Lesson 1—Attitude and Aspiration
Annotation: Attitude and Aspiration
Once we define success and set clear goals, we need to pursue success with the right attitude. For our course, we define the “right” attitude as a 100% commitment to success—as the individual defines it. That strategy works for people who anticipate a sentencing hearing, and for people after sentencing. Aspire to the best possible outcome.
Halim Flowers is now one of our nation’s most celebrated artists, writers, and activists. But that isn’t how he started his life.
Like many people who go through the criminal justice system, Halim began his life in struggle. Street gangs influenced his adolescent years. Before he turned 10, he walked across puddles of blood that oozed from a dead person. Neither gunshots nor seeing death fazed him. His father became addicted to crack cocaine.
Conditioned by his environment, Halim started selling crack at 12, adapting to life on the streets and housing projects of Washington, DC. Most children his age have positive role models and learn in school, preparing them to live as productive adults. Their lives reflect what they see around them. Unlike other teenagers, Halim didn’t grow up with the opportunities and privileges that so many people take for granted. His behavior mirrored what he saw, and by the time he turned 16, he had to start preparing for sentencing and prison.
Authorities charged him with gang-related crimes. After judicial proceedings concluded, Halim had to cope with the plight of two life sentences.
What does it even mean to serve double life?
Since a judge sentenced him to serve a term with letters rather than numbers, authorities sent Halim into high-security penitentiaries. He stepped inside the walls before being old enough to vote.
While incarcerated, Halim made a commitment. Despite starting his sentence at 16, he had the wisdom to know that he didn’t like his environment. People convicted of crimes surrounded him. Those people tried to influence his adjustment, giving him a message that permeates every jail and prison in America:
“The best way to serve time is to forget about the world outside, and to focus on time inside.”
It’s tough to start serving a sentence under those conditions. Prison can obliterate hope. Few people know what it’s like to live with the following challenges:
- Being born into an environment that doesn’t abound with positive role models,
- Being influenced by gangs and crime before knowing how to decipher the consequences of decisions,
- Being separated from a mother at 16,
- Learning that a federal judge imposed two life sentences,
- Hearing that the system doesn’t offer any way out.
Write responses to the following questions in approximately ten minutes. If participating in a class setting, discuss verbally.
2-1: How would you expect a person with Halim’s background to adjust inside the penitentiary?
2-2: In what ways would you expect his life to be different after 20 years in prison?
2-3: What would you say would be the best possible outcome for a person with Halim’s background?