Below is a guest piece written by Gangster Report correspondent Ricardo Ferrell telling the inspiring story of three men behind bars, including himself, trying to change their lives in a positive manner. These men are making their prison time work for them by building constructive skill sets and taking ownership of their past wrongs. November 2019 The least likely place where you would expect someone to change their lives, is in a prison. But in the state of Michigan, there are three men —, myself, Ricardo Ferrell, LeRoy Washington and Quentin Jones — who have worked diligently to make a change by transforming their lives for the better. Combined we have served over 82 years as wards of the state. Most of their time has been geared toward these transformations, a stark contrast to destructive paths they’re journeys began on. Together, we founded the groundbreaking program known as: TAB-MI – Thinking * Attitude * Behavior – Modification Initiative, WASHINGTON, JONES & FERRELL are setting out to revolutionize the idea of intervening in the lives of at-risk youth and young adults, who struggle to stay on the right path. We are striving to provide a curriculum-based program that will help curb cultural violence and reconstruct the mentality of those who find themselves lost in a maze of confusion, dysfunctionalism, disadvantage, and sadly, the indulgence in criminal thinking and criminality. Here are some profiles on us: LeRoy Washington, 50, is serving a 42 to 60 years (virtual life) sentence for Second Degree Murder that he committed in 1995. He has successfully completed paralegal studies with Blackstone Career Institute. He has been involved in the field of personal development for over two decades. Since his incarceration, Washington has earned a MBA in Business Administration-Management from California Coast University’s Distant Learning Program and is currently working on a Doctorate’s in Education. Upon completion, he will become the first MDOC inmate to earn such honors from an accredited school while incarcerated. He has also earned a State Mediator Certification, authored a series of children’s nursery rhyme books, created an anti-bullying curriculum (cofounding the “Anti-Bully Crusaders Organization” with his daughter Lauren. LeRoy told me this about his own journey: “I am deeply sorry, with every fiber of my soul, for the crime I committed. As a man, I accept full responsibility for what I did. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. I have so much more to give and so much to offer. I just want one more chance to show the world that I am capable of redemption. Another chance to share my hard-earned wisdom by making a positive contribution to the economic stability of my family and community, while demonstrating that my life has value beyond the sum of my errors. I am definitely not the young reckless, carefree, bad decision making man that I once was in my 20’s. I would like it to be said at the end of my life that ‘I, LeRoy Washington, descended to the bowels of despair on my life’s journey and was exiled, for a time. However, rather than succumbing to the ignorance, darkness and hopelessness of that hour, I chose to remember and reclaim my humanity and that of my fellow man’s, redeem my soul and paid restitution with my life’s works.’ Life is all about the ability to make a decision that will honor the law and respect humanity regardless of the individual or collective challenges we may face. I can attest, that whether we are tested by our own hand or in ways beyond our control, our lives will unerringly reflect how we elect to respond.” Quentin Jones, 39, is serving a mandatory life sentence for First Degree Murder. Locked up since he was 18, he is the founder of MYLIFEMATTERSTOO, a movement that has taken a realistic approach towards humanizing incarcerated men and women by giving them a voice and platform to show and prove that their lives have greater significance beyond the sum of their errors. He has twice completed the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and in 2016, he enrolled into Jackson Community College, where he continues to take courses. Quentin is currently taking paralegal courses with Blackstone Career Institute. Quentin told me this about his journey: “I truly am sorry for the pain that I caused everyone effected by my actions. While I know sorry doesn’t take away the pain, it is the first step in forgiveness, which is what, I one day hope to receive. I have spent the last 20 plus years transforming my life and now that I have changed, I dedicate the rest of my days on this earth to helping all of humanity to become better human beings.” To learn more about Quentin – go to: www.mylifematterstoo.org and @silentcry on instagram on Facebook SilentCry,Inc. I’m Ricardo Ferrell. I’m 62 and serving a parolable life sentence for Second Degree Murder. I personally embraced the idea of the need for transformation when i came to the realization that in order for me to find life’s purpose i would have to work diligently toward making a significant change in my own life indicative of a renewed way of thinking. During my nearly 40 year journey, I’ve taken on the belief and attitude that i must make amends for the harm and pain I am responsible for. I have accepted the fact that my past behavior could likely cause me to spend the remainder of my life behind bars and I have to own that fact because my behavior put me here in the first place. I think about the pain and harm I’ve caused my victim James Turner and his family, who didn’t deserve to go down the road of sorrow due to my reckless behavior, every single day.. There are times when I have written letters of apology to James, his family, the court, and society, but those words of expression are obviously never enough. I’ve also learned that time is a value of no limit and by learning that I have taken a simple way to pass time and converted it into a passion. my life had been a symbol of mediocrity, but upon humbly embracing the experience of writing and literary expression, my life has taken a turn into the spectacular. I know I can help other people with my words and give them a voice they might not have otherwise. It was in early 2015, I began to recognize I had talent in the literary arts and i have set out to become a profound writer. Besides being brought on as a staff writer for the online independent newspaper, Voice of Detroit, I have been frequently published in several newsletters, and on DreamBigLiveBig.Net, a free online website for troubled at-risk youth and young adults. In 2008, I was among the 12 original founders of the Youth Deterrent Program at the Ryan prison facility in Detroit — the program helped deter at-risk youth from destructive thinking and criminality. I have also worked to prevent severely mentally ill individuals from engaging in self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in the prison system. I worked in the Prisoner Observation Aide Program, (known as suicide watch) at 3 different facilities since 2013. According to staff reports at the Chippewa, Handlon and Michigan Reformatory prisons, “Ricardo is an asset to this life changing & saving program, where he has intervened and helped fellow prisoners decrease and in some cases, cease, harmful self-inflicted behaviors.” I have accumulated 16 college credits toward a higher education and have participated in all available self-help programming. I drafted an initiative known as the My Brother’s Keeper Program and I am working with Michigan State University (via Dr. Austin Jackson and Dr. Lisa Biggs,Richard A. Handlon ) to try to receive grant funding for implementation. In a world where society is looking for answers to curb the Thinking – Attitude – Behavior of our children, who’s better equipped to address these social issues and lead them towards a pathway to success, than someone who understands their plight. And the answers can very well come from the above named men. Just as a New York organization believes, “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution…” — We have to be willing to invest in our youth by spending quality time with them, showing example positive and productive conduct, providing pathways for them to succeed, and teaching them a better, more positive way to live and love. It’s only then we will see a significant shift in the reduction of crime, and help change a criminal culture that only brings despair. Together, we can make a difference and create a path for success that others can follow.