Welcome to UI LABB!
by UI LABB Students Michael and Mitchell
To begin, one of the biggest misconceptions about inmates is that we lack potential. This simply isn't the truth. The fact of the matter is this: there is a vast amount of talent and potential living in prisons across this country. You see that talent and potential displayed as you walk the hallways, reading it in our assignments, and hearing it during the lively debates in class. Our minds work!
Unfortunately, many in society consider us a lost cause to be forgotten. We are confident that some of you who have chosen to give your time and expertise may face negative feedback, if not outright anger, at your decision. You are not alone! Those of us participating have faced the same ridicule from inmates who have decided to "repay" society by hurling every kind of insult in regards to our participation. You may even hear some smart comments or quips as you visit a class. Pay them no mind! We don't.
The attitude of those of us participating in this program will eventually permeate the minds of those too ignorant to recognize the beauty of this amazing opportunity. Make no mistake, the University of Iowa in IMCC is creating a positive "buzz" among the inmates. That is why the number of participants is more than double this term. The men you are meeting, teaching, learning from, and getting to know represent the attitude of future participants. We want this to be successful just as much as you do.
Before this program, many of us hated going to K-12, so the thought of college was ... terrifying.
In the beginning, this caused many inmates grief and worry. This is because they were most likely dealing with personal shame issues such as illiteracy, speech impediments, developmental challenges, etc. However, if we want to go home, we have to handle our business. This requirement accomplished a sort of "tilling of the soil" surrounding the negative thoughts inmates have towards the institution of education. We say this because walking across a stage at graduation, OUR graduation, ushers in a feeling of accomplishment that many of us have never experienced in a positive way.
Now our minds have been expanded! We survived the experience! We achieved something that the police are not looking to apprehend us for. The people who used to view us with disdain and contempt now look at us as if we are somebody, and some of us have never been seen in that light. Now we have credibility with our children and loved ones when discussing the importance of staying in school and pursuing a higher education. This is what you are cultivating in our lives by sharing your time, patience, expertise, and presence. The experience of graduation on one level creates a desire to achieve that on another level, and that is clearly being awakened in the men who inhabit this community ... a desire to achieve.
With your help, we will not allow our past fears to destroy our future accomplishments. This is a beautiful opportunity that will benefit the futures of all involved. May we all grow, prosper, and become better people from this experience.