Rich Jacobs works inside one of the largest maximum-security prisons in the United States. He began his career 20 years ago as a corrections officer and has been a teacher to the inmates for the past 15 years.
For thousands of hours, Jacobs has listened to the stories of hundreds of incarcerated men. Despite the darkness behind the walls of concrete, steel, and paint, Jacobs has witnessed many stories of hope and transformation and is the visionary behind www.GetFreeAndStayFree.com, which publishes stories of hope and transformation told by those impacted by the criminal justice system.
Get Free and Stay Free’s first book, available since July, was produced with Yoke fellowship Prison Ministry and is titled "Get Free and Stay Free: Inmates Who Found Freedom Inside and Out".
Jacobs is an advocate of increasing vocational training for inmates, especially those who are nearing the point of release. But, he cautions, the inmate must want to be trained in order for the program to succeed.
“I would say that we can do a better job with providing services, but then the other very important piece to that puzzle is just because you have the services it doesn't mean that it's going to help a man change the way that he thinks.
“Government in general has put billions, a trillion of dollars into all kinds of social ills of society the last 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And it almost feels like they throw money at the problems and things just keep getting worse. You’ve got to have the man step up to the plate himself if he's ready to be transformed. You’ve got to have society or corrections or whoever's involved there to help him along the way. But you’ve got to have that one, two punch to, to make it effective.”
In fact, Jacobs says, unless the inmate changes his own outlook on life, “Just because you make an inmate smarter doesn’t help if they don’t change – they just become smarter criminals.”
Take a listen to the episode. It’s a fascinating look behind the bars of a maximum security prison by a man who’s worked there with inmates for the past two decades.