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Hi Fair Shake community ~
As you may know here at Fair Shake we subscribe to the philosophy of Ubuntu which means: I am who I am because of who we all are. I learned how to be a person through my relationships. My destiny is inexorably bound to yours. I cannot hurt you without hurting myself, and the only way I can be all that I can be (and achieve self-realization) is to support you in becoming all that you can be.
Though incarceration and recidivism affects us all, the process of the change we wish to see begins with the incarcerated community. We are always looking for ways to be more effective in what we do as we embark on this journey of altering the way reentry is currently being addressed and generally viewed. We also believe that you should be well informed about what goes on with Fair Shake and Reentry overall, so we have developed the newsletter to that end.
The newsletter will consist of the latest fair shake news, which includes Sue’s travel, the latest developments with Fair Shake, general Reentry news, IRC news and thought- provoking vignettes that we hope will spark conversation that will make us all THINK!
Here are some excerpts and highlights from some of our past newsletters;
Top story: The Bureau of Prisons has approved the software and we are sending DVD’s to institutions around the country! We have sent out the software to about half of the institutions. If you have experienced the Fair Shake software we hope you will share your thoughts on what you’ve experienced and please be critical! We can only make this a great tool with your input. If you have not seen it yet, we hope you will soon. Unfortunately, it can only be loaded on to ‘stand-alone’ computers and not every institution has them.
Website Visits: One year ago, 200 people visited our website during the first week in February. This year, during the same week, 411 people visited Fair Shake. Our biggest week yet!
Facilitator Guide requests: We receive 3 to 5 requests per week for facilitator guides, workshop worksheets, boxes of reentry packets for reentry class settings and other reentry class materials. A recent Fair Shake reentry technician told us we provide the ‘golden seed’ for reentry.
Vignette: Thinking About Thinking: The Good Life
The unexamined life is not worth living. ~ Socrates 400 BCE
Here at Fair Shake, we like to think. We like to conjure theories about making the world a better place and then poke holes in our theories. This leads to new theories and better ways of listening and thinking and solving problems. We like to hear what others think about what we’re doing and also hear what they think about the language that we use to communicate. Listening and asking questions helps us address the difficult problems associated with creating our unique and innovative approach to reentry.
We believe you, too, are thinking about a lot of things; including how to solve your unique reentry puzzle. Incarceration provides an important and powerful opportunity that most people out of prison are not willing to undertake: to become skilled in the art of thinking deeply.
In general, people like to think that they are thinking! In reality, however, much of our thinking amounts to scheming to acquire money, stuff, experiences and relationships; trying to figure out ways to get others to do what we want them to do; or trying to hold on to our sense of self while others try to get us to do what they want us to do. Although almost everyone will claim to ponder important issues, search objectively for answers and weigh options, we generally only seek verification and approval for the beliefs we already hold. We are constantly distracted from thinking deeply or thinking for ourselves. Very rarely do we actually reflect and think about who we are, how to get where we want to go, how we can improve our relationships, our communities, our world; in short, how to create a good life.
Clemency Letter Request:
Last month I wrote my first clemency request letter. Adam Clausen, who is serving 213 years in federal prison for robbery (under Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines), asked me to share my experience working with him and my considerations regarding his character. I met Adam a year ago and in that time I have been nothing short of amazed by his dedication to helping incarcerated people succeed and his understanding of the importance of doing this work with others. He is a certified Life Coach, Health and Fitness Trainer and participates in an amazing Peer Facilitator Group that has reached out – through video teleconferencing technology – to help us understand that change is possible while inside, and that it is best facilitated by the experts…those most affected by the experience of prison.To find out more about Adam, please look through his website: http://www.helpfreeadam.com/
If you would like to see the letter I wrote, please contact me. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We all have the basic human need to feel loved. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless of whether these groups are large or small. These groups may consist of family members, intimate partners, friends, sports teams, religious groups and confidants, among others. Feeling love boosts our self-esteem, making us feel accepted and valuable. And if we don’t engage in the feeling in a healthy way, we will seek it or find substitutes for the feeling of love or belonging.
How love is defined and expressed varies between cultures and is a reflection of that culture at a certain moment in time. As the culture evolves, definitions evolve: things are added and things are taken away, and some things are changed altogether due to contemporary influences.
Neil Postman stated in his book The End of Education that
...definitions are instruments designed to achieve certain purposes, that the fundamental question to ask is not, is this the real definition? Or is this the correct definition? But what purpose does the definition serve? That is, who made it up and why?
This is a very interesting and thought provoking statement. If we would examine definitions in this manner, I believe it would help us to stay true to word origins. This is not to say that the word can’t or won’t evolve, but that it would do so with intention, carrying over the significance it held from the outset.
Words have a great deal of power which influences our perception.
Again, Neil Postman provides insight into this consideration: Humans use language to transform the world and then, in turn, are transformed by their own invention.
We use words to describe our existence from who we are to what we feel, and those same words carve out our existence as well. When we label lust as love, lust becomes the prominent association, which influences our perceptions of love and is eventually passed on to future generations, moving away from its purpose, until it is redefined altogether.
If we consider the definitions of love, how could we say we love chocolate cake or a favorite car?
Erich Fromm reminds us that love requires effort, that it is an active relationship and not something to acquire: Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling; it is a practice. (from The Art of Loving)
What is gratitude? The dictionary provides this definition: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It seems that true sense of gratitude, however, has been somewhat lost.
Throughout my life I primarily expressed gratitude when things were going my way. It was easy to remember blessings and to be thankful for them when all was well. I would express my gratitude by offering monetary or material gifts. In hindsight, I was expressing pleasure instead of gratitude. I learned this lesson after the money and other material possessions were taken away and the people who were conditioned by the gifts were gone as well. That is when I began to explore gratitude. Not intentionally, because I had accepted the general concept of gratitude; but through the way that gratitude expressed itself to me.
As I sat in a cold dark place with nothing, I started to tap into my innate gifts and make the best of them. My focus was on my loved ones, life and health and I found myself as thankful as I’d ever been in my life. Thankful for strength of mind. Thankful for my relationships over the years – even the ones that impacted me negatively – because they all played a part in me becoming who I am. I also realized that those relationships were not just about me; they were about the other person as well. I found myself thankful that I have something to offer the world, just as we all do. These things can’t be taken away, and I will continuously be grateful for them.
I’ve learned that gratitude isn’t an action; it’s a lifestyle where you express your thankfulness for what life has given you. Gratitude includes being as thankful for the storm as for the sunshine. The storm provides an opportunity for growth that allows you to give back and help others through your experience, effecting change on a level greater than yourself.
Readers Reflections on Gratitude:
I’ve found that being thankful, NO MATTER WHAT, required gratitude for it all, and not just what pleased me. I begin to see everything as opportunities to “practice” embracing a lifestyle of change and growth, and by doing this I found myself not resentful, but grateful and motivated. – Curtis
I can only say that gratitude to me gives me substance and meaning in life which allows me to help as many people that I can without asking or expecting anything in return back. – Albert
I try to practice gratitude. Every night when I pray I say 5 things that I am grateful for and I find that my days tend to be happier. Even if I have had a bad situation, I find that I am grateful because of the lesson that I learned from it. – Victoria
We are certainly grateful for this opportunity to communicate with you all and would love to hear your thoughts on the many topics we will discuss.
Sign up for the newsletter today by adding Outreach@fairshake.net to your contact list