Mercyhurst hosts re-entry panelists

Jillian Marcellin, Staff writer

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On Sept. 26, the Mercyhurst University Criminal Justice Department presented a panel about the Errol Daniels’ photography
exhibit “Coming Home: Reentry After Incarceration.”
This photography exhibit is now open to view in the Cummings Art Gallery.
The panelists were five people that were featured in Daniels’ exhibit about reentry into society after imprisonment.
Each panelist spoke of their personal experience in and out of prison to relay the exertions that imprisonment put on them as individuals.

Every year, over 650,000 people are released from state and federal prisons. While these individuals
are released back into the communities, they are labeled as ex-cons
and dangerous.
The story that Daniels and the other panelists are trying to convey is that these people are “fathers, mothers, students, mentors,
husbands, wives and neighbors.” They are not just criminals.

Each felt like nobody had compassion for them while they were in prison. When they went to jail there were no social workers.

“The guards were more viscous more than the prisoners… I had a concealer who was overworked and underpaid,” Jesse Tate, one
of the panelists said. “I felt like because I was a criminal at the time that nobody cared about me but other convicts.”
Now there are social workers that attempt to help the prisoners but the panel continued to discuss the issues with the system in which they were placed.

Following their time in prison,the panelists spoke of the struggles that they had finding employment afterward. They did not have the skills that they needed to find a job, since they had not had the opportunity to acquire them.“I had many skills because, once again I agree with my cohorts, that you must be smart to survive the gang,” panelist, Royal
Patrece Johnson said.

“With that being said, I did just what I knew how to do, lie, steal cheat and manipulate… Because I hadn’t known anything else.”
Each panelist spoke of how they were never taught how to build a resume, fill out an application or go to an interview.

Eventually, all panelists went back to school to obtain a degree because without it employment was difficult to obtain.
The United States is one of the leading countries in incarceration but there are very few programs in place to improve and educate
the people that are released every year.
“Most people think that when you come out that confetti is supposed to fall…they’d have religious groups come in and push whatever religion they were about but they never taught us the skills that we needed to survive after,” panelist, Fred Williams said. The panelists can be seen photographed in the exhibit Coming Home: Reentry After Incarceration by Daniels.

The exhibit will be opened from Sept. 23 and continues through Oct. 26. A review article for the exhibit can be seen in the Arts and Entertainment section.

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