I’m building hope with the new platform we’re building at Prison Professors Talent (dot) com. We need a strategy to counter a growing voice advocating to repeal the First Step Act. This project will serve as an antidote for such misguided calls, and we’ll use it in our advocacy efforts for all people in federal prison.
Let me explain how.
Consistent with my pledge to never ask anyone to do anything I didn’t do in prison (and that I’m not still doing today), I began building my profile on the site. I’ll use it as a model. Since we have so many readers in prison who cannot see the internet, let me try to explain the theory.
While exercising one morning, I listened to an interview with the CEO of Airbnb. For those who don’t know, the Airbnb service disrupted the hospitality industry. During the pandemic, he explained a problem. He had to lay off a significant percentage of his workforce. To help, he built a platform: Airbnb.com/talent.
With his new platform, the CEO of Airbnb would profile the talented engineers he had to lay off. By featuring their talents, he hoped to help them find employment elsewhere and ease the burden that would come from the loss of their income while simultaneously taking advantage of their work-from-home status.
The Airbnb.com/talent story prompted me to start researching how much it would cost to build a similar platform. I knew the value of memorializing my release plan and adjustment strategy. While serving my sentence, I continuously worked to document the steps I was taking to prepare for success upon release.
At the beginning of my journey, I used to write journals by hand. A few years later, I began to bind them into a document I could distribute. I called my “portfolio of accomplishments.” I sent a portfolio if I read a story about someone who seemed to share my vision for reforms. That strategy opened a lot of relationships.
Later, friends helped me build my website when the internet started. They launched a website to document my release plan and the steps I was taking to prepare for success upon release. Through that website, many more opportunities opened.
Strategy for Reform:
As an advocate for reforms that will bring more incentives to prison, I meet a lot of resistance. Many people oppose the arguments I make to bring reforms that will incentivize excellence. Powerful forces want to eliminate mechanisms that will allow people to work toward increasing levels of liberty. If a judge imposes a sentence, opponents argue that the person should remain in prison for the entire duration of the term.
We need to show that our nation incarcerates too many people and that they serve sentences that are far too long. If a person is not a threat to society and the person has a place to live and a job, I argue that the person should be on a work-release program.
To persuade others that this change makes sense, we need data. Our new platform, Prison Professors Talent (dot) com, will help us present that data. Anyone with an internet connection will be able to see the steps a person is taking to prepare for success upon release.
The site is now live, though our team continues to build upon it. Since people in prison cannot see it, I will create a workbook to profile it with pictures and to show others how to use the site. The steps follow:
Step 1: Send an invite to [email protected]
Step 2: Our intern will accept the invite.
Step 3: Once our interns can communicate with a person in prison, we’ll ask for the following information to build the profile:
— Registration Number
— Name of Institution
— Mailing address
— Date confinement began
— Sentence length (in months)
— Projected Release Date
— RDAP Eligible (Yes or No)
— Earned Time Credit Eligible (Yes or No)
— If you’d like to send a headshot to complete your profile, your family may send an image.
Step 4: Our intern will send daily lessons to all participants, prompting ideas on how to use time inside to prepare for success outside. Participants can respond; our interns will copy and paste the responses into the individual’s profile.
Step 5: Participants may send daily journal entries, book reports, updates to the release plan they’re building.
Our program isn’t a magic pill. It’s a deliberate strategy that we’re building to show many people are using time inside to prepare for success after prison. As we record the profiles of hundreds of people, our voice for reform grows stronger; as we record the profiles of thousands of people, we become the change the we want to see.
I’ll continue working to find sponsorship from businesses and individuals to build this platform.
We hope to feature you.