Lived Experience as a Source of Knowledge

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

Founded by Dr. Donald Roden of Rutgers University – New Brunswick, the MountainviewProgram (MVP) initially started as a volunteer GED tutoring group for incarcerated youth at the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, New Jersey. In 2013 the MVP program was incorporated into a consortium of higher education institutions known as the New Jersey Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons (NJ – STEP). The MVP then transitioned into the reentry component within NJ – STEP’s prison to higher education pipeline and is housed at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University – Newark.

Following the formalization of NJ-STEP, the Vera Institute of Justice selected them as part of a five-year national initiative that provides incentive funding and technical assistance to three selected states to participate in the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. The consortium is a membership of community colleges and public and private universities that collaborates with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and State Parole Board by providing post-secondary courses to incarcerated students in seven state correctional facilities and formerly incarcerated students in various New Jersey community colleges and the Rutgers University. Continue reading

Post-Secondary Education is Critical for the Formerly Incarcerated

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

It’s early Tuesday morning and I am on a flight to Detroit-Metro Airport. Due to weather conditions the flight is being delayed. As the plane sits on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport I am second guessing my participation in this trip. I am accompanying my colleagues Rebecca Silber and Sean Addie to Michigan to meet with our partners and students of the Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education Project. Thirty minutes have passed and the plane is still grounded. I am beginning to feel anxious. My anxiety is compounded as I think about the two prisons I will be entering; Parnall Correctional Facility (SMT) and Macomb Correctional Facility (MRF). This is my first time entering a prison facility since my release in 2010. I am concerned for my well-being, and I understand that my anxiety is linked to the trauma of incarceration.

Channeling the Spirit of Detroit, with my colleague Rebecca Silber.

Channeling the Spirit of Detroit, with my colleague Rebecca Silber.

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From Incarceration to Reentry: The Importance of Higher Education

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

A month after moving to the east coast to begin serving my fellowship, I’ve hit the ground running. In this short time I returned to the University of California, Berkeley to attend the 30th anniversary of the John W. Gardner Fellowship. I was invited to the White House by President and Mrs. Obama to attend the 50th anniversary of the White House Fellows. Lastly, I participated in a round table discussion with New Jersey Senator Corey Booker’s legal team to discuss best practices for reentry and higher education. In my personal experience with reentry I recognize this process is not an individual effort. The intellectual influence of my friends whom I was exposed to during my time in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison played a key role in my reentry process. In collaboration with those around me I overcame my learning insecurities and gained the confidence to participate in the education and reentry programs that were being offered in the SHU.

NJ-STEP & Mountainview Program Alum Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez greeting President Obama on his visit to Rutgers University-Newark to talk about prison reform policy.

NJ-STEP & Mountainview Program Alum Amarilis Diamond-Rodriguez greeting President Obama on his visit to Rutgers University-Newark to talk about prison reform policy.

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Realizing My Dreams in NYC!

Danny MurilloPosted by John Gardner Fellow Danny Murillo

As I reflect upon my previous life where I was confined for up to twenty-two and a half hours per day to an 8-by-10 foot prison cell in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, I recall that I would often get lost in my thoughts, hopelessly dreaming that one day I would live in New York City after my release. Although I did not have a clue of how I would make this dream come true I just knew that it was something that I wanted. At the same time I understood that opportunities that would allow me to make this dream come true would be limited to me because of my status as a formerly incarcerated person. Knowing this reality that as a formerly incarcerated person it was legally permissible to be denied access to basic resources, such as, housing, employment, health care and food stamps, I was forced to put my dream aside after my release and focus on transitioning back into society after fourteen years of incarceration. Continue reading