By Michael Brown
Throughout my eighteen years of incarceration on a life sentence, there have been many times where I’ve found myself trying to discover a renewed sense of purpose and way to be of service to others. I realized that as a lifer I’m part of the class of prisoners that is often discriminated against by the prison system. We are usually housed in facilities that limit our activities and our access to positive programs. Moreover, society rejects us (lifers) because, from their perspective, we have nothing to offer or give back to their communities… as we are sentenced to die in prison.
However, the program, Lifers With Optimistic Progress program (L.W.O.P.), is more than an activity to partake in or just another program. After 18 years of incarceration, with the last twelve of those years being serviced in the Security Housing Unit (SHU), the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program provides me with a new sense of purpose – mentoring the youth who are entering the prison system. This amazing program also allows us as a collective group to give back to society.
The L.W.O.P. program illustrates how this class of life prisoners generally rejected by the system and society can be a positive and productive resource for both the prison system and society. The L.W.O.P. mentors with more than 200 years combined experience in prison utilize their experience and insight to teach incarcerated young men the importance of participating in positive prison programs. Allowing these lifers to give back to society by enabling them to assist and influence young men who will reenter their communities with a more positive and productive mindset, is beneficial to all of us.
It is important to understand that the real engine or driving force of the L.W.O.P. Youth Offender Program is the youth! These young men made a conscious decision to work on bettering themselves while incarcerated so that they will reenter society better prepared to succeed as men and fathers: to be positive examples in their respective communities and for their families. It is for these reasons that the system and society should begin to recognize and utilize the insight, experience and will of the lifers in prison. It’s time to fully acknowledge and treat Lifers as having something valuable to offer.
My hope in writing this on behalf of the L.W.O.P. Lifeline Youth Offender Program is to increase interest and receive much needed and deserved support and sponsorship from those on the outside. It is one thing for society to overlook the lifers, but another issue all – together for society to NOT take an interest in the incarcerated youth who will return to their communities in the near future. It all begins by supporting the positive programs available to them while they are still behind the walls.