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Reforming Inside and Out with Darnell Amaro

Who Is Darnell Amaro

I am a Hispanic and Black man who grew up in a church household with both his parents. There was a time I strayed away, and I was incarcerated for ten and half years of my life: ten years, three months, one week, and five days. I've been home now for two years, and it hasn't been easy, but it's been easier than prison. Since then, I've had a family as far as my son and my lady. So I value time and things a lot more now. I entered prison as a young boy and left a grown man.

What are some of the challenges facing released prisoners?

Coming home, if you don't have any support, it's real hard. There are a lot of things you have to come home and accomplish, such as clothes, hygiene items, a car, a license, just the everyday necessities. When you are in prison, you have all these dreams and aspirations that you think about when you want to come home, but everything takes money. So then you're faced with another adversity if you don't have financial backing. I thank God that I had a good support system with my mom and my dad. My lady really helped me out with things as I transitioned back into this world.

How was your experience with the correction officers?

To be honest with you, you have your negative out the bunch, but my prison stay was kind of like a Lifetime story. A lot of people wouldn't understand nor believe a lot of things that I've done. I lived comfortably with the officers. There were a few males and females, and they were cool. I dealt with everybody with respect, so I never really had any problems. I know who the, excuse my language, but the assholes were, so I knew how to deal with them and give them the respect they look for. Then you have certain COs (Correction Officers) who are just like us; they're cool, they hang out. Overall, it comes down to how you carry yourself in there.

Should people receive an alternative to incarceration?

Hell yea! Granted, we all go to prison based on our own actions, but some people are falsely incarcerated, some people are incarcerated because of their friends, some people are incarcerated for just being at a place at the wrong time. If you gave someone the option to go fight for this country verse prison, guess what they're going to do. I'm one of those people because if they had told me to join the military or go to prison, guess what. I feel a lot of people would take advantage of a type of alternative if given that option. Maybe even helping out the "troubled youth," they may just be the best at it.

What does criminal justice reform look like from an internal perspective?

A lot of prisons are disgusting, and people say, oh, they're not supposed to be comfortable, but I feel like that's not true. If I've got to spend the next ten or more years of my life in here, it does need to be comfortable because regardless, I'm faced with incarceration and having to do this time. A lot of things that are supposed to get done in there are getting thrown under the rug. Such as the meals, which can be disgusting at times, the living arrangements, there's mold coming out the vents. Even the people who go through hold times there ignored. They may not get their meals for an extended period of time, and you may not get your pictures until months later. It's very absent-minded to what's in prison. Some COs don't look at us as humans but as a job. That's where the disconnect comes in at. This one lady was really for the black people, and she was a sweetheart. She would do anything you ask her, as long as it wasn't jeopardizing her job. If you needed her to look up something, she would do it. Even if you just needed to vent, she would sit there and listen. A lot of COs forget that they choose to work there, while I'm forced to be here. There's just a lot of injustice going on inside the system.

What advice would you give to someone re-entering society?

I wouldn't care what a person feels, what their family will do for them, or what their family may have. Use every resource possible for you. If you come home from the feds, you get re-entry things, and you get one-stop career help centers, Medicaid, and food stamps. You will get way further ahead if you use them. You did this time, and you've been away. When you come home, take advantage of everything that you can get for free. That help is there for a person to take advantage of, and if you know someone who can help you, then sit down and learn. If you have to go to school and get a trade, it's hard, but use all available resources.

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