Commentary: School to Prison Pipeline

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By Keith Colvin

July 1984 I turned 18. In August 1984 I found myself sitting in the reception center of Vacaville State Prison. I’d heard the term “school to prison pipeline,” and now I was living it. I recall the public defender telling the judge, “If you send this kid to prison now, what do you think he’ll be like when he comes home?”

In 1997 I was sentenced to 39-to-life for 2nd degree robbery. The extra 14 (over the 25-to-life) are enhancements. I know murderers who got less. To add insult to injury, the 14 extra years were already used in order to get me the 3-strikes to begin with.

I often reflect on the P.D.’s comment, “What do you think he’ll be like when he comes home?” Prison only served as a training ground that enforced my dysfunctional behavior, which didn’t help in any way with my established character defects. A short return to society proved that. I was incapable of functioning.

If you park a car with engine trouble in a garage and come back 5, 10, 25 years later, the car still has engine problems. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on warehousing so many like me, without doing the maintenance necessary to correct the obvious behavioral disorders. It’s not only wasteful, destructive, and insane; it’s inhumane, and society continues to pay the price.

Today, as the California Department of Correction’s has adopted Rehabilitation to its name, the focus has changed from retributive punishment to rehabilitation. Today as the possibility, choice and opportunities exist to rehabilitate, individuals such as myself are being given and shared the tools necessary to do the maintenance.
My point: 39 years to life? Liabilities are to be replaced with assets. This is done by the way of corrective behavior/behavior modification. While the operational procedure does in fact take a course of time, time however should not be the focus, nor the essence. Fixing the defect is!
As I sit here thankful, grateful and ecstatic for the peace and resolve that rehabilitation and change has brought about in my once broken and damaged life, I pray to one day have the opportunity to return to society as the asset I have become. While I do feel it necessary to stand responsible and held accountable for my past actions, I question the necessity and need of a mandatory life sentence.
Abolish California’s Three Strike Law!!!

Kieth Colvin is incarcerated in California.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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