by Gordon Nary
Gordon: At what college did you teach and what are the subjects that you’ve taught?
Ron: I’ve actually taught at several colleges, primarily through online classes. New England College of Business, Kendall College, and Southern New Hampshire University. I’ve had the opportunity to teach in-person classes as well, but that gets difficult at times due to my hectic schedule as an entrepreneur. In terms of subjects I’ve taught, mostly marketing but also entrepreneurship and professional development. Though I don’t technically still need to do this for finances, I continue to do so because I genuinely enjoy teaching people about topics I’m passionate about and marketing/entrepreneurship fall within that category.
Gordon: Why did you change careers?
Ron: I spent around 8 years in Corporate America first as a sales guy, then I transitioned into marketing. I did pretty well at a number of companies and worked hard enough to get promoted to a digital marketing manager, but never really felt fulfilled in my work. I think this is mainly because I was always having to complete tasks/projects on things that were important for the company to drive revenue, but didn’t always resonate with me and my personal goals. Roughly four years ago I transitioned my career to an entrepreneur because I wanted to really help people and focus on topics that I was passionate about. Thankfully, the topic of recidivism and assisting the formerly incarcerated is something I’m both passionate about and makes me enough money to pay my bills.
Gordon: What initially interested you in prison challenges?
Ron: As mentioned above, a family member has a criminal record and when applying to jobs continually kept getting rejected. My father asked me if I knew of any companies that were willing to help him, so I began researching. What I discovered was that there were a few resources out there to help, but I didn’t think any of them were really covering all of the needs of the population. For years I built a website (JobsForFelonsHub.com) that helped people post-incarceration, and then realized that there also wasn’t a good resource for people who have loved ones that are currently incarcerated. Leaning on my previous success, I created another website (PrisonInsight.com) that is focused on helping family members of the incarcerated, but also tries to hold prisons accountable for the way they treat prisoners while incarcerated.
In my opinion, this is one of the most underserved communities of people in the country and though they have all made mistakes, they need to actually be rehabilitated if they have any chance of living a normal productive life and contributing positively to our society.
I don’t feel that most institutions are doing a good job rehabilitating these people and setting them up for success, so my goal is to further help them make that transition successfully.
Gordon: In your experience, what are the most serious prison challenges in the United States and how would you correct them?
Ron: I think there are quite a few serious problems with our prison system in the United States. It’s not realistic to say that fixing a single issue would resolve most of the problems, but I do feel that there are two factors that need to be addressed as soon as possible if we hope to make progress and help reintegrate former prisoners into society.
First, we need to focus much more on actual rehabilitation. While most prisons spend substantial amounts of money on housing more prisoners and security, none spend anything near the same amount of money on rehabilitation and educational programs within the institutions themselves. When the focus of prison is punishment and not rehabilitation, people are much more likely to offend again because upon release, they don’t have the means to change their situation. When you educate and rehabilitate, you are able to diagnose the issues leading to the individual being incarcerated, which gives you the ability to help fix them. I would focus on getting more funding to prisons that has to be utilized for more educational and rehabilitating programs. I would also eliminate for-profit prisons as I don’t think incarceration should ever lead to profit and instead, that money should be spent to better rehabilitate the population.
Second, prison culture is toxic and generally speaking, it’s not a safe place to make positive life changes. While this isn’t an easy problem to solve, I do feel like it could be done with additional staff and rules in place that separates gangs within prison walls and encourages all races/inmates to coexist. Again, this relies on further educating inmates about how to change their lives and help them understand that their current state isn’t an indicator of their future state.
Gordon: What are the primary factors contributing to recidivism
Ron: I feel that there are six main factors contributing to recidivism in our society.
1) Social Interactions While Incarcerated: When someone first gets incarcerated, they may have a been associated with a limited social circle of amateur criminals, but prison offers a network of career criminals that could further their criminal prowess. If an inmate isn’t actively resisting criminal tendencies and trying to rehabilitate themselves, they may learn more about how to become a better criminal and, upon release, return to a life of crime.
2) Lack of Employment: When someone finally gets released from prison, even if they want to live a normal life and be a productive member of society, their employment options are severely limited. It’s estimated that an individual who has a felony on their record reduces the likelihood of getting a call back from employers by 50% . These lack of employment options lead to a lack of finances leads inmates into desperation and desperation leads to crime.
3) Incarceration Doesn’t Treat the Problem: While many institutions state that their goal is to treat inmates and rehabilitate them, anecdotal evidence from our community at JobsForFelonsHub.com suggests that most inmates don’t feel rehabilitation is part of the experience.
4) Depression and Desperation: Certain studies have estimated 31% of incarcerated females and 14.5% of incarcerated males have a serious mental issue and without proper treatment these issues will carry over into when the inmate is released. The lack of employment, negative social stigmas, and lack of support upon release can put former inmates into a deeper state of depression and lead to desperate attempts to get the things that they want such as drugs or finances.
5) Being Overwhelmed by Society: For those that have served long sentences in prison, it’s not surprising that many inmates are intimidated and overwhelmed upon released. Being incarcerated forces an individual into a rigid schedule and they are required to follow rules every single day.
Once they are released, aside from regular meetings with a parole officer, they have much more freedom and this can lead to them feeling overwhelmed and full of anxiety. This feeling may lead to substance abuse to cope with these issues. That substance abuse can result in additional crimes to fund their dependency, which will ultimately lead the former inmate back into prison.
6) Not Changing Lifestyle/Social Circle Upon Release: Part of a successful rehabilitation is for individuals to distance themselves from negative influences upon release. These bad influences can come in many forms, but the key is for those who have been incarcerated to find a new support group to associate with. Unfortunately, though, this is much easier said than done. Many times, former inmates will go back to the same crowd of people they used to associate with because finding a new group isn’t easy to do. Further, if gang activity is involved, it might be very difficult to leave their old group for fear of retribution.
Gordon: Please share with our readers “Recidivism The Ultimate Guide”
Ron: Myself and my team spent 14 hours creating “Recidivism: The Ultimate Guide” in an effort to better help people understand the challenges with recidivism and potential ways that we, as a society, can work on fixing these problems. We did this by using a culmination of multiple studies/sources to find common threads in recidivism and present the guide in a way to summarize key findings in an effort to better educate those that are interested.
It’s our hope that this guide will be passed around within the industry and at least start a conversation that addresses the fact that the prison system as it currently exists is not effective to reduce recidivism.
Gordon: As a Prison minister, what have been some of your most rewarding experiences
Ron: For me, the best part of my job is always when I receive an email thanking myself/my team for all that we do. Sometimes people are just thankful that we were there for them when few others were, but other times people will email us and tell us how we assisted them to get a new job and how they’re determined to never “return to the system again”.
This is especially rewarding for me because I know that by helping assist and rehabilitate even one former inmate, I’ve essentially saved their life and also reduced the chances that anyone else would be hurt or negatively impacted by an individual typically acting out of desperation.
In short, these are causes that I’m extremely passionate about and the ability to know that I’m doing good while still making an honest living is an amazing feeling.
Gordon: Thanks for a great interview.