I had had the opportunity offered to me to go to college, as an 18-year-old boy who’s life had gotten away from him, I would have jumped at the chance. I know the resources are there.

There was a program that made collegiate education readily available for many incarcerated people – involving the use of grants called Pell grants. This program has long been restricted to the point that only about four thousand inmates within correctional systems across America (less than 1%) receive them. Plus, the program goes up for review every year, leaving those few incarcerated individuals to worry if they’ll be able to finish their college courses. There must be a better way… to achieve this ‘better way’ is the job of both the people and their political leaders. The people with respects to raising concerns to their local politicians that they want safer streets and actual, effective rehabilitation efforts. Simply imprisoning people alone does not rehabilitate them. In fact, it may actually only make matters worse. Men and women, who were deterred from a path to higher education, could benefit by getting another chance at higher learning. Most of all, communities deserve to be safer places to live and raise children, and in a space where a person doesn’t have to be relegated to criminal thinking because of lack of education… its possible.

I believe if the upcoming administration wants to stick by their promise of relief from systemic racism, they would be more than open to providing greater swaths of incarcerated people with a readily available path to higher education. Only time will tell if change is really to come for race relations in America. Or, will it be the same story: America continuing to fail at acknowledging black oppression, and continue holding our country back from fulfilling a dream of establishing a greater union. Until then, whether behind the wall or on the streets… the struggle never stops…

Prompt for the Incarcerated:
How do you think people can benefit from a higher education while incarcerated? Do you believe there should be any specific types of educational course that should be offered to incarcerated people and why?

Remember… you may expound on the topic in a variety of forms: essays, poetry, art, etc. make sure to let the people know who you are and any project you may be or have been involved with. Thank you for your contribution. We are working together to bring awareness to the brilliance they have locked away behind bars.

-Q. Patterson

Thank you to the readers of BrillianceBehindBars.com. Answers to this prompt will be coming in through December of 2020 from those incarcerated across Virginia.