Former inmate returns as guest speaker for Education Based Incarceration Merit Program
Los Angeles County – On Wed., June 17, female inmates housed at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) received a spark of inspiration when former inmate, Jamina Johnson, returned as a guest speaker in a testimonial presentation for the Education Based Incarceration (EBI) Merit program. After some troublesome experiences and much soul searching, Johnson returned to the jail facility, this time bringing hope and motivation with her.
Johnson shared her personal history with complete strangers, in hope of stirring up something inside at least one of them. She revealed that, despite being the daughter of a preacher and being raised by two loving, hard-working parents, she inched her way down a dark path, which led to a whirlwind lifestyle of crime, drugs and gangs.
Johnson revealed the chronology of her decline to her listeners: It began in April 2008, with her first round of incarceration for the charge of Robbery. She received a two-year sentence in state prison. Not long after her release, Johnson returned to jail in 2010 for a parole violation.
After a string of contacts with law enforcement, Johnson’s pivotal point came in October 2012, during yet another booking into the Los Angeles County Jail system. Her latest charge, Possession of a Stolen Vehicle, turned into a 17-month sentence. She’d had enough.
“It all began on my birthday in October 2012,” recalled Johnson. “I was getting high with people… and the next thing I knew, I began running down the street naked and high on PCP.”
While serving her sentence at CRDF, Johnson finally acknowledged her lifestyle had spiraled out of control. She was at rock bottom and wanted to change her lifestyle, but didn’t know how.
Finally, she made the decision to leave her old ways behind and rebuild herself, using education as her foundation.
Johnson’s self-restoration project began with enrollment in the Education Based Incarceration (EBI) Merit program, formally established in 2010. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department commitment to community based policing is shown through the EBI program, which uses a comprehensive educational curriculum, consisting of both traditional and nontraditional educational opportunities.
The EBI program is designed to reduce institutional violence as well as reduce recidivism by increasing the educational, civic, social, economic, life skills, and engagement of its participants. Inmates become students who are able to attend academic, vocational, and life skills courses during incarceration, and be occupied with positive activities.
In addition to book learning and practical application, Johnson took personal examples from the EBI program staff who taught, as well as modeled, the importance of time management, good work ethics and professional conduct.
Johnson fully understood it would take hard work and determination to reinvent herself. She saw the option to graduate with a certificate in culinary arts, painting, or fashion – or even earning a high school General Education Degree – as an opportunity for improvement. Johnson successfully completed the program and graduated.
Johnson was released in February, 2014. Today, she is back in jail, but this time of her own volition. As she spoke, Johnson held the attention of every inmate in the audience. She was able to directly connect with the women because they shared similar circumstances. In turn, the women were able to relate to her and see the potential to improve their own quality of life, if they desired it.
“Every day is now new, and I’m imperfectly perfect. If it weren’t for this arrest, I might be dead,” said Johnson. “I felt like I was trying to get to the second story with no stairs, but the staff and EBI program were my stairs that helped get me to the next step.”
Captain Maria Gutierrez followed Johnson’s speech with more words of encouragement, “It’s time to start living! Take off those negative labels and choose to wear positive ones. Be courageous and take the opportunities here to invest in yourself!”
Applause and shouts of joy from the audience erupted in appreciation of Johnson’s testimony and in celebration of prospects for new futures.
“I feel I am not alone, even though I am a felon. I can accomplish something in life. I now have hope,” said one inmate after listening to Johnson.
For more information about Education Based Incarceration, visit their website at: http://shq.lasdnews.net/pages/tgen1.aspx?id=EBU.