We use statistics and spreadsheets to track every aspect of our lives, thinking that our worth can be measured in dollars or where we rank on some imaginary ladder of success. But real success is not measured by data points, it is determined by how we feel inside when we ask ourselves questions like:
- “Am I good enough?”
- “Do I treat my friends and neighbors with respect and dignity?”
- “Do my actions contribute to the general good?”
- “How will I be remembered after I’m gone?”
We don’t need to be incarcerated to feel badly when we answer these questions. Most of us go through our lives never asking them at all. But we should; often. Every time we make an important decision, we should ask how it will impact our family, our friends, our neighbors, the planet, our own future. If we did there would be fewer bad decisions made.
But life goes by so fast and we are constantly being pulled in different directions. Sometimes we resist the pull long enough to make an informed choice. Sometimes we just follow the path of least resistance, without really considering the possible consequences. For the inmates we work with, the consequences for a poor decision they made were significant. The important thing is to ask, “If I had taken the time to think about it before I took that action that landed me here, would I have decided differently?” Because chances are, the answer is “Yes.” The very act of asking the question, brings to mind how they could have acted differently and the results been different. They can begin to write a new story for themselves.
That is why these letters are so important. They are the voices of the inmates who work with ACI. Their words, tell the true story of what life is all about. By making the decision to use their prison time to learn and work and grow, they have begun to hear different answers when they ask themselves those difficult questions above.
As you read their stories, you will hear the voices of people struggling to regain their self-esteem and to earn the respect of their families and friends, their supervisors and coworkers. For many, the work they are doing is the first time they have ever felt a part of any community. That is our goal here at ACI, to put them on a path to be successful citizens.
I would like to personally thank the contributors to this page for sharing their stories with us here. We are grateful that they have found their voices and have taken control of the narrative of their lives. And we are proud to be able to share their stories with you here.
Brian Radecki, CEO
Arizona Correctional Industries