The United States has only 5% of the world’s population, yet over 25% of the planet’s incarcerated people. Additionally, with a national recidivism rate of about 43% (2011), America knows how to lock folks down but doesn’t know how to keep them from coming back. Staying out of prison for anyone who has ever been (or gone back again) is going to require that something change. And that change is Hassan Latif’s "Never Going Back, 7 Steps to Staying out of Prison."
EXCERPT from the INTRODUCTION:
"The courtroom battles took years, accompanied by countless marathon writing sessions, producing court briefs that were too many to count. After a few significant victories on the part of some skilled, often very creative, agents of the State, I found myself with multiple felony convictions, decades of mandated sentences already on the books, and facing the Colorado Superior Court Judge my odyssey began with 4 1/2 years earlier. From his vantage point, perhaps ten feet above the courtroom floor I stood upon, he looked over his spectacles at the document offered up on my behalf.
"Ready to rule, the Judge gathered the pages together into a neat pile before him, pushed them aside, lifted his head and locked eyes with me. Many of his words that morning escape me now, so many years later. The last few, however, stuck and have never left. The highest entity at that level of the judicial system calmly concluded my hearing by saying...“We shouldn’t be seeing you again, Mr. Latif!” With one more buried alive it appeared the State’s work was done. It was my own work that was truly just beginning.
"The United States represents only 5% of the world’s population, yet over 25% of the entire planet’s incarcerated people. America knows how to lock folks down. Over 700,000 a year are finding their way out again according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (and this does not include county jail numbers). The irony of this is that getting out may not be as challenging as staying out. What I know now, that I would not have believed ten years ago, is this: Real lives are right here/right there waiting to be claimed. One only need be strong enough, smart enough, focused enough, clean and sober enough, and just plain hu-MAN enough to step up and say “Yes! I’ll have some of that. Thank you very much!”
"Staying out of prison for anyone who has ever been (or gone back again) is going to require that something change. The ef- fort will most likely demand that many things change. Though most people are resistant to the idea of change the simple truth is that the only thing constant in life actually is change. Even when criminal conduct and addiction-driven lifestyles appear to go unchanged year after year, wreck after wreck, we actually are changing. We grow older, become less hopeful, more unhappy, further disconnected and lost. In the midst of all of this our health is often compromised, and countless possibilities for success and happiness are lost.
"Oddly, many people in county, state or federal custody (for the first time or repeating the continuing cycle) are comfortable with the idea that their criminal lifestyles, substance use and thought processes are separate and unconnected. This belief is very unfortunate, and almost universally untrue. The uncomplicated formula: Thoughts + Feelings = Behavior is going to be impor- tant for the readers of this guide to understand. There is no arguing the fact that if we continue to think the same way (for the most part), feel the same way (about most things, including the world and our place in it), we will tend to behave in the same fashion – and get very similar results.
"We all have known someone (friend, relative, perhaps even ourselves) who has ‘done good’...for awhile. Intentions were solid. Hopes and dreams were alive and well. As time passed, we saw that person return to the same destructive, addictive, criminal conduct-based behaviors that had served them so poorly. We shake our heads wondering “what went wrong?” or “what hap- pened?” Nothing went wrong, and the only thing that happened is all that could have happened! Their intentions may have been altered briefly but that was due to the person’s willpower, not any true change. "
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About the Author
Hassan Latif is a Certified Addictions Counselor in Colorado, and provides addiction counseling services primarily to people living with HIV and those recently released from incarceration. A nationally certified Cognitive Behavior Change Facilitator (NCTI), he serves as Mentoring Coordinator for a Denver-based organization that provides job training, education and support for recently released ex-offenders.
After spending almost 18 consecutive years in Colorado penitentiaries, Hassan embarked on a career trying to help others avoid prison. He continues to return to Colorado correctional facilities to provide support for residents engaged in educational programming. As a member of the Board of Directors for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, he helps to drive the organization’s mission to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in the State of Colorado, providing expert testimony in support of senate reform bills brought before the State Legislature.
Hassan is the Executive Director of the newly founded, Second Chance Center, Inc., and is committed to reducing recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated men and women successfully transition upon release. Hassan is married to Imani, and they have two children (Sama and Khansaa).