LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There is much debate in Kentucky on how to reform the criminal justice system. Now, former inmates are offering their own suggestions.
Savvy Shabazz and Brandon Weathers say they found success because they found a way to pursue an education during and after being incarcerated. Both men say there should be more efforts to offer education programs behind bars for current inmates. They say former inmates should also get help navigating the programs that colleges and universities can offer.
Shabazz works for Jefferson County Technical College (JCTC), mentoring students and guiding them through college. He shares his story to motivate those with similar pasts.
"I was sentenced to a total of 28 years for nonviolent drug offenses in McCracken County. I was shipped to nine possibly 12 different facilities across the state of Kentucky," Shabazz explains.
He says education at JCTC studying sociology was the catalyst for change in his life.
“I don't believe that people can work themselves out, in post-incarceration. But I do believe that you can educate yourself out of it," says Shabazz, "We build people. We don't build prisons. So with that being said, it's going to take a lot of legislation, and people need us to be able to tell our stories to be able to change the criminal justice system."
He mentors one student with a similar story. Brandon Weathers was released from prison in February, but began taking classes at JCTC online while still incarcerated. He's working on an Associate Degree in Computer Information Technology (CIT).
“The people that’s in prison, they’re gonna come home one day. And do you want them living next door to you jig they’re not rehabilitated- or you know how’s that gonna affect society and maybe even your kids?” Weathers questions, “I mean if you don’t give second and third chances, what’s going to happen to the people you don’t give the chances to? They’re going to keep doing the same thing. They’re going to keep not being productive members of society and it’s going to fall back on everybody.”
There are also efforts at Bellarmine University to allow inmates to take courses alongside other students. The details are being worked out by criminal justice professors.