A few months ago, I found out about a National Reentry Convention in Austin, TX called the Vision Summit. They were looking for people anywhere in the U.S. that had an original idea or story to be told to be considered as a speaker. I forwarded a compelling article (from the boardroom to the jail room) about my life, which was printed in the Connecticut Statewide Roundtable Newsletter. I also included a letter about a program that I developed called the P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM (People Reentering Into Doing Entrepreneurship). This is a course exclusively for inmates, released inmates & people with a criminal background that trains them how to go into business for themselves. It is unique because it is 60% Business data, 40 % Life Lessons. It is taught in 10 sessions, one a week for 2 ½ hours. Monthly Mentoring sessions are available for 6 months. After completion every graduate that has a completed business plan, a good idea & a good attitude will receive funding to start their business. The combination of having a criminal background, reentering back into my community & developing a program to help those still in the system to help themselves was a double whamo. I was quickly accepted as a speaker & made arrangements to get to Texas. Through the cooperation of my Probation Officer (I served prison time for a white-collar crime), I was allowed a special travel pass to go out of the state to lecture.
When I started my lecture I noticed the room was full. After I spent 1 ½ hours talking about my life & my new program, I expected everyone would walk out to the next lecture. Instead they gave me a standing ovation & wanted to speak to me more. Everyone wanted to know how they could get my program in their state.
I learned about one stop centers where when a person is released the first place they go to is this center. They are greeted by Reentry people who went through the same release problems they did. They guide them through where to go for food, clothing , shelter etc. They have frank conversations about expectations & the time needed to adjust. They are brought up to date on what to expect. I also learned about cooperation between school systems & the prisons. Trade schools as well as high schools & colleges are working together to help educate the inmates.
I experienced my fifteen minutes of fame when I went into another lecturer’s room to hear his information. When I asked the instructor about educating the inmates in how to start their own business, I was greeted by “Oh, you must be Barry Diamond with the P.R.I.D.E. Program in Connecticut… we heard about you”.
It seems like the whole U.S. wants to do something about educating the incarcerated. I guess they all got the memo that said:
“Make Taxpayers not tax burdens”, also, “if you educate them the recidivism rate drops.”
The moment I got back I started to receive inquiries about the course. People in my own state started to want the program. As of now, starting in 2016, in Connecticut we will have 4 training sites, one of them inside a prison. Early in January I am scheduled for several radio interviews. Due to requests from other prisons in other states, we are now working with IPPC Technologies (SecureLearn Platform) to computerize our course so we can bring the program into prisons across the U.S. This will allow inmates to use the internet for learning & research without being able to go where they are not allowed. This is a new application for an old company that specializes in Parole & Probation monitoring. Sometime in the near future your local prison may be helping inmates become good neighbors again.
We are totally funded by your donations to: “The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport/P.R.I.D.E. PROGRAM,” 1100 Boston Avenue Bldg 5A, Bridgeport, CT 06610.
For more information:
George Bresnan, Advocate, Ex-Pats
Jim Gabal, Development
Babz Rawls Ivy, Media Contact