By Jamaul "Ace" King
February 1, 2020
Intro to the Program A guy named Sean was introduced to me by my cellmate, Wiz. Him and Wiz were good friends. They used to kick it every day. Me and Sean later became friends ourselves, because we both spent a great deal of time at the card tables playing poker. Sean used to carry folders around everywhere he went, and books too. So one day I decided to ask him what I had to do to get some of those cool folders. He had a variety of them, different kinds, different colors. He told me about a program called Restorative Justice (RJ) that he was a part of, and said that if I was interested, he’d pull some strings for me and get me in. I told him, man, sign me up ASAP! Later in the day he introduced me to one of the founders of the program, a man named Charles, who also happened to be someone who runs around the jail carrying all kinds of folders and books. I was thinking to myself like, “Damn, I hope they don’t think that they gonna turn me into some type of bookworm.” Charles got me placed on the call-out for the group and the rest is history.
First Session: How It All Began It’s Thursday night, 6:00pm. My cell door sides halfway open. The block officer comes over the speaker, yelling yard, block out and passes. So I exit my cell. I have a long walk ahead of me. I have to walk about two football fields just to get off of my cell block, then walk down this long, narrow, barely lit hallway to get to my destination, which if measured by street blocks, I would have to walk a few. I sure hope that this Restorative Justice program is better than advertised. It’s my first session. I don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure this is gonna be an interesting experience. Who would of thought that I would be serving time in Graterford Prison, let alone circling up with a bunch of strangers talking about only god knows what? So I finally make it to the classroom where the group is being held. I enter the room. I see a few faces that I pass by in the hallways, but no one I really know. A couple people in the group I may have seen around the prison a few times, but outside of that we had never had any kind of interactions.
I give my greetings to my brothers (Muslims) and say “what’s up” to everyone else. I plant myself in the circle as others continue to file in. The facilitators, Fred and Abdullah, introduce themselves. They are a part of the in-house team; they are inmates like me. We are told that two other facilitators, Pastor Leslie and Anne Dalke, will be joining us from the outside in a brief moment. They are being held up front, getting processed into the institution.
Once all the facilitators finally made it, we began. We opened up the circle in a good way, with a prompt. A question was posed, and one by one, everyone in the circle got a chance to answer the question, as a talking piece was handed from one person to another. The next exercise was our first order of business. It was geared towards the rules and regulations that we were to use to govern ourselves. So a large sheet of paper was taped to the wall and we were to shout out, in no particular order, some rules that we wanted to abide by in our little community. Once the generating process was complete, I remember us having a ton of rules. Once the facilitators asked us, “do we think we will be able to follow these rules?” everyone in unison yelled yes. I just remember thinking to myself, “Yeah, right. A bunch of hardened criminals, in a high level maximum prison for breaking all of the rules, are going to begin following them of a sudden. What a joke!!” But surprisingly, everyone followed all of the rules and that experience happened to be one of the best that I’ve ever had. --A question was once posed, “Who are you?” I like to think of myself as being a god-fearing man. A man who loves his family and friends because healthy and positive relationships mean the world to me. I was always a very talented individual. My creativity start to peak once I was able to speak. They used to refer to me as the young boy with the old soul. You could put me anywhere on God’s green earth, in a room with anybody in it, I’d be just fine. I write music poetry, and I produce music; these are just a few of my passions. I’m very good with my hands. As a child I used to build dog houses and club houses for fun. I guess that’s why I pursued my custodial maintenance certification (which I have now, by the way), and many other certifications as well. I have a love for animals. I always had at least one pet throughout my life, up until my exit from the free world and the transition to me entering the prison walls.