Action and Accountability: Part 1 

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Lesson 3-Action and Accountability

Incremental Steps


Annotation: Action and Accountability
We may know what we want, and we may commit verbally to preparing for success. We also must act. Each decision we make should align with our commitment to success. If we know what we’re striving to achieve, our personal accountability tools will help us measure the incremental progress we make.

Taking Action:
We prepare ourselves for a better outcome when we take time to learn from others. The earlier lessons of our course profiled leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Halim Flowers, and Socrates. Those leaders show us the relevance of:

  • Defining success,
  • Setting goals,
  • Moving forward with the right attitude, and
  • Aspiring to the outcomes we want for our life.

Yet unless we take incremental action steps, we never open opportunities. Without opening opportunities, we fail to position ourselves for the success we want.

An old proverb teaches us that if we want to know the journey ahead, we should ask people who have walked back. I remember getting that message from reading a story written during medieval times. The trilogy, known as The Divine Comedy, begins in a scary forest, which is a metaphor for darkness—or a predicament beyond what we take as being familiar.

While trying to escape that forest, Dante, the author and protagonist in the story, looks for safety. He fears a lion, a leopard, and a wolf that want to devour him. Those beasts represent the sins of pride, lust, and greed. If a person doesn’t exercise discipline, those sins can lead to a person’s demise.

Dante knows his death is imminent, as those animals present an existential threat.

In Dante’s pursuit of safety, he encounters the spirit of Virgil, a man who could save him. To get to safety, however, Virgil had to take him from the forest and through the nine concentric circles of hell. Each ring holds people who lived a life of gradually increasing wickedness. By telling Dante the stories that condemned those people to suffer through eternity provided Dante with knowledge, or the wisdom he needed to escape hell and transcend to paradise.

The story, Dante wrote, is not about his life—but about the entire human experience. If we know more about the punishment that follows our wickedness, we can avoid behavior that brings consequences we do not want.

Like Dante, we all must act to prepare for a better life. It’s never too early, and it’s never too late, to start sowing seeds for something better.

Any person going into a prison term can learn great lessons about action and accountability from others who have gone through the journey before us.

Participants who have access to DVD videos that our team at Prison Professors produces will find examples of people’s experiences. The justice-impacted men and women come from different backgrounds, and authorities convicted them of various crimes. All those people have stories to tell. Each of us has a responsibility to listen to the stories of others.

We should strive to decipher lessons that will help us make better decisions; we should act in ways that lead to better outcomes. When we create accountability metrics, we develop resources that can keep us on track.

Watching the videos that accompany this course may prove helpful because we can always learn from people who’ve gone through challenging times—especially if they’ve overcome those challenging times.

We also should learn from the people around us. By conversing with people serving time, we can learn a great deal—especially if those people describe previous experiences of going through the system, and challenges they faced upon release. If people try to perpetuate the myth that the best way to serve time is to forget about the world outside and focus on time inside, we should work through the following exercises, which we can start right now:

Write responses to the following questions in approximately ten minutes. If participating in a class setting, discuss verbally.

3-1: Describe a justice-impacted person who did well after release.

3-2: Describe a justice-impacted person who failed after release.

3-3: In what ways would you say those people’s actions in prison put them on a pathway for success or failure?

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