“I’m a shareholder!”
That’s how my man introduced himself from the podium at a fundraiser breakfast this week. The organization having the breakfast provides support groups, called for men and women returning home from jail or prison. Sometimes, you need someone to talk to about the transition home. Yeah, I know sometimes you want to keep it bottled up, but that makes it worse. We weren’t born to be alone, otherwise we’d be trees, or something like that.
I mean every human being that comes into the world comes through another human being and by a second human being. That makes three of y’all, unless somebody runs (and it ain’t you). So even when you say you don’t need anybody, you are really lying to yourself. You ever tell somebody you don’t need anybody? Hah! You needed them to hear that!
So you need someone to talk with…someone who can keep it real…someone who understands…someone who will listen, and not just give a bunch of advice like you’re stupid. In fact, research says that having good relationships is more significant in keeping you home after a bid than getting a job!
That’s what dude was raising money for when he said “I’m a shareholder.”
A shareholder is a part owner of a company. A shareholder buys some stock in a company- invests- and when the company makes money, some of it comes back to him or her. One of my running buddies was a shareholder in a pharmaceutical firm, except he didn’t make initial investments before he collected…nah, this is different.
Anyway, this shareholder at the breakfast talked about how he, his church and some other brothers bought stock in a prison company, Corrections Corporation of America. You probably knew that some prisons are being run now by corporations that contract with the government to run the prison or jail for them. And they get paid…big time…based on how many beds they fill. The more arrests and convictions, the more money they make. That’s messed up, somebody making cash on your misery.
But that’s not why my man became a shareholder. He did it because he and his support circle not only talk to each other, they act. You know, like sometimes you gotta get past the talk and walk the walk. They realized that part of their trauma in coming back home was the fact that they were housed in facilities where the bottom line was the bottom line…not rehabilitation or anything like that. So the church buys stock so the shareholders can go to meetings and tell other people who make money off their misery what a bid is really like, and talk about what we should be doing when a person makes a mistake, instead of collecting and warehousing them for a fee.
They support each other; and they reach back for the next generation. And that’s an enterprise in which we can all be shareholders.
Rev. Harold Dean Trulear, Ph.D. is an associate professor of applied theology at Howard University’s School of Divinity. He also works on behalf of prisoners and returning citizens as the national director of Healing Communities USA, a reentry initiative. Dr. Trulear is also a former inmate.