N.J. inmates share experiences with P.R.I.D.E.

Project P.R.I.D.E. Event
Two NJ inmates speak at the College's recent Project P.R.I.D.E. event

By Natalie Kouba

Correspondent

Education is the leading factor to crime prevention and a safer community.

Two current prison inmates and two former inmates visited the College’s Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to speak about their accomplishments with Project P.R.I.D.E. (Promoting Responsibility in Drug Education) as well as their experiences in prison.

Project P.R.I.D.E. is a program which helps students give back to the community by volunteering their time to tutor inmates.

The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Gary Lanigan, spoke about the program as well as NJDOC’s goal to “protect public safety by operating safe facilities and preparing inmates to reenter the community.”

Michael Ritter, director of Project P.R.I.D.E., introduced the inmates — all of whom volunteered to participate in the event. Their last names were not disclosed to the audience.

Mike, 27, grew up with a “regular childhood” in Trenton. As the eldest of 11 children of divorced parents, he “grew up angry at his father” and never found an effective way to communicate his anger to other people. Although he was “on the right track” through high school, once he got involved with a bad crowd he dropped out  and began selling and using drugs.

At the age of 15, Mike went on juvenile probation, but saw it as “a slap on the wrist.” He now has been incarcerated with a six-year sentence and has not been home since 2007. After Mike realized the effect his actions had on his family, he decided to seek help, earn his G.E.D., and take advantage of the programs the Department of Corrections had to offer.

Once he returns home Mike would like to pursue a higher education at a community college and eventually transfer to a four-year university. “It might be right here,” he said, “I might stick around.”

Ronnie, 27, was raised in South Philadelphia. As a biracial child attending a largely white school, she “was angry at a very young age”.  When she was 12 years old, she became involved in selling drugs through her uncle.

Ronnie stopped going to school after she hit her principal and lost a cheerleading scholarship. After selling drugs for 14 years, she was incarcerated, causing her to leave her young daughter at home. Taking AP Literature in high school, she dreamed of becoming an English teacher. Because of her incarceration, this is no longer a possibility for her.

After the program, a question and answer session followed and students had the opportunity to sign up for the tutoring program.

Upon signing up, sophomore biology major, Raagini Som, stated how it was “inspirational how (Project P.R.I.D.E.) helped the inmates.”