Rev. Dr. Corey Minatani, M.Div.
Submitted for Consideration to the American Prison Writing Archive 7-28-2021
Word Count 875
Recipe for Success
As an incarcerated organizational psychologist, my worldview is different from most inmates; I plan, prepare, ready to execute plans. Leaving prison with hope for success is fraught with obstacles. Luckily, I was blessed with a support system not built by friends and family, but the community. The odd thing is that part of that community was Department of Corrections (DOC) and various partners. Many of my fellow inmate colleagues might disagree, but help is offered if you look for it.
Upon arriving at the penitentiary, I was quickly recruited as a metal plant clerk. I knew nothing about metal plant operations, but I had the requisite knowledge to navigate the plant’s inventory control system. I worked hand-in-hand with other professional inmates working in AutoCAD drafting and other metal fabrication equipment.
The plant was operated by Correctional Industries (CI), and teaches viable trade skills which lead to a Certificate of Proficiency by the State of Washington; this certificate is roughly equivalent to a trade-level diploma after achieving 1,500 working hours. My point here is CI leads inmates to jobs immediately upon release, such as Vigor, a well-known manufacturing company. In addition, CI’s workforce Development team links inmates to programs such as Farestart, a 16- week culinary program in Seattle. Notifying Workforce Development my interest in Farestart, I was given an application and interviewed the next week! Farestart trains and houses felons while they go through the training; once the training is complete, they help establish job offers up to $20 per hour. Interviewing one inmate about Farestart, he said, “They hooked up my girlfriend with a job after training. I think she made about $16 per hour. Farestart is no joke!” agree, as I will be reporting to Farestart within days.
Completing college is a statistical fact to reducing recidivism. Here, Ms. Lugo the A/B
Navigator for Walla Walla Community College, guides inmates through the process of FAFSA, college codes, honor roll (Phi Theta Kappa) and even with the Post-Prison Education Program.
Every inmate I directed to Ms. Lugo received a personalized and detailed letter with all the forms needed to be a success. She was even able to establish a Zoom intake-interview with Ari Kohn,
President of the Post-Prison Education Program. In addition, Ms. Curtice and Dr. William
Krieger provided much needed help with resumes and guidance on academic topics.
Some folks at the penitentiary provide creative solutions to re-entry barriers for inmates; here
Mr. Tom Wilson, an instructor for the Minimum Security Unity Re-Entry Forum holds classes and provides valuable resource materials for successful re-entry. Mr. Wilson does not sugar-coat the uphill battle inmates are up against. If the students are wasting time in class, they are wasting the classes’ time, as time is very short and the need is very real. Thick skins are absolutely necessary for his highly-charged instruction focused on getting inmates sharp for the reality of life and taking care of themselves, their family, their kids, and most of all, their community. If students are not taking things seriously, they are told, not asked, to leave! The stakes are much too high to do anything else!
For scholarship help, Washington State DOC has partnered with Post-Prison Education Program to help inmates secure funding for college. Like many businesses affected by COVID-19, this small non-profit is working behind the scenes to make sure inmates have a fighting chance.
Counselors are provided to guide inmates through the maze of forms needed to qualify for scholarship applications.
One great link to re-entry is the inmate’s counselor. My counselor, Damian Desmond, facilitated a seamless re-entry process. From working with Post-Prison Education Program to securing my driver’s license, Mr. Desmond and his staff work tirelessly to get the men on the right track.
Washington State has alternative programs instead of prison; the Community Parenting
Alternative (CPA) allowed a few inmates to be home with their children instead of rotting in a cell! Here, the counseling team of Mr. Desmond made this happen. Kudos!
As I was plotting my long list of re-entry to-do’s, I received help on resources in the Seattle area from New York! The American Prison Writing Archive (APWA) staff tucked a resource book from Disability Rights Washington (DRW) for re-entry. It was a very nice gesture, and I told the staff at APWA so in a thank you letter. The material was copied and given to Mr. Desmond to offer a broader range of resource help in the Seattle area; with this knowledge, I was able to send out resumes in advance and contact resource staff so that I can benefit the first day I arrive, such as the Veteran’s Administration.
Lastly, the officers here at the penitentiary were strong stake holders in inmate success. Wishing to remain anonymous, some gave information on felon-friendly employers, others submitted radio stations that broadcast material on financial management, and still others guided inmates in
“correction” not just “punishment” when the inmates made slight infractions.
Again, this is what I mean by community; the community of inmates, corrections officers, DOC staff, DOC partners, and even journalism staff from colleges in New York and Delaware.
Whether the help comes from the inside or the outside, it is much appreciated! A virtual recipe for success.
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