On June 28th Mount Tamalpais College hosted Community Dialogues: Alumni Conversations, an ongoing series in which our alumni share their perspectives on topics related to life inside prison and post-release. Our first virtual conversation was called Roads to Reentry and it explored shared experiences and obstacles MTC alumni face when returning home from prison.
A common theme all the alumni stressed was the importance of having a network to lean on and how much harder reentry can be without that support. David opened up and shared that “What I thought was loneliness, I now know was a disconnection with that community that I spent half my life with.” Similarly, Tommy mentioned how he felt alone when paroled in Southern California, which was hundreds of miles away from his family and friends. “It’s tough to build a network across an entire state.”
When asked what was the most essential thing for a successful reentry into society, Tommy shared “The most important thing in my mind is just an opportunity. Whether that be to get a job or a rental place. Someone who is willing to give you a shot or an opportunity… There are not enough of them. And as soon as I got an opportunity, I started thriving.” The panelists all agreed and spent time exploring the solutions they hope will help build strong, healthy support networks and safer communities.
One thing all panelists attribute to having a strong support network is receiving education at Mount Tamalpais College. “Mount Tamalpais College is not just a college,” reflected Jesse. Through Corey’s work as our Alumni Affairs Associate, he connects alumni (both inside San Quentin and those who have paroled) to support services from partner organizations and agencies. Corey works hard to establish and maintain contact with alumni upon parole to create a sense of community for these individuals. Thoughtful conversations like this one are possible because of his hard work and MTC’s wraparound and holistic support.
(Photo Caption: Top row, from left to right: David Cowan, Executive Director of Bonafide, Javier Jimenez, Construction Water Tender, Richard (Bonaru) Richardson (host), Communications Associate at Mount Tamalpais College. Bottom row, from left to right: Jesse Vasquez, Executive Director of the Friends of San Quentin News, Tommy Winfrey, Transition Navigator at California Conservation Corps, Corey McNeil (co-host), Alumni Affairs Associate at Mount Tamalpais College)
To watch the full discussion and hear the panelists answer some audience questions about their experience, you can watch Community Dialogues: Alumni Conversations here.