I have been to prison three times, serving a total of 27 years for burglary and robbery until my release in 2008. I am 56 years old now, and I recently graduated from the University of Texas with a masters in social work. I am a policy analyst at the Austin-based Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, writing bills that I believe will reduce the influx of Texans into prison and developing policies that I hope will assist those leaving prison as they re-enter society.
There is no intrinsic worth gained after going to prison multiple times. There is only a dread when contemplating release, a bone-deep fear that again, one will not fit; that one will be rejected; that there is something irreparable within oneself, and that the path to normality and happiness has been irretrievably lost to the violence on the prison yards and the loneliness of the cells. The trip back into society can be harrowing, especially to a person without the intellectual tools to have insight into past behavior or without access to resources that might help them gain basic needs — a bed to sleep in, food on the table, a job, clothes and transportation.
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Jorge Antonio Renaud, policy analyst the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, is also frequent guest lecturer at the University of Texas School of Education and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a board member of the Texas Jail Project and a member of the Texas Inmate Family Association. His book ‘Behind the Walls: A Guide for Families and Friends of Texas Prison Inmates,’ was published in 2002. He was an American-Statesman copy editor and sports reporter in the early 1990s.
More on criminal justice policy
Find a Feb. 3 article by Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation at http://bit.ly/VD00Ub.