prison-schools-youth

Incarceration, the School to Prison Pipeline and Violence Prevention and Recovery

After about 20 years of law Roger was looking for ways outside of the environmental arena to fight for social justice. At this time he took on a position as the state lobbyist for the Quakers with the Friends committee on Washington Public Policy.

His focus was on the transition and reentry of former inmates back into society. He pushed several bills aimed at reducing recidivism. He learned quickly of the problems of mass incarceration and the problems the formerly incarcerated face on release finding work, finding housing, and adjusting to changes since their incarceration. He traveled about transition and reentry housing projects speaking with the formerly incarcerated about what things needed to change. He focused much of his efforts on a bill to reduce legal financial obligations (LFOs) -(fees levied by the court and DOC that could be insurmountable) and the 12% interest rate on them. He brought the Dept. of Licensing together with DOC in an effort to get state identity cards issued before they left prison. (At the time they left with only their prison i.d. card and had to use those to open bank accounts and rent apartments.)

In this position he worked every day of each session meeting with legislators, legislative staff, other lobbyists. For a time he even had a weekly meeting with the Secretary for Corrections.

While fighting in Olympia he was offered an opportunity to go into prison in Monroe for a three day workshop with the Alternatives to Violence Project (“AVP”). He was instantly impressed with this program and its results. (It reduces recidivism by almost 50%.) He rapidly became a volunteer facilitator for the program and since then has spent over 2000 hours sitting in circle with inmates, hearing their stories, and even crying with them. He knows all to well how poverty, race, foster care, childhood physical and sexual abuse, lack of opportunities, and addiction lead to prison. He sat and listened to many survivors of prison and jail house rape. He knows scores of inmates who entered prison as teenagers who had to live these horrors.

In this work he regularly facilitates workshops with rival gang members, from Nortenos and Surenos, Bloods and Crips, and even Aryan Family and Aryan Nation members. The power fo the workshops brings them together to laugh, cry and share. He regularly sees friendships and peaceful alliances form between participants. (Roger feels if he can get 5 or 6 different gangs to work collaboratively, getting City interest groups to work together should be possible.)

In 2007 Roger was asked to join an exploratory team to work with existing AVP programs in Guatemala and El Salvador and explore relations with local groups to train facilitators to establish their own programs. The team did workshops for a women’s group, a school, and other groups. Roger left Guatemala convinced that he could do nothing else as important as this AVP work.

He returned realizing that reaching youth before they came to prison was essential. Other AVP chapters had been doing school programs for decades, Roger wanted to bring it to Seattle. He set up a nonprofit, Projects for a Civil Society, to pursue this. At first progress was quick, the school district was interested and they were working out logistics. Then came the 2008 recession and schools were closing libraries, music programs and cancelling all nonessential programs.

In 2010 Roger was asked to serve as president in training for AVP-USA, under the current President who was dying of cancer. This organization is likely the leader in violence prevention and recovery, having been working these issues for over 40 years and in over 60 countries. It works in the most violent environments with the supposed most violent participants.Several months later he became President, responsible for the 1,800+ facilitators working in 135 prisons, plus schools, detentions centers and intervention programs. He served 4 years in this position.

During this time AVP was becoming educated in the Adverse childhood Experiences studies, and Trauma Informed Care. In 2011 Roger returned to Guatemala for the international AVP gathering with facilitators from 22 countries. There he took trauma recovery training from a team from Rwanda, Colombia, Guatemala and Indonesia.

He also took restorative justice training with Dominic Barter from Rio de Janeiro.

Since then Roger has done workshops in several schools (including a therapeutic school), trained Oregon Youth Authority staff, and done workshops for youth from Mexico, Brazil, Iraq and Myanmar. He has brought the trauma recovery format to Victoria and Alaska. For the last two years he has been doing monthly workshops with incarcerated veterans in the Pierce County jail.

Through 13 years of this work Roger has sat with the families of those lost to violence, with rape survivors (women and men), with traumatized youth, adults, veterans, and genocide survivors; he has sat with murderers, violent gang members, mujaheddin, and soldiers. He understands the range of human suffering and trauma in ways few experience. He feels the compassion, empathy, and real world experience this brings is needed in government as we as a city deal with issues of homelessness, addiction, violence, incarceration, and the school to prison pipeline.