A few things stuck out to me about this story -- apart from the overwhelming success of the fundraiser. 1) Some of the Soledad prisoners were mentoring Syon -- then a prep-school student -- at the prison itself. 2) His parents "put in an incredible amount of... gratitude and... trust in us to help mentor their son," according to Jason Bryant, one of the inmates. And 3) it was a reading group which these men/felons/prisoners were all members of, including Syon.

I love this!

However, prisoners are used as a resource and a market for private goods and services i.e. commissary and voice calls. They're also tapped as:

  • A sizable population for apportionment in host rural communities

  • A major source for jobs in the same community

  • Subjects for investigational drugs

  • A source for detectives to solve cases (An extreme example is the "Torso Killer," who implicated himself last year in the last two killings cases connected to him.)

  • A free-labor force for assembling goods or assisting in public works (For instance, inmates elsewhere in California helped firefighters with a controlled burn near one prison around the time those at Soledad presented Syon with a $30,000 scholarship.)

Under reasonable supervision, will prisons themselves permit eligible and re-integrable inmates to mentor incarcerated or unincarcerated youth? Or share their stories with students and the public at schools/colleges/libraries? Asked another way, what will prisons themselves permit eligible and re-integrable inmates to give back to the community and public life that some [might] someday rejoin?

Originally posted at landturn.com/blog/mentors-in-jail.