Volunteering in Prison (Part 1 by Guest Blogger Maria)

This is the first guest blog written by a prison volunteer. 

Maria is a Cuban refugee who has been volunteering with Latinos in the U.S. for over 30 years and in prisons for 2 years.

In 2007 I decided to apply to become a volunteer at the prisons in our suburban town, which has one maximum security and one minimum security facility. My motivations to volunteer were various, and among them was anger at the smug, wealthy suburban town I lived in and how they practically pretended the prisons did not exist. I am also Latina, speaking excellent Spanish, and I knew that a large proportion of the inmates were also Latinos. My acceptance as a teacher in Insights was not automatic. I had to attend a 1 1/2 day insight training course, and a two hour volunteer course required by the Department of Corrections. At the end of the Insights training, they could have refused me as a volunteer, yet I was sure I would be accepted -only a small minority, those who are clearly unfit or have ulterior motives are turned down.

I made it clear that I was available especially but not exclusively to the Latino population. Of the six men I taught, three were Latino, two were white, and one was black. Pablo was the man who left the greatest impression on me. I was not as aware while I was teaching him that he would leave such a mark on me, and only over time have I come to realize that my experience teaching Pablo stood out from the rest.

Here's more background info on Maria:

Maria was born in Cuba and immigrated to the US at age 5. She has done a variety of volunteer work since she was in high school and through adulthood, much of it with refugee or poor Latinos, primarily from Puerto Rico but also from El Salvador and Cuba. She graduated from Princeton University in 1977 with a degree in English, with something of a concentration in the Elizabethan Period. She worked for 18 years in banking. Maria has been married 32 years to Scott, and they adopted two children from Latin America. She has worked for two non-profits, one that finds jobs for the disabled and also the statewide Parents Teachers Association. She was laid off each time due to the financial stresses felt by the non-profits. Through the Insights, Maria has tutored/ taught 6 students from the Daniels Correctional Institute individually, and probably 30 or so during the group teaching sessions. Daniels is a minimum security prison, mostly for drug related crimes, although a number of inmates come from the "Big House" maximum security prison as a transition as they complete their prison terms.

As this is Maria's first guest post at Jon's Jail Journal, your comments would be greatly appreciated.

For the previous guest blog click here.

Post comments for Maria below or email them to writeinside@hotmail.com To post a comment if you do not have a Google/Blogger account, just select anonymous for your identity.

Shaun Attwood

297 comments:

1 – 200 of 297   Newer›   Newest»
Rosa said...

I really can't wait to read more from Maria. I'm thrilled that she says that part of her motivation to volunteer was the anger she felt at smug, wealthy suburbanites who pretend that the prisons/jails don't exist.

Cindy said...

definitely interested in hearing more!

Anonymous said...

i agree

its good to have this kind of viewpoint, and maria sounds fiesty, should be interesting

Ghost

leigh said...

bienvenidos! i'm excited to hear more about your experiences with the students AND with the system! thanks for volunteering your time to work with people and also to share it with us!

Anonymous said...

totally unrelated to this blog but you might like this blog i found

some great early 90s rave mixes to download

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dre

Shannon Clark said...

Volunteering is rewarding-great that you are! More are needed. I found that it is difficult to keep up. As gratifying as it can be, it is depressing when the same people seem to keep returning over and over, or you realize there are entire families in the system. I didn't have the mental strength to keep going after several years.

Sue O.

Anonymous said...

You really haven't given us enough of Maria's post to pass comment. Please print the remainder.

Jon said...

I haven't got the rest, Anon.

Maria said she'll provide it in about 2 weeks.

Anonymous said...

How much of state money is he using 4 this?

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