With new ideas, things can change

A biweekly column in which various contributors from both sides of prison walls explore common ground for effecting change.

bridgingthegapI currently have four years remaining of a 24-year sentence. Throughout this time I have witnessed many changes. As the years passed, it seemed to be the norm for a memo of a new rule or policy change that usually wasn’t beneficial for many.

As discouraging as it all can be, I have in ways found myself numb from the “take-take” effect, but it has always been a fundamental core belief of mine to give voice when the opportunity presented itself.

For my first dozen years I participated in Inmate/Staff representative meetings to speak on behalf of the population in monthly scheduled meetings. Rarely did these meetings go in favor of our requests. Still, we gathered and remained hopeful that we are heard and continue to use the opportunity to improve our living situation.

Several months ago I was asked by my friends who were facilitating the BRIDGE TRUST Workshop, to help with some of the organizing of the event, and due to my length of incarceration, possibly speak on the panel as a long-term offender. When I realized what exactly the workshop’s purpose was, I was eager to help.

Working directly with community organizations from within is a rare opportunity that can extend beyond the fence, and I was grateful for the invite and the opportunity to be a part of it all.

On October 1, 2014, I witnessed an event with great potential for positive change. After proposing the idea of the BRIDGE TRUST Community-Prison Workshop and a green light was given from the administration at Lino Lakes, the event demonstrated real possibilities of how great ideas, proper communication, and a platform to speak can bring new things.

I would like to give “shout-outs” first of all to those who were willing to listen and give the Community-Prison Workshop a chance (especially the OAP staff), and of course to those who gave an entire day by coming to the event and expressing their interest in changing the lives of many.

Without new ideas, things just remain the same.

Joseph Zimmer is a participant in Voices for Racial Justice’s “Bridging the Gap” partnership. Reader responses are welcome to info@voicesforracialjustice.org. To learn more about the organization’s work, visit www.voicesforracialjustice.org.