After spending five years in prison for a drug conviction I was finally scheduled for release on the morning of July 22, 2010, on parole. The very thought of being free after so long felt surreal, so much so that I didn’t quite know how to process this new reality. I decided to focus all my energy on the plans I developed in preparation to successfully reintegrate back into society.
During my time of incarceration, I took advantage of every opportunity and program available to me and worked hard on the issues that brought me to prison in the first place. I realized that the best way not to return to prison was to properly prepare for my eventual release. Confident that I had done everything that one could do I was ready to begin my new life putting the past behind me for, after all, I had served my time right? Wrong!
I would soon learn that having a felony conviction can be a lifetime sentence. The process of successfully reintegrating back into society proved to be a very difficult transition. Little did I realize that prison, in many ways was the easy part. Our criminal justice system is structured to facilitate recidivism in order to keep the mass incarceration machine running.
Why is it so difficult? There are few reentry resources, most of us are released with no place to stay, little money, no driver’s license, and a load of debt that we left behind accumulating all those years. We have found out that the label of an ex-con, a convicted felon, and the like carries with it a deeply ingrained negative stigma. These stereotypes relegate us to social outcasts living on the fringes of society as we desperately seek to assimilate.
The problem is that because of the CORI (criminal offender record information) laws and the way they are written, we face what I believe amounts to legal discrimination in employment and housing. Many of us try hard to become law-abiding productive members of our society after release from prison but the majority fall back into illegal activity often not because of bad choices but because there is a lack of them. Today there are more than 2.3 million people in the United States in prison, on probation, or parole, the vast majority are the poor and people of color for nonviolent drug crimes.
By Donnell R, Wright
Donnell R. Wright
Founder & President
Donnell R. Wright is a graduate of Boston University summa cum laude with a B.S in Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Justice. Mr. Wright also earned an A.S in Business and Environmental Health from Quinsigamond College. After spending five years in prison for a drug conviction, Donnell decided to focus all his energy on the plans he developed in preparation to successfully reintegrate back into society. He was inspired to create InnerVizion Empowerment and Consulting Center in prison as a pathway to finding inner peace, healing, and freedom from the chains of physical, emotional, and spiritual prison.
James E. White
James White, a product of Moyock, North Carolina, moved to Boston in 1977 after finding his life in chaos. He found salvation in the programs of Worcester, Massachusetts. Mr. White enrolled in a plumber pipefitters program where he attended school for five years earning a certification and license as a plumber pipefitter. Mr. White, now retired, has been clean and sober for 30 years and is now the owner of Jimmy’s trucking operating out of his hometown in North Carolina. Mr. White’s journey has brought him full circle, and he is a powerful example for all who hear his story.
Program Director Samuel Ku is a former software engineering consultant and a graduate of Boston University summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and Computer Science. He is also certified in applied project management from the Boston University Corporate Education Center. Samuel Ku has certifications and experience teaching alternatives to violence, emotional awareness, and several other reentry components as a professional mentor and recovery coach. A charismatic speaker and leader, Ku brings a unique combination of experience and proven success as the founder of our Personal and Professional Empowerment Program (PPEP), which has helped numerous participants reach their reentry and reintegrated goals related to post-conviction supervision. He brings to innerVizion the desire and ability to help others successfully embarking upon a productive and fruitful life.
Community relations director
Monty was one of six children of my parents growing up in this city of Springfield. The community embraced him at a young age. His character blossomed and developed at a young age, for many community elders often mentored him as the neighborhood paper and errand boy. They shared their wisdom and knowledge with him as he then became a music student while also finding a love of barbering. In Springfield, Monty honed his skills as an artistic stylist and community social worker, for he had access to the greatest minds and mentors in his barber chair. It’s here where he developed his spirituality and passion for community involvement. Monty is here to serve and assist others in finding their InnerVizion.
After graduating from the High School of Commerce in 1982, Debbie enrolled in the former Mass Career Development Institute in Springfield, Mass. After completing her courses, Debbie started working for Mass Mutual Life Insurance in the Records Department until she had her daughter in 1985. Debbie faced many life challenges with job opportunities, being a single parent, and securing a job that fit her work experiences was difficult.
In 1996 Debbie started working at Hampden Savings Bank (which later merged in Berkshire Bank in 2013). Debbie later enrolled in a Customer Service Call Center training course at Holyoke Community College through Future Works in Springfield, Mass. She received her Certificate in 2014.