Brother Bey was a speaker at the 7th Annual Justice Day Symposium on April 8-9, 2009. Highlights included information on “Crime Control, Prevention, and Intervention in the Baltimore Community: What’s working? What’s not working? What should be working?”
FOXO participated in the 2009 Raising the Bar, Ex-Offender Reentry Conference in Dayton, Ohio on April 30th – May 2nd, 2009. Details for the conference are found at www.powernetofDayton.org.
Second Chance at of 2007 was signed by President George W. Bush on April 9, 2008.
Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee introduced bill H.R. 59: Ex-offenders voting rights act of 2009 on January 6, 2009.
Federal government announces funding for reentry programs. Deadline for submission was April 20, 2009.
Article taken from the WestTexasTribune.com
Editor’s Note: The West Texas Tribune welcomes Brother Ellsworth Johnson-Bey (Better Known as Brother Bey). Brother Bey is Founder and President of Fraternal Order of Ex-Offenders (F.O.X.O), Inc. Brother Bey has a wealth of knowledge that is of value of ex-offenders, their families and the general communities regarding strategies to deter, decrease and prevent intergenerational dynamics of adult criminality and child/youth delinquencies. Brother Bey’s organization believes that purpose and passion from all stakeholders who love themselves, family and community can be the fuel that energizes partnerships to resolve social pathologies.
The objective of this article is to communicate the overwhelmingly disparity between African American male involvement in all phases of the crime and punishment areas of the America national and local criminal justice systems compared to white males. Crime in America has become as traditional as American Cherry Pie. Incarceration in America is big business; therefore it is evident that crime throughout this nation is marketed as an African-American phenomenon, which evolved into a poor people’s pandemic, primarily African American males.
However, statistics alone only provide a view of the effects and outcomes of some systemic problems. An example of the manifestation and validation of the pandemic in Maryland is that more than 76% of all males incarcerated are African American. Most of this population are products from unstable female-headed households with a child under the age of 5 years old and living in poverty, most are school drop-outs, most were unemployed or underemployed prior to their arrest, adjudication and conviction.
Additionally most were not represented by adequate legal representation. Each of these risk factors are directly related to one another.
Incarceration is not an equal opportunity punishment.
Research indicates that in 2006 there were more than 7.2 million adults on probation or parole or incarcerated in prison in America. That data indicates that at least 2.4% of all adults in the United States, or 1 in every 42 adults are under the control of the Criminal Justice System. Please be mindful that these numbers do not include the juvenile populations.
Race To Incarceration by Race, Gender
In the United States there are 409 whites per 100,000 people incarcerated, 1,038 Latinos per
100,000 and 2 ,468 blacks per 100,000. In the United States there are 736 White males per
100,000; 1, 862 Latino males per 100,000; 4,789 Black males: per 100,000. In the United
States Incarceration rate of males between 25-29 yrs of age is astonishing. For White males
it is 736 per 100,000, for Latino males it is 1,862 per 100,000, and for Black males it is 11,695
Nationally more than 70% of all prisoners in the United States are non-whites, also nearly 95% of
all prisoners are males. Recent studies indicated in 2002 that nearly 11% of all black males in the
United States between the ages of 25 and 29 were sentenced and in prison compared to 2.4%
Hispanic and 1.3% of white males. The United States has the highest documents per capita rate of
incarceration in the world.
From Mis-Education To Incarceration
Studies of Incarceration nationally have indicated that more than 40% African American involve in
the Criminal Justice System than there are enrolled in higher education.
In Maryland, an estimate of 169,500 adults is under the control of the criminal justice system. More
than 95% of this population that is incarcerated in Maryland are males, more than 76% of the
incarcerated population in Maryland are African American males.
African American leadership must be lead to fight for the reform of the Maryland criminal justice
system which knowingly or unknowingly remain silent regarding the unjust, injust disparities in the
outcomes of the negative effects on Black families and their communities substantiated with facts
such as the following:
America’s Black leadership must fight for the reform of Maryland’s Division of Corrections. It is
the Black Community of Maryland that is the most impacted by the workings of Maryland’s prison
system.87% of Maryland’s prison cells are filled with Black prisoners: most have drug problems,
most are dropouts, most committed their crimes on the streets of the black community, 80% of the
victims of Maryland homicides and violent crimes are Black, 87% of the 13,000 prisoners released
each year from incarceration are returning to Maryland’s Black communities.
The stated goals of prison are to punish offenders, to protect society and to develop productive citizens from the raw material of convicted felons. African American leadership must be concerned that politics have driven the criminal justice system in directions contrary to public safety. It behooves Black leadership to fight for prison policies that would have a favorable impact on the crimes in African American Communities.
Thinking is Destiny
As an ex-offender who has designed, created and developed a national organization named Fraternal Order of X-Offenders (F.O.X.O) our membership knows from personal experiences that if this society is ever going to create any long-term changes in the African-American male involvement disparate involvement in the multi-billion dollar a year industry, than FOXO advocate for the immediate need to rethink, reshape, and reevaluate new paradigm to promote comprehensive resources to maximize social and individual behavioral modification to enhance public health through African American male development.
The Black Community must began to hue and cry to mandate that the so-called leadership fight to change the following: 87% Maryland’s prison cells are filled with Black prisoners, most incarcerated people may have a history of drug use and drug abuse, many prisoners are school dropouts with little vocational skill sets, most prisoners have committed their offenses in Black communities, more than 87 % of the 13,000 prisoners released each year from incarceration are primarily returning to the Black communities, more of them returning to concentrated areas of Baltimore City, and 80% or more of the victims and perpetrators of homicides and violent crimes are Black people.
Expand educational programs in several essential areas of self development such as education, economical development and employment, mental, physical, cultural, and spiritual health and last but not least is the dynamics and relation between primary institutions and secondary institutions.
This article was written by Bro. Ellsworth Johnson Bey, Founder of Fraternal Order of X-Offenders (F.O.X.O). FOXO designs and creates and develops customized cognitive restructuring program models via our “Psychology and Sociology of Criminality Crime Prevention” DVD. Be sure to Tune into F.O.X.O’s radio program: Breaking the Cycle “Dialogue, Reflection, Action”, every Sunday from 2pm-4pm on WOLB 1010 AM. If you would like to call into the show, we can be reached at 410.481.1010.
Original Article from WestTexasTribune.com
“Nearly all of the more than 2.1 million people incarcerated in the United States will eventually be released.
Re-entry is the process of transition that these individuals, predominantly male and disproportionately African American experience from prison or jail back into the community. While prison re-entry has always occurred since the institutionalization of correctional facilities have existed, there are more people being released from correctional spaces and places on much larger scales today than ever before in the history of correction in this country.
Who Benefits When…?
• The number of people released from prison increased 350% over the past 20 years
• More than 700,000 people are released annually from American prisons
• More than 7 million different individuals are released each year from United States jails
• On any given day in America, at least 1 in 32 adults in this country was in jail or prison, or on parole or probation in 2002
• Approximately 2 out of every 3 people released from prison in the United States are re-arrested within 3 years of their release.
People are released from prison and jails with complexed needs.
Re-Entry Needs Assessments
• 3 out of 4 have substance abuse problems, but
• Only 10 percent state prisons and 3 percent in local jails receive formal treatment prior to release.
• More than 55 percent of incarcerated parents have a child under the age of 18 years and nearly 2 percent of all United States children had a parent in prison in 1999
• More than 2 out 3 prisoners do not have a high school diploma nor a GED. Only about 1 out of 3 gets vocational training at any time during their incarceration
• More than half of all releasees lived in poverty and deprivated communities prior to their incarceration
• More than 1 out of 3 jail inmates reported some physical or mental disability
• More than 80% of all prisoners released from prison is under some form of community supervision
Releasees return to communities that are ill equipped to provide services to support their potential success
In Baltimore City, nearly 70% of all releasees return to 6 zones which has a high degree of crimes, drugs, death, injury and social economics, political, spiritual, cultural and educational, health disparities within these predominately African American War Zones.
Data indicates that there are major gaps in services between the needs of the releasees and the availability of services, programs practices in need of policy reforms via community advocacy and community engagement for systematic changes.
Re-entry success or failure has implication for public safety and public health the wellbeing and welfare of our children, youth and families, community health. The national or local recidivism rate translates into thousand of new crimes committed each year by repeated offenders. State taxpayers in Maryland spent more than 160 million dollars annually for corrections, the nation spends more than 200 billion annually for correction. This level of funding by taxpayers will constantly elevate until at least five areas of needs to be addressed socially such as Health, Education, Employment, Economical Development and Criminal Justice Disparities.
No great improvement in the lot of mankind is possible until a great change tables place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.
The primary mandate and responsibility of any society is to ensure the health and ell being of all its citizenry. Despite the best efforts of many federal, state, and local governmental initiatives, the proliferation and continued prevalence of crimes, drugs, and violence by repeated offenders continues at an epidemic rates.
The social environment in which people live as well as their lifestyles and behaviors can influence the incidence of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality within targeted populations. However, during the past two decades research has provided evidence to support the notion the populations (ex-offenders in this case) can be engaged and must participate in their behavioral modification process to promote healthy choices to deter delinquent, criminal thinking that precedes juvenile delinquent and adult criminal behaviors.
The Maryland Re-entry Partnership has influenced, participated in fundamental changes regarding the political structure of key institutions when it comes to providing services to the ex-offender population. However, behavioral modification can not and will not be managed by threat and coercion. The challenges to the Re-Entry change efforts are numerous. However, I will emphasize only a few. First, and foremost, the solutions must be comprehensive, via including the dynamics and essentials of the therapeutic value of credible ex-offenders who have community visibility in the streets and are not poster faces in the suits. While it’s not intended to belittle the efforts of anyone, the traditional methodology used for implementing change or improvement often reflects the following steps which research(program evaluation) indicates does not work in and of itself. Step 1 – Identify the problem from an outsider’s viewpoint. Step 2. Bring in an expert from out of town who seems to understand the problem best, or read in a book about the latest and greatest “new” solution to the problem. Step 3. (a) Spend tremendous amounts of time, energy, and money trying to overcome the resistance caused by step 2 and (b) make someone else’s solution work without engaging the targeted population or energizing them (ex-offenders) to replicate their successes throughout their cohort groups/peers
FOXO’s paradigm shift has realized and personally actualized the realism that behaviors will not change until the thinking changes. Based on our experiences, we believe that all behaviors are learned behaviors. People learn what they live, and live what they learn. One would have to be in an advanced state of denial not to recognize that dealing with the true cause of a problem often involves understand and promoting attitudinal changes in people. An individual (ex-offenders) behavior is directly related to his/her state of mind.
Society tends to meet any situation by reorganizing and creating the illusion of progress while producing confusing and inefficiency because they only addressed the symptoms of the real underlying issues. As with symptoms of physical illness, if the doctor only treats the symptoms and doesn’t treat the real cause of the problem the symptoms return.
The underlying cause of hard issues is often found in the soft issues of the ex-offender which are human issues “fundamental attitudinal or mindset: issues. The soft issues consist of less tangible aspects that are much more subjective and less easily measurable or mapped than the hard issues. In reality, traditional service providers are less prepared or experienced in dealing with the recidivist ex-offenders and their innate softskill issues. For FOXO’s purpose, we use attitude and mindset interchangeably because the meaning is quite similar. Many re-entry programs do not seem willing or equipped to directly address the real issues of their ex-offenders mindset beyond the particular services that they try to provide. Too often, too many of the politically connected institutions in the business of re-entry tend to think of hard issues (employment, housing, recovery treatment, etc. as more important than the soft issues (thinking, self esteem, cultural values, mental health, etc.)
In summary, these providers tend to deal with soft issues very poorly and only as a last resort, often when it is too late to make a real difference. Re-Entry business cannot hope to overcome or overpower problems of chronic repeated offenders simply by instituting new programs systems, or police to address old behaviors without engaging the ex-offenders to participate in their cognitive restructuring self help therapeutic model.
Note: We are suggesting and requesting that if you want to see the breath and the depth of the work FOXO has done as an organization, please enter Fraternal Order of X-Offenders in the Google.Com search engine.
We encourage the West Texas Tribune Readers to dialogue with us personally to provide their comments, questions, suggestions to enhance FOXO’s ability to provide service to our national community. Also, we encourage people, agencies and organizations who are providing services to be a guest on our radio program via telephone. We also encourage you to call into FOXO radio program on WBOL 1010 AM at 410-481-1010 on Sundays 2-4pm Eastern Time.
Orders for DVDs, requests for seminar presentations or training, direct all questions, comments and concerns to:
Fraternal Order of X-Offenders, Inc. (F.O.X.O)
Proper Education Always Corrects Error (P.E.A.C.E)
P.O. Box 2241
Baltimore, MD 21202-2241
Original Article taken from WestTexasTribune.com
Proper Education Always Corrects Errors
Peace and blessings to all, particularly the family and supporters of Mr. Floyd Miller and the West Texas Tribune’s readership. For nearly a year now, Fraternal Order of X-Offenders, Inc. (F.O.X.O.) has had the opportunity to be a part of the West Texas Tribune Family via sharing our wisdom, knowledge and understanding regarding the causes, effects and solution to deter, decrease and ultimately to prevent the pathology of criminality and delinquency throughout this nation.
As many of you may know or may not know, FOXO Inc. is a non-profit 501C (3) Grassroots Organization created by X-Offenders to prevent, deter and decrease the prevalence of crime, drugs, violence and gang activity through research, program development and training. FOXO’s research is designed to evaluate social pathologies within our communities from a social, psychological, economical, political, cultural/spiritual and historical perspective. We identify and develop effective strategies and national partnership to assess and access funding sources to enhance our collective capacity to deter, decrease, and prevent the proliferation of crime, drugs, and violence in the community. Our mission encompasses serving to develop and build capacity in community based and faith based organizations as well as academic institutions; to enhance the quality of life for all stake holders, at risk youth and families.
Our mission is to design, develop and implement innovative, creative and proactive crime prevention processes that incorporate the unconventional methodologies and empiricism of the X-Offender population.
To identify the cause and effect that contributes to anti-sociable chronic deviant behavior i.e. juvenile delinquency adult criminality via assessing and minimizing risk factors. FOXO develops protective factors that will foster behavior modification via maximizing the resiliency to deter criminality.
The objective is to increase the awareness of the problems of crime, drugs and violence that are prominent in our society by implementing the “4-C Paradigm” which includes:
• To increase the awareness of the problems of crime, drugs and violence that is prominent in our society.
• To educate the general public, service providers, adult/juvenile offenders, as well as at-risk youth regarding the psychology and sociology of criminality.
• To change the attitude towards criminal behavior
• To change the behavior of all stakeholders within the community.
FOXO has assessed the Public health paradigm, which indicates that crime, drugs, violence and gang prevention and intervention strategies can be categorized into three levels: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. A comprehensive approach addresses all three pathologies at each of these levels within a specific community i.e. individual and family.
FOXO data indicates that the leading cause of death among African American males ages 15 to 34 is homicide. The data also indicates that between 1976 and 2004, 100% of the Black murder victims were killed by 94% Black offenders.
In previous articles, we have written about issues such as the history of
1.) Crime in America, 2.) The Economics of Poverty, 3.) The Race to Incarceration, 4.) The Perpetual Prison, Industrial Complex, 5.) The War on Drugs, 6.) The Core-Relationship between Crime, Drugs, and Violence, 7.) The Inter-Connection of Issues such as Power, Politics, Crimes, Racism, Classcism, Elitism and/or The Inter-Dynamics of Racism, Classcism and the Majority Incarceration Rate of Poor and Black Minority People of Color, 8.) Re-Thinking, Re-Shaping, Re-Evaluating, Re-Entry, 9.) Community Re-Entry,
10.) Black on Black Crimes, 11.) Breaking the Cycle of Inter-Generational Dynamics of Parental Criminality and Child Delinquency, and
12.) Proper Education Always Corrects Errors.
Many people believe that communities that have high rates of homicides also have high rates of other crimes. Research indicates that the following indicators are very prevalent in communities that have high rates of crimes, drugs, violence and gang activities are: high rates of poverty, high rates of out of wedlock births, high rates of teenage pregnancies, high rates of single female households, high incarceration rates of Black Males, high school drop-out rates, high unemployment rates, high rates of repeated offenders, high concentration of returning releasees from jails and prisons, high rates of people on parole/probation, high rates of substance users/abusers meaning sellers, buyers and stick-up artists, etc.
Please be advised readers, that the primary purpose of this one year anniversary article is to challenge us to acknowledge that “time dictates the agenda” for us to move from dis-unity towards community “our community is our responsibility” to promote peace.
Cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Baltimore, with large Black population experience the nation’s highest rates of murder and violent crimes. This high murder rate is predominantly a black pandemic. FOXO’s research of Bureau Justice Statistics, indicates that between 1976 and 2005, blacks, while 13% of the population committed more than 52 % of the nation’s homicides, blacks also were more than 46 % of the homicide victims. Ninety-four percent of black homicide victims had a black person as their murderer.
Blacks are not only the primary victims of homicide, but blacks also suffer high rates of all other serious violent crimes as both the victims and perpetrators which is nothing short of two edges of the same self-homicide, self-genocide, self-destructive sword.
FOXO’S COMMUNITY CRIME PREVENTION INITIATIVE
Statement of Needs
Rethinking, Reshaping, Re-Evaluating Community Crime Prevention Initiative.
Community Crime Prevention Initiative is a community advocacy support and strengths-based, customized mediation and behavior modification process aimed at helping people meet their communities’ unmet needs both within and outside of formal human services systems, while they remain in their neighborhoods and homes, whenever possible. To appreciate the potential fruit from this process, the collective community must address the root (The Thinking). FOXO’s Cognitive Reconstruction is teaching people new ways of thinking that will influence their thinking and/or teaching people new ways of thinking that will influence and/or control their behavior that promotes pro-social skills vs. anti-social skills. The methodology that FOXO uses is derived from its National DVD Training that addresses the Psychology of Sociology and Criminality. The premise is that everyone in the community is a stakeholder within the community and they should take personal responsibility and personal accountability for everyone else needs assessment, risk assessment and criminogenic assessment in their community so that the community’s protected factors are maximized while the community risk factors are minimized to ensure and promote community public safety.
FOXO members who participated in our Crime Prevention Initiatives were present at the FOXO ReEntry Summit. We want to thank and recognize our multiple partners and stakeholders including national, local, federal, state and citywide participants, i.e. funders, service providers, clients, customers, consumers, mentors and spiritual institutions. Special Thanks and to all FOXO Board of Director Members particularly, our FOXO’s Board of Director Chairperson, Tara Andrews, Esq.; Executive Administrator, Ayzah Corbett; and Johns Hopkins Youth Violence Prevention Center Staff and FOXO’s Outreach Team. Our special gratitude goes to Raymond Marbury who is a FOXO’s Fellow, Ph.D Candidate , who does extensive research on FOXO’s behalf.
Tara Andrews, Esquire, is challenging all summit attendees to evolve
from individual spectators to become collective participators in the
FOXO’s Community Crime Prevention Movement. Tara Andrews is the recipient of an award for the Up and Coming of Who’s Who in 100s Black America among many other awards. She is a humble servant, ordained minister, multiple advanced degrees who loves building the capacity of raw talent. She has been the executive/deputy director of local, state-wide and national organizations. She is an advid advocate for policy reform that affects disengaged, disconnected and disenfranchised populations, particularly young people. FOXO’s indebtness to Tara Andrews, Esquire is much wider than words could ever specify.
Left to Right: Salwin Ray, Esq. Executive Director of Maryland Mentoring Partnership; Michael J.Klag, MD, MPH, Dean of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Mayor Sheila Dixon, Mayor of Baltimore City; Ellsworth Johnson-Bey, Founder/President of FOXO; and Dr. Philip Leaf, Ph.D, Director of Johns Hopkins Youth Violence Prevention Center were present at the FOXO Rentry Summit December 2008. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Youth Violence Prevention Center were the Co-Sponsors of FOXO’S Annual ReEntry Crime Prevention Summit.
Note: We are now suggesting and requesting that if you want to see the breath and the depth of the work FOXO has done as an organization, please put in Fraternal Order of X-Offenders in the Google.com search engine.
We encourage the West Texas Tribune Readers to dialogue with us personally to provide their comments, questions, suggestions to enhance FOXO’s ability to provide service to our national community. Also, we encourage people, agencies and organizations who are providing services to be a guest on our radio program via telephone.
We also encourage you to call into FOXO radio program on WBOL 1010 AM Radio at
410-481-1010 on Sundays 2-4 pm Eastern Time.
Orders for DVDs, requests for seminar presentations or training, direct all questions, comments and concerns to:
Brother Ellsworth Johnson-Bey
Fraternal Order of X-Offenders, Inc (F.O.X.O)
Proper Education Always Corrects Error ( P.E.A.C.E)
P.O. Box 2241
Baltimore, MD 21202-2241
Website: email@example.com or Brotherbey@foxo.us
Primary email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: The West Texas Tribune welcomes Brother Ellsworth Johnson-Bey (Better Known as Brother Bey). Brother Bey is Founder and President of Fraternal Order of Ex-Offenders (F.O.X.O), Inc. Brother Bey has a wealth of knowledge that is of value to ex-offenders, their families and the general communities regarding strategies to deter, decrease and prevent intergenerational dynamics of adult criminality and child/youth delinquencies. Brother Bey’s organization believes that purpose and passion from all stakeholders who love themselves, family and community can be the fuel that energizes partnerships to resolve social pathologies.
Article taken from WestTexasTribune.com
The United States now incarcerates between 1.8 and 2 million of its citizens in its prisons and jails on any given day. Additionally, more than 5 million people are currently under the supervision of America’s criminal justice system. The United States incarcerates more people than any other industrialized nation on the planet. The current 2 million prisoners in prisons or jails are ten times larger than the previous prison population which existed in the United States nearly 30 years ago. The question everyone should ask ourselves is who benefits when the Culture of Crime has become a stimulus package for big businesses in the nation?
The purpose of this article is to expose and examine political and economical industrial prison complex industry that have maximized the institutionalization primarily of African American males and other poor minorities.
For the most part, America’s prison population is being harvested from our deprivated inner city war zones of urban poverty. These disadvantaged, disengaged, deprivated inner city communities are disproportionately populated by the African American minority who are uninformed, unimportant, unorganized, unemployed, underemployed and who are constantly underseiged by misinformation or no information that would empower them to organize to promote the reality that the greatest capital within a capitalistic society is the unity of human capital (people helping people to help themselves).
Who benefits in America when African Americans are only 12 percent of the national population, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the African American Community is only 13 percent of the monthly drug users; yet, they are arrested five times as often as whites on drug charges? Once the African Americans are arrested, they are twice as likely to be convicted than their white counterparts. On an average, African Americans are sentenced much longer than the sentence that is received by their white counterparts.
The misperception of the truth of who commits the most crimes in America.
In some cities such as Washington, DC and Baltimore, there are more than 56 percent of black men between the ages of 18-35 years old under the watchful eye and control of the criminal justice system. Nearly 80 percent of those being sent to prison around the nation are African Americans or Hispanics. However, statistics indicates to us that these minorities are not committing anywhere near 80 percent of America’s crime. The problem with most of the official records and government statistics regarding who commits crimes are that the statistics on who gets arrested only indicates the police policies that target arresting more African American males and other minority males rather than arresting other ethnic groups who commits crimes equally or more than African American males and other poor minorities. We believe, based upon our personal experiences, that the police are more likely to arrest some people more so than others. These official statistics tells us more about the police policies and philosophies of arresting and charging African American males more so than the perception that African American males commit more crimes than any other ethnic group of juvenile or adult criminals. The question is who benefits when more African Americans are promoted as the progenerators and creators of criminality in America?
Race, Prison, and the Drug War
Research indicates that the prison boom is a direct result of two wars in America: The War on Drugs and The War on Crime. The outcome of both of these wars in reality is a war on poor minorities particularly African Americans. Research also indicates that there is a racially disproportionate nature of the War on Drugs is not just devastating to Black Americans, it ultimately exposes and examines the hypocrisy in grained in the principles of justice and equal protection of the laws that should be the foundation of any constitutional democracy. The fourteenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America articulates, but it cannot, will not, and does not demonstrate due process and equal protection of the law. Illustration: Data indicated by the US Department of Justice / Bureau of Justice Statistics Prevalence of imprisonment in the United States Population, “The chances of going to prison are highest among black males by 33 percent and Hispanic males by 17.2 percent and lowest among white males by 5.9 percent. The lifetime chances of going to prison among black women is 5.6 percent, and Hispanic women 2.2 percent and white women 0.9%”. The above statistics indicates that Lady Justice is not blind and that the criminal justice system is bias, therefore there is a need for a national, local, hue and cry from all stakeholders who believes in the sanctity of freedom, justice and equality to hold this nation to the words of its mouth that apparently is not lived in the mediation of its heart. The national public/citizenry need to address, challenge and correct the injustices in the criminal justice system.
According to the Human Rights Watch Report which highlights racial disparity on the war on drugs nationwide, black men are sent to prison on drug charges at thirteen times the rate of white men. The same study indicates that most drug offenders are white. Five times as many whites use drugs as blacks, but blacks comprise the great majority of drug offenders sent to prison. The solution to the racial inequality is not to incarcerate more whites, but to reduce the use of prison, for low-level drug offenders and to increase the availability of substance abuse prevention, intervention, education and treatment in communities, schools, and prison to promote the advocacy of drug treatment etc. Drugs in America have become the contemporary slavery which needs an emancipation or liberation from self annihilation.
We are now suggesting and requesting that if you want to see the breath and the depth of the work FOXO has done as an organization, please put in Fraternal Order of X-Offenders in the Google.com search engine.
We encourage the West Texas Tribune Readers to dialogue with us personally to provide their comments, questions, suggestions to enhance FOXO’s ability to provide service to our national community. Also, we encourage people, agencies and organizations who are providing services to be a guest on our radio program via telephone.
We also encourage you to call into FOXO radio program on WBOL 1010 AM Radio at 410-481-1010 on Sundays 2-4 pm Eastern Time.
FOXO Summit speardheaded by FOXO and our planning team, co-sponsored with Baltimore Behavioral Health,
WHO WINS, Johns Hopkins Youth Violence Prevention Center and Baltimore Mentoring Partnership
The Mayor’s Park Heights Human Development and Community Development Initiative to provide resource
information to community residents and service providers networking in the Park Heights HC/CD Zones.
Guest Speaker: Bill Cosby
Fathers Day, June 15th, 2008
Article from The Urbanite Magazine
By: Lionel Foster
Does a 60-year-old ex-con hold the key to turning lifetime criminals into law-abiding community members?
One day in late February, Ellsworth Johnson-Bey, slouched behind a desk in his Park Heights office, got a call on his cell phone in the final minutes of what had already been a very busy morning. Bey is skeptical of overtures from the media, but he’d agreed, with some reluctance, to meet me for an interview on the fly. As the phone rang, he didn’t have long before a workshop he needed to attend would begin. Caught mid-sentence, he excused himself, peered down at the phone, then took the call with a sharp “Hello?”
Thus the interrogation began. There was talk of a letter. “Letter? What letter?” asked Bey. “You say you gave a letter to someone else to give to me? You know how much mail we get? I might or might not have it.”
It seemed the call would end there, but Bey suddenly changed tack. “Hello? Hello, sir? I’ma put you on speakerphone. You don’t know this, but right now I have a journalist in my office. That’s an example of the circle of influence [we] can use on your behalf. Go ’head. Tell your story.”
The 36-year-old man on the phone had recently been convicted of his first crime—what, he didn’t say—and was awaiting sentencing. “You say this is your first conviction,” Bey asked, “but how many times you done something you should have been locked up for?”
“Countless times,” came the response.
And with that, Bey softened. He promised to submit a letter explaining that the man was enrolled in a program that would help with his rehabilitation. But he gave the caller an assignment, too: He was to ask his family to call in to Bey’s radio program, “Breaking the Cycle,” which airs on WOLB 1010 AM on Sundays at 2 p.m. “They need to tell your story, so that other people can benefit and so they can advocate on your behalf,” he said.
“Be strong,” Bey told the man before laying down the phone.
Brother Bey, as most call him, is the 60-year-old director of the Fraternal Order of X-Offenders, or FOXO, an organization he founded in 2000 to keep former inmates from falling back into lives of crime. Much of that work happens over the cell phone that rings steadily during our conversations: The contact number listed on FOXO’s website and business cards is the number to this phone, and Bey says he never turns it off.
Groups like FOXO have more people in need of their services today than at any time in American history: According to a much-discussed report published by the Pew Center on the States in March, 1 in 100 American adults is in jail or prison—that’s more than 2.3 million people. The rate is higher for men (1 in 54) and higher still for young African American men (1 in 9 of those ages 20 to 34). Many are repeat offenders: A 2004 study by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research center, found that within six months of their release from prison, 32.1 percent of a large sample of Maryland inmates had been rearrested, and 15.5 percent were back behind bars.
To stop this revolving door, the key word is “reentry”—that is, smoothing out the turbulent transition from prison back to the world outside so as to prevent a return trip. In Baltimore, Bey has planted himself at the epicenter of this migration: In 2001, 9,448 people were released from Maryland prisons. Fifty-nine percent of them came to Baltimore City, and 30 percent of those settled in communities in and around a section of West Baltimore that includes Park Heights.
FOXO’s approach borrows the methodology of addiction therapy and applies it to criminality, using a technique rarely employed: It seeks to break the cycle of lawlessness by tapping into the talents and experience of what Bey calls “the population”—those who have themselves run afoul of the law. People, that is, like Brother Bey. “People learn what they live and live what they learn,” he says. “How I came up with that concept, all I did was study my own life … I got fifty-two years’ experience with the criminal justice system in every capacity. I have a history of violence. I have a history of robbin’, drawing blood.”
Bey says his first stint under state supervision came at age 8, with a six-to-eight-month sentence to Boys’ Village of Maryland in Prince George’s County. As he tells it, he was just too much for his single mother to handle, and she finally hauled him to juvenile hall. “The judge said, ‘Ma’am, there’s nothing that I can do, ’cause he doesn’t have a petition’”—the juvenile court equivalent of a statement of charges. His mother gave the judge an ultimatum: “She said, ‘You either lock him up or lock me up.’”
Bey came out of Boys’ Village so angry that, instead of returning home, he opted into foster care. At 13, he was sent to the Maryland Training School for Boys (later renamed the Hickey School) for being, as he says, “incorrigible, mischievous, and ungovernable.” At 16, he served three years in the Maryland Penitentiary. At 19, he did more time for drug possession, and by 21 he knew the ins and outs of the criminal justice system so intimately that, representing himself, he dodged a potential 140-year sentence by convincing a jury not to convict on seven counts of armed robbery when eyewitnesses could not identify him.
Rather than change his ways, Bey simply changed his M.O., turning to robbing drug dealers. “Dope dealers didn’t call 911 and say you stuck ’em up,” he says. He also picked up a habit of his own. “I used heroin, codeine, morphine, PCP, LSD, chronic, crank, mescaline, micro dot, purple dot, green dot, serpent, dummies, inhalants, cocaine, all the mists, never knowing about all the neurological, psychological, biological consequences, burning out the brain cells.”
Over the next twenty-nine years, Bey was in and out of jail, school, and jobs. He recounts a life as a West Baltimore street hustler in the 1960s and 1970s, during the celebrated reign of drug lord “Little Melvin” Williams. “Pennsylvania Avenue then was like New York City, Las Vegas,” he says. “I’m a young guy, doing everything under the sun. People paying for protection because I had a little posse.” He always carried an attaché case. “Two things were in that attaché case,” he says. “I always had a gun and books.” Along the way, he earned degrees in correctional administration and criminal justice and worked as a substance abuse counselor. At 50, he went into drug counseling himself, something he wishes he’d done sooner. “My mother demised probably about a year or so before I went into recovery,” he remembers. “I’ve never really gotten over that.”
Today, Bey uses this wealth of personal experience to engage offenders in whatever stage of anger, acceptance, or denial they happen to be. Since January, FOXO has been working alongside Prisoners Aid Association of Maryland, acting as the outreach-oriented component of Project P.E.A.C.E.—an acronym for Proper Education Always Corrects Errors. The program, which will be supported in part by a $300,000 city grant for ex-offender transition, is a component in the Park Heights Master Plan, the wide-ranging effort to create what officials term a “human development zone” in the neighborhood. Project P.E.A.C.E. will involve a two-level approach: The 139-year-old Prisoners Aid will be the gateway to a number of bread-and-butter services for ex-offenders, including substance abuse counseling and housing; FOXO then steps in with one-on-one counseling and group sessions that challenge the thoughts and habits that put them in prison, one ex-offender to another.
The question is, can an ex-con succeed where prisons, governments, scientists, and traditional nonprofits have not? The answer could affect criminal justice policy, and determine whether FOXO, as Bey hopes, can be recognized as a national model.
Mid-afternoon on the first Tuesday in March, FOXO’s weekly support group for recovering addicts and ex-offenders gathered in the basement of a women’s group home on East 25th Street. Some of the attendees lived upstairs; others, male and female, came from all over the city. Bey introduced me at the start of the meeting and invited anyone who felt comfortable to share his or her story: “We want to market your success.” After a brief silence, a newcomer raised her hand. “I’ve never been to one of your meetings, but I’ve heard that they were some good meetings—that Brother Bey is off the hook.” The group clapped and cheered.
Another woman began, but her comments were too vague and nonspecific for Bey—he wanted details. “Tell us ’bout runnin’ ’round in the streets,” he pressed.
The woman began again. “New Year’s Eve, my daughter came to me sick, but I was too busy getting high,” she said. “On January 3, they found her dead. If I had only stayed to find out the problem, maybe I could have helped her.”
Next, another woman recounted her struggle with using and dealing drugs. “I just celebrated one year clean,” she said. “I’d hustled most of my life. I started out selling drugs when I was 16 years old.” After years on her own, the street itself became an addiction. “I’ve been raped. And I still got right back on the block.”
Bey understands this. Many of the ex-offenders he works with have battled drug habits, but he sees their persistent criminality itself as a disease. Taking his cue from mental health professionals, he employs a process used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called cognitive restructuring. The idea is that negative or “maladaptive” actions stem from maladaptive thinking, both of which can be adjusted with time and training. The National Institutes of Health have recognized CBT’s effectiveness for cocaine addicts, and many psychologists find it helpful in treating patients with depression, but the application to criminality that Bey uses is rare. So is his emphasis on peer mediation. Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous have made the idea of one addict helping another a mainstream article of substance abuse treatment. Letting recovering criminals counsel each other, however, is not as widely accepted.
Public policy researchers have found that CBT holds promise for reducing recidivism among criminal offenders. And it’s not hard to see how therapeutic the principle can be. In the support group meeting, a woman owned up to “using coke and dope. I started selling drugs, burning [that is, robbing] people, taking shit that wasn’t mine.” Now, she had a job, a bank account, and a healthy sense of self-esteem. After she spoke, she thought about why she’d shared this with the group.
“I ain’t the kind to be puttin’ my shit out there,” she said.
“What made you wanna put your shit out there?” asked Bey.
“’Cause if I give it to you, I know I ain’t got to keep it.”
Talking to offenders in group sessions, on street corners, and on the radio, Bey picks apart inconsistencies with the mind of a research-minded clinician, a purpose-driven nonprofit leader, and a recovering addict. “My mom thought I was going to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a preacher,” he says. “I wound up being a little of all three.”
He calls himself and his staff of four, all of whom are fellow ex-offenders, “CPAs”—not certified public accountants but “Crime Prevention Agents.” He’s packaged his methods in a DVD training course for ex-offenders called The Psychology and Sociology of Criminality. “We unorthodox,” he says of himself and his team. “We offer treatment on demand.”
The effectiveness of that treatment goes beyond the practical benefits of job training or drug counseling. More crucial are the intangible benefits of simply providing peers who understand what former inmates are going through. “A lot of these people don’t have a positive relationship with anybody—they’re totally disenfranchised. They’ve used up their friends and family,” says Philip Leaf, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention of Youth Violence (and this issue’s guest editor), who has been a longtime supporter of FOXO. Bey, he says, may have one answer for cities struggling with prisoner reentry: “How do you reconstitute positive community with people who’ve been literally pulled out of society?”
Brother Bey puts it more concisely: “When people don’t help you,” he says, “the streets come calling.”
Bey and FOXO have picked up a number of influential supporters. Mayor Sheila Dixon attended Project P.E.A.C.E.’s grand opening event in January. Thomasina Hiers, assistant secretary and chief of staff for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, hired him as a consultant for a peer-to-peer program aimed at offenders who were still imprisoned. Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities, recently invited him to sit on a panel during a conference on African Americans and the middle class. But connections have not always come so easily: Bey’s style can be abrasive. “People don’t want people around who are challenging,” he says. “They just want people to go along, get along. Scratch it if it don’t itch. Laugh if it ain’t funny. I’m not that kind of guy.”
Indeed, the street skills that make Bey so credible among the offender population can be less effective with what he calls “the status quo.” “You lose the message for the messenger,” says Bey, who has little patience with the niceties of the nonprofit world. “In the world I came out of, you don’t say, ‘Hey man, I need help.’ Asking for help is an exemplification of being weak, that you have surrendered. In the street, you don’t surrender.”
Michael Brown, executive director of Prisoners Aid, was Bey’s case manager when Bey was in substance abuse recovery in 1998. Brown recalls his initial impression: “He was a jerk, an educated jerk—a jailhouse lawyer,” he says. But Brown’s opinion changed as Bey signed on as a consultant for Prisoners Aid, moderating workshops like the one on 25th Street and eventually becoming a case manager in his own right. “I guess I could say he’s my alter ego,” says Brown. “I’m not going to say things, I’m not going to push this person’s button, because I need to get re-funded. He’s not afraid to speak to anyone.”
Tara Andrews, former director of the criminal justice advocacy organization Justice Maryland, had a similar reaction when she first met Bey. “I quickly concluded that this was an individual I did not want to have a relationship with,” she recalls. “He was very aggressive and confrontational. But at some point I came to see that his argument with the whole movement, while maybe not brought forth in the most inviting way, was valid … Here we were, the good people who may have good education and good contacts, trying to lead and drive a movement on behalf of ex-offenders … It should have been the other way around.”
Colleagues such as Brown say that Bey has mellowed a bit in recent years: He’s more focused, and perhaps more diplomatic. Bey resists the suggestion that he’s changed, but admits his approach is different. Instead of going from meeting to meeting insisting that ex-offenders be heard, he has concentrated on building his own group. And he has taken advice from people like Bell-McKoy on how to dot his i’s and cross his t’s while running a human services organization. But today, he says that those with roles in public policy or traditional criminal justice organizations who speak highly of him are simply the ones who realize the truth of what he’s always said: At least part of the solution to crime and violence must lie with the offender population, not in the people who lock them up.
“We the headlights, not the taillights,” Bey says. “This population has a lot to bring to the quote-unquote academia experts. When we share, we feel what we share. It’s not like reading a book. It’s personal.”
—Lionel Foster is Urbanite’s staff writer.
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