Offenders, Life on the Outside is Fraught With Uncertainty
Capital News Service
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
BALTIMORE - Life in a
doesn't bother Terrell Peacock.
years of drug addiction and stints in and out of jail, the west Baltimore native
is not fazed by the tough conditions of a state cell.
confronted with a life "outside the fence" and the uncertain prospects that come
with release, Peacock gets edgy and fear creeps into the eyes of the long-time
"I want to
get a job. I want to go to school and do the right thing, but I don't know what
I am going to do," said the former drug-dealer. "Life can deal you the short end
of the stick."
Peacock is serving time for trespassing, a reduction from the burglary charge he
originally faced this time around. He has served time before for theft and
burglary charges, all drug-related.
played so much with the manila envelope that carries his legal papers -- and his
potential release date -- that it has turned soft and velvety. The 22-year-old
is not sure if he can handle the responsibilities and pressures of daily life,
from working a steady job to dealing with the stigma of a criminal record.
putting me in prison is not helping anything," he said.
wants treatment; he wants therapy. Without that, he wonders if his old habits
will resurface and place him back behind bars.
not alone. Many local social service organizations are also worried about the
revolving door of the state's prison system.
good reason to be concerned.
Institute analysis of Maryland's prison population found that 70 percent of the
9,448 prisoners released in 2001 had been in prison at least once before, with
some having served four or more previous sentences.
from the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services shows that
more than half the prisoners released in Maryland commit new crimes and return
to the system within three years of release. The state does not count parole
violations, which would push recidivism numbers even higher, only the commission
of new crimes.
recidivism, the state is working with organizations like Baltimore-based
Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake to offer life skills classes inside the
spokesman Phil Holmes said the recidivism rate in Maryland shows that "the
period of incarceration was just to get the person out of circulation."
done to change the person's behavior," he said.
work with inmates agree.
those services, inmates "have a tendency to continue" the conduct that landed
them in prison in the first place, said Yusef El, a Goodwill instructor who
provides guidance to Peacock and a handful of others at the Metropolitan
Transitional Center in Baltimore City.
up before they even get started. It's easier to go back" to that lifestyle than
to face the challenges ahead, said El, an ex-offender himself. He knows it is
hard to stop the cycle of drug abuse and criminal behavior after being caught up
in it for years.
program, Supporting Ex-Offenders in Employment Training and Transitional
Services, aims to reverse this phenomenon, drilling inmates in interviewing
skills, teaching business etiquette, working on resumes and identifying
also gives participants a chance to vent their frustrations and concerns, which
is valuable to Peacock, who said feelings of anger, depression and fear make him
feel like a volcano that's ready to erupt.
"I hold a
lot of my feelings in, especially in here, because it's hard to distinguish
friend from foe," he said of life inside.
Peacock talks about an upcoming trial that may keep him in prison longer than he
first thought, he appears momentarily relieved.
only 22 and he feels more comfortable here than he does on the street," El said.
extra time to Peacock, who he said appears to be making a real effort to figure
things out and prepare himself for life on the outside. The graying instructor
counsels the young inmate.
to formulate some sort of plan before you hit the street," El told Peacock.
"You've gotta know what you want to become . . . you have to be in the process
of becoming, and you've gotta constantly stay in that process."
tells Peacock that he cannot "go out there with the same jailhouse mentality."
mood changes from week to week, but he appears to be more positive about life on
the outside as the program progresses. He admits he has a long way to go, but
said that now, at least, he can see a different path and is ready to take it --
even if it will be hard.
it's excellent. I love it," Peacock said of the program, smiling brightly.
Photographs and special
report banner and design by Adam Newman / Maryland Newsline. Print stories
edited by Steve Crane. Web package edited by Chris Harvey.
Copyright © 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism
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