An Inmate’s View of Mentoring
By Alexis Rodriguez
Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those in prison. Think of them as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering because of what others have done to them. You may suffer in the same way.”
I have been incarcerated for twenty-six years, since the age of eighteen. At first when in Holmesburg prison in Philly, I had hope in the judicial system. You see, as a young teenager, I worked at a law firm, working my way up from mail person. This started as a summer job. I still have in my heart the lessons learned from one of the lawyers and a close friend who used to take me to work. I wonder if they are still alive, or even remember me. Prison can be a time capsule of sorts.
I appreciate those in my immediate family who have never forgotten me, and are truly in prison with me. I am my father’s son, and I carry him wherever I go. He went to be with the Lord several years ago. I do realize that many are still suffering for me, and because of me. Yet, I cannot change what happened, but I can change what will happen. Even more I was acted upon and caused to change, as a rushing river erodes a mountain. This torrent, slowed down to a well-spring starting from within. It began with the acknowledgement of my mother’s love and she being an example of godly love showed me how to love. I am still learning.
BENEFITS OF MENTORING
I believe first and foremost my older brothers have always been examples. They both were teachers in what and what not to do. Man, I miss them.
My two younger sibs, well I tried to give them all the hand-me-down knowledge I was provided with. They, too, taught me a great deal about life.
Yet, there was always a void in my life ••• that father figure. While in school at McKinley, my teacher was what I still consider a prototypical mentor. You know, that dude which is teacher/counselor/brother/friend. Well, those guys are hard to come by. Especially now that I’m in this situation. Personally, a friend is one at ALL times. That includes women friends. Convenience is not a luxury here at S.C.I.Dallas.
I like my brother’s spontaneity one time where he said “man, Ijust came up to get away from things.” I think he like the Poconos.(I say that with a smile)
What is needed in today’s communities is men. Responsible fathers, sons, and brothers that can fill the void created by mass incarceration. I remember reading a study by a big university, which studied two juvenile elephants which were labeled, “rhino killers.” They could not figure out why these juvenile elephants were “acting out.” One was killed, with thoughts that one influenced the other. Conservationists started an uproar. The lone juvenile continued to act unnatural.
It was one brilliant person who thought, “what about introducing a male bull elephant.” It worked. The bull controlled the lesser. That is what’s needed in our communities, reintroduction of men who can go forward with solutions.
Prison “programs” are not the sole solution; those can be overridden by a semblance of “rehabilitation”. Education is the key, but becoming educated is not a guarantee to betterment or a job when most of these guys hit the streets. We can see this from so many college graduates not being able to find jobs. It must start early, and we as a nation need to conclude this warehousing project as a bust. Do your history, and you, too, will conclude that the State of Pennsylvania is draconian and stuck.
In come good men, such as my friend Rick DiLaurenzo, with his “bionic legs”, to free individuals such as I from the mire of hopelessness. With his partner in crime, Ed Spencer, they are like two modern day superheroes. No cape. No tights. Definitely no masks; just the love of Jesus in their hearts. Their wives beside them, they leap they run, and, as godly examples, overcome their own adversities to mentor “the lesser”.
Men of God, stand up. Firemen. Businessmen. Policemen. “it is the best of man which wastes in here.” Bankers can teach economics or something as simple as family finances. Entrepreneurs can show how to become owners of establishments, after having paid our debts to society. Ministers will be able to take us to higher ground… That’s what I hope for!
Take time, look around. Fact is that one in four people you see has someone in their family in prison, or they themselves have done time.
Yes, I am a believer behind bars. This is certainly not jail-house religion. You see, even that, at one point, counted for something. Your attendance was taken, and the parole board actually cared. Yet, here in Pennsylvania, what incentive is there for being upright and moral? There is no such thing as “good time”. Even so, men have been transformed by the renewing of their minds and hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our outward acts may convince some, but it is only and truly the inward change of the heart which will convert our city streets from battle grounds to peace.
I appreciate my mentors, who have granted me access to their lives as I vicariously live through them.
Enjoy your blessings,
Alexis Rodrigues, BH6734
1000 Follies Road
Dallas, PA 18612