"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Friday, March 21, 2014

The HH Porject

Absolutely loved the Hope House article and especially enjoyed the pieces that dealt with the importance of the father having SOME SORT of role in their children's lives. I don't mind getting a little personal here, and I hope you don't mind either. My stepbrother has been incarcerated for around 5-6 years and has left his son  (Age 8) and daughter (Age 7) in the custody of my parents since the mother is also incarcerated. For the 8 year old son, life without a father figure is hard. I've watched my stepbrother absolutely ruin relationships with the caregivers (my father and stepmother along with myself, sister and mother- the children have a wonderful support system), his children and his friends. Hope House seems to offer something rehab and prison have not- a chance to help rebuild these relationships and legitimize his place as a father (he is so far removed from this position, I can't imagine this is even possible currently). I've heard his children use words to describe their absent father that mimic the images discussed in the article (deadbeat, he doesn't care that we exist viewpoint). To this point, I can really connect with the HH initiatives and can see where something as simply as mural painting/story telling can really present prisoners with new outlooks/chance to re-position themselves in their children's lives.

The story telling painted a picture of it's own- in particular, one father experienced a conceptual shift while explaining the differences of parenting from inside the prison to outside the prison. Since he had been "out of the lifestyle" (the lifestyle that landed him in prison) he was able to reflect on other ways of providing- being present in his sons life and no longer being sidetracked by fancy cars, females and money. Through reflection of life experiences, the learner (prisoner) has learned a valuable lesson- a lesson that for many, has transformed them from a life of guilt and shame to a life of empowerment and sudden ambition to want to rebuild relationships and be able to provide for his family.

Let's just hope these lessons truly carry over!


  1. Thank you for sharing, Jason. I know each time I blog about a personal experience it feels risky. I think sharing our ideas about the class assignments, as well a piece of ourselves, is part of the process. But I know that it's not always easy.
    It may be interesting to find out how long the inmates are in prison before they begin these programs through Hope House. It may really take some time before they are ready to re-connect with their families. I imagine the psychological and emotional implications of being incarcerated are complex, and vary by person. I'm sure Dr. Muth has seen it all, and can offer a more educated perspective.

  2. Well I have not seen it all that's for sure! but I have heard numerous stories from the men about how the caregivers (typically their child's mother or grandmother) slowly warmed up to a phone call--in some cases this took 8 or more years because the hurt was so deep. What eventually won the caregivers over was the fact that the book taping and summer camps were "manipulation free". In other words, there were no ulterior motives on the part of the prisoners; the parole boards gave them no credit for participating; often the kids, when they did reconnect, unleashed on them mercilessly (but deservedly nonetheless); etc. So what the caregivers saw was consistency, humility, remorse, sincerity...When this becomes the norm, it tends to move mountains.

    Still, Jason, I very much appreciate your post and respect how hard it might be to even consider forgiveness on your part. You might not be surprised that almost every semester a student shares a story like yours. Only many times the students are not at all ready to consider the fathers' point of view, even though the can see how HH is good for the kids. It's all good. We humans have deep roots; and thank goodness for that. :)

  3. Sorry, one other thought. One prior VCU student (not involved in HH) told me a story about how she tried to reconcile with her father when he got out of prison, even though he had basically destroyed her family. He responded well at first, but then fell into his addiction, and this time the ejection was even more devastating that the first time. She was certainly not ready to forgive him a third time, and she legitimately raised questions about how HH might make kids vulnerable to repeated traumas by reopen in closed wounds.
    Jason, you wondered if these reformed fathers remain responsible and engaged when they get out of prison. That is a very key question, and I am just launching my new 4-year project to look at this. Stay tuned!

  4. I think the Hope House project is a great story, especially considering how much work it takes the prisoners to even be included. I think it shows a lot of deliberate thoughtful action towards the intended goal of, as Dr. Muth calls it, "re-membering." Great post, Jason.

  5. Great Post Jason - thanks for sharing your perspective of this with us :)


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