Richland Library Goes Behind the Fence to Teach Life Skills

Richland Library goes behind bars to help with life skills

Columbia, SC (WLTX)  The Richland Library is going behind the fence at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention center with an outreach program. Detainees are using their time behind the fence to learn life skills that will help while they are there and when they get out.  

Tuesday's speaker, Kimani Davis, tells nine female detainees, "I most recently heard someone say, 'Don't let your sight cloud your vision.'  Don't let your circumstance keep you from seeing where you are supposed to go."

Davis knows what the women behind the razor wire at the Detention Center will face when they get out because he was once in their shoes. He tells News 19, "I was convicted of possession with intent to sell. I did my time in federal prison. So I did two years in federal prison. I came home and I went through the exact same struggle."  He says his brother was arrested at the same time, but he fell back into the old life and got shot and killed.  He says that's when he decided to help people by starting his non-profit YNOTU2. 

Tuesday he shares what he's learned through a partnership with the Richland Library and the detention center during the Literacy for Live Class.  He gave the participants vital information about finding a job as someone who might have a felony on their record. he also gave them resources they might not be given otherwise. He says, "We teach them how to utilize SC Works and Career One Stop to do job searches. So we teach them stuff like that, so they don't feel handicapped when they get out." 

He says, "It's basically to give them hope, to give them an example of someone who knows what its like to go through the process,  to give them information so they don't feel like there is nothing out here for me."

The pilot program is the brainchild of Richland Library as part of their community outreach.  Jessica Blizzard is the program coordinator. She is a social worker, employed by the library. She tells News 19,  "We create a positive environment where they feel encouraged to ask questions and to learn and they learn things like goal setting, financial literacy, job skills. We talk about emotional management which is a big part of it."  She says they learn how to manage emotions instead of being reactive. 

Nine women who are awaiting trial chose to take advantage of the time to plan life after their court case is behind them.  The class is a six week class that meets two times a week.  This group is in week four.

In the last 36 years, a detainee named Sadie says she's spent a lot of time in and out of prison and she's taken many classes. But she says, this one is giving her information she's never gotten before. She tells News 19,  "I was enlightened about organizations that are out there that I never knew were out there."

She also says it means a lot that people are sharing information with them. She says, "There is a lot out there that will make you feel hopeless, but when people like him come along, you can't help but become hopeful."

Another Detainee in the class, Danielle, has been in the detention center for 9 months. She's charged with human trafficking and is awaiting trial. She says this class is already helping her.  She says, "I learned to better myself in order to carry myself in a more professional way and become a better person in the outside world and preparing myself by being in here so when I do go to the outside. When I wake up in the morning, I read my bible I look at the pamphlets and the papers they have given us in the classes, to go about applying that to myself daily."

The program is a pilot program that began in January of 2016.  So far two groups of male detainees have gone through the course and this group is the second female group to participate. The six week course is made available through a $25,000 Library Services Technology Act grant through the South Carolina State Library and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Each week teaches a different component and Blizzard says they bring out experts in each field to talk to the Detainees. 

Alvin S Glenn_On the Line by WLTX on Scribd

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