Making Amends, Flipping The Script: Prison Lifers In Michigan Look To Reinvent Themselves

The least likely place where you will expect someone to change their lives, is in a prison. There are three men who have worked diligently to make a change by transforming their lives. Combined they have served just over 82 years, and most of their time has been geared toward their transformations – what a phenomenal change and stark contrast to how these individuals, who once were going down destructive paths to transform themselves for betterment. In a groundbreaking program that these men founded called: TAB-MI – Thinking * Attitude * Behavior – Modification Initiative, WASHINGTON, JONES & FERRELL, (which sounds like a law firm), are setting out to revolutionize the idea of intervening in the lives of at-risk youth and young adults, who struggle to stay on a path conducive to their benefit. And provide a curriculum-based program that will help change cultural violence and reconstruct the mentality of those who find themselves lost in a maze of confusion, dysfunctionalism, disadvantage, and sadly the indulgence in criminal thinking and criminality. LeRoy Washington, 50, who’s serving a 42 to 60 years (virtual life) sentence for Second Degree Murder that he committed in 1995. He has taken his transformation very seriously. His time behind bars has not been wasted. LeRoy has successfully completed paralegal studies with Blackstone Career Institute. He has been involved in the field of personal development for over two decades. Since his incarceration he has earned a MBA in Business Administration-Management from California Coast University’s Distant Learning Program and is currently working on a Doctorate’s in Education. Upon completion, he will become the first MDOC inmate to earn such honors from an accredited school while incarcerated. He has also earned a State Mediator Certification (i.e., 40 hours of mediation training by Professor Brian Pappas, MSU); authored a series of children’s nursery rhyme books; created an anti-bullying curriculum and cofounded the “Anti-Bully Crusaders Organization” with his daugther Lauren Washington, in an effort to make all our learning institutions a “Bully Free Safe Zone” by eradicating bullying and reducing violence (www.antibullycrusaders.org). Above and beyond his personal accolades the highlight of his works has been seeing his anti-bullying curriculum change & save lives and working with youthful offenders & HYTA’s at a prison where he wrote and taught corrective behavior curriculums, pre-college modules, and was a mentor for troubled youths. He has actively participated in numerous other programs; Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, Chance for Life, etc… He is a co-founder of the TAB-MI project, which is a curriculum-based program designed to help at-risk youth and young adults change their Thinking Attitude Behavior. This modification initiative provides for a complete change in ones prospective toward the need for a renewed way of life. LeRoy states, “I am deeply sorry, with every fiber of my soul, for the crime I committed. As a man, I accept full responsibility for what I did. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. I have so much more to give and so much to offer. I just want one more chance to show the world that I am capable of redemption. Another chance to share my hard-earned wisdom by making a positive contribution to the economic stability of my family and community, while demonstrating that my life has value beyond the sum of my errors. I am definitely not the young reckless, carefree, bad decision making man that I once was in my 20’s. I would like it to be said at the end of my life that ‘I, LeRoy Washington, descended to the bowels of despair on my life’s journey and was exiled, for a time. However, rather than succumbing to the ignorance, darkness and hopelessness of that hour, I chose to remember and reclaim my humanity and that of my fellow man’s, redeem my soul and paid restitution with my life’s works.’ Life is all about the ability to make a decision that will honor the law and respect humanity regardless of the individual or collective challenges we may face. I can attest, that whether we are tested by our own hand or in ways beyond our control, our lives will unerringly reflect how we elect to respond.” Read more about LeRoy, link on: http://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/07/06/leroy-washington-daughter-co-found-natl-anti-bullying-project-to-change-lives-2/. Quentin Jones, 39, who’s serving a mandatory life sentence for First Degree Murder. He began his transformation 10 years ago when he began to face his past misdeeds knowing he had to embrace the idea of change. Quentin is the founder of MYLIFEMATTERSTOO, a movement that has taken a realistic approach towards humanizing incarcerated men and women by giving them a voice and platform to show and prove that their lives have greater significance beyond the sum of their errors. He has twice completed the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and in 2016, he enrolled into Jackson Community College, where he paid for college courses. Quentin is currently taking paralegal courses with Blackstone Career Institute. He is always trying to better himself and help other similarly situated individuals in the process. Quentin is also a co-founder of the TAB-MI project. Incarcerated since he was 18 years-old, the drive to work extremely hard at transforming his life has become an effortless passion filled with a determination to change his life from how it was some 20 years ago. Quentin states the following: “I truly am sorry for the pain that I caused everyone effected by my actions. While I know sorry doesn’t take away the pain, it is the first step in forgiveness, which is what, I one day hope to receive. I have spent the last 20 plus years transforming my life and now that I have changed, I dedicate the rest of my days on this earth to helping all of humanity to become better human beings.” To learn more about Quentin – go to: www.mylifematterstoo.org and @silentcry on instagram on Facebook SilentCry,Inc. Ricardo Ferrell, 62, who’s serving a parolable life sentence for Second Degree Murder embraced the idea of the need for transformation when he came to the realization that in order to live his life’s purpose he would have to work diligently toward making a significant change, indicative of a renewed way of thinking. During his nearly 40 year journey, he’s taken on the belief and attitude that he must make amends for the harm and pain he is responsible for and he’s accepted the fact that his past behavior could likely cause him to spend the remainder of his life behind bars. Ricardo shares the following regarding his crime(s). “Practically everyday, I think about the pain and harm I’ve caused James Turner and his family, who didn’t deserve to go down the road of sorrow due to my reckless behavior. There are times when I write apologetic letters to James, his family, the court, and society, but those words of expression never goes anywhere. I’ve also learned that time is a value of no limit and by learning that I have taken a simple pass time and converted it into a passion, which has allowed me to be able help others fulfill their intentional expression, is gratifying to say the least. In the last several years, my life has been a symbol of mediocrity, but upon humbly embracing the experience of writing and literary expression, my life has taken a turn into spectacular.” In early 2015, Ricardo began to recognize his literary worth, and has set out to become a profound writer. Besides being brought on as a staff writer for the online independent newspaper, Voice of Detroit, he has been frequently published in several newsletters, and on DreamBigLiveBig.Net, a free online website for troubled at-risk youth and young adults. In 2008, Ricardo was among the 12 original founders of the Youth Deterrent Program at the Ryan facility in Detroit, and helped to save the lives of countless youth by deterring them away from destructive thinking and criminality, the entire four (4) years he actively participated in the program (2008-12). Also, Ricardo’s passion is inclusive of helping to prevent severely mentally ill individuals from engaging in self-injurious and suicidal behaviors. As he’s worked in the Prisoner Observation Aide Program, (known as suicide watch) at 3 facilities since 2013. According to staff at the Chippewa, Handlon and Michigan Reformatory prisons, Ricardo is an asset to this life changing & saving program, where he has intervened and helped fellow prisoners decease and cease those harmful self-inflicted behaviors, which obviously has prevented them from losing their lives to suicide. He is the third co-founder of the TAB-MI project, along with Washington & Jones. It should be duly noted there has been a stark difference in his behavior since 1997. Ricardo has accumulated 16 college credits toward a higher education. He participates in all available self-help programming, and works to create classes/programs for others to benefit from as well. Like the My Brother’s Keeper Program he proposed through Michigan State University with Dr. Austin Jackson and Dr. Lisa Biggs, where Richard A. Handlon became the first prison anywhere in the United States to have such an expansion offering incarcerated individuals the Internship Mentoring Training Certification, a similar program that President Barack Obama created during his eight year administration. Learn more about Ricardo as a writer, go to: Voice of Detroit.Net, then type his name in search box on the homepage. In a world where society is looking for answers to curb the Thinking – Attitude – Behavior of our children, who’s better equipped to address these social issues and lead them towards a pathway to success, than someone who understands their plight. And the answers can very well come from the above named men. Just as a New York organization believes, “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution…” — Just Leadership USA We have to be willing to invest in our youth by spending quality time with them, showing by example positive and productive conduct, providing pathways for them to succeed, and teaching them the way to go, so when they get older, they will be less likely to depart from the good qualities they’ve learned. As the country is in the process of recognizing the need to embrace real criminal justice reform and the passing of the First Step Act, what Washington, Jones & Ferrell are doing, seems to be in line with what’s needed before someone can be afforded a second chance at obtaining their freedom. These men have worked hard to acquire a higher education, and they each have completed a skilled trade in order to better prepare themselves for employment opportunities. We need more men & women willing and able to transform themselves like the 3 phenomenal individuals featured in this article. In doing so, we will begin to see a significant shift in the reduction of crime, and help change a criminal culture replete with hopelessness & despair. These particular lifers have demonstrated they are serious about their transformations. Together we can make a difference and create a path for success that others can follow.

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