Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Georgetown's Prison Outreach Program

For the past two semesters I have tutored with Georgetown’s Prison Outreach program, an organization within the Center For Social Justice. If selected from the relatively competitive application process, Georgetown students tutor inmates weekly at both Arlington Prison and the Alexandria Detention Facility. The goal is to work with inmates one on one to help them achieve either their GED or pass their ESL examination. With these qualifications, after being released from prison, individuals will be better equipped to successfully reintegrate into society and support themselves and their families.

While some classes are conducted in the detention facility, with only one teacher and a vast range of abilities and learning levels, few inmates get individual attention and it is difficult to cater to everyone’s educational needs. Therefore I feel that the one on one work that we do is invaluable in that it is the only time that inmates get individual attention. Many of the inmates are extremely gifted, but often have simply not had the opportunity to fulfill their potential in a poor school system and/or an impoverished upbringing. Many are immigrants, and have never learnt English properly, which is a major hindrance to their ability to succeed in America. Without a basic grasp of the English language or a high school diploma, I can understand why many of these individuals have made choices that may not have been the most beneficial for them at the time. Working with the program has given me a greater insight into what I see as a fundamentally vicious cycle of crime for many of America's under privileged youth and immigrants in particular.

Ultimately, my hope is that prison does not have to be the end of the incarcerated’s opportunities in life to better themselves and develop their life goals. Shouldn't prison give the condemned the opportunity to change their behaviors, enhance their skill sets and thus their lives? Working with the incarcerated has been endlessly rewarding, and I hope to continue to be involved with different types of outreach to prisons in the coming years.

1 comment:

leslie tourneville said...

Thank you Katherine for showing us this amazing program and the power of compassion. Seriously, who cares for the wrong doers? Don’t they have what they deserve for their evil acts being in prison? No they don’t. No human being deserves a punishment which in the end forbids him/her to reintegrate into society. No man or woman deserves not to be given the chance to redeem himself/herself. Yet prison means too often the entrance into a spiral of violence because all the doors shut up in front of you: you are not trusted, not loved, not cared for. Stuck into your past. Imprisoned into your past.
Katherine, you had the courage to think that these people do not deserve this psychological prison which is worse than the solid one. You give them the chance to show that they are able of the best, just as they might have been able of the worst. As Gandhi or Martin Luther King advice, you have the intelligence and the compassion necessary to understand that WE CAN DIFFERENCIATE A PERSON FROM HIS/HER DEEDS. People like you make the world advance. Thank you very much.