Journal Entry: July 20, 2023—Bixler—Webinars

Journal Entry

July 20, 2023 – Bixler –Value in Thursday Webinars

I really look forward to Thursdays! Why? Because of the weekly White Collar Advice webinar. The very first webinar I joined was in April 2023. Unfortunately, I had a conflicting appointment every other Thursday and as a result, I missed several webinars. I changed the routine appointment to a different day, so I’d be available. I learn so much about criminal justice and feel more prepared about the road ahead.

This week’s webinar touched on a new program, Prison Professors Talent. The program provides an amazing opportunity for people in prison to receive books and workbooks to help them prepare for release and success after prison. Additionally, it provides a free platform where justice-impacted people can document and memorialize their progress, plans and the steps they are taking to make amends and return to society as a law-abiding contributing member of society. The site provides so many opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. I’m honored to be one of those people.

The process of writing a journal each day; reading books and writing about them; and preparing my Release Plan all bring such value to my life. Undoubtedly, that translates into value people around me, even complete strangers. Although I’m sometimes overcome with emotions while writing, I know it’s a necessary part of healing and self-improvement.

White Collar Advice, Prison Professors, Earning Freedom… This family of organizations provides a community in which people can relate to one another. Having that hour to take part in learning and supporting one another is so meaningful. I don’t feel so alone. I only have four more Thursdays to participate in these before reporting to prison where I won’t have access. I’m really going to miss the group. However, I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with other women in prison while I serve my sentence.

Prior to this situation, I had no experience as a criminal. I only had small glimpses of the criminal justice ecosystem as a result of several clients I served through my business. With such a limited scope, I’d developed narrow preconceived notions about “criminals” based on television shows, movies and the media. One of the most powerful things I’ve learned through my webinar participation is that criminals are just ordinary people. We are normal people with a past that has shaped us and a future filled with opportunity. Whether intentional or not, we made the wrong decision (or several of them) and ended up on the wrong side of the law. As a result. we will carry a lifelong label, regardless of liberties we may earn back I am a convicted felon and will be for the remainder of my life.

Labeling people is mainstream in our culture. Most of us have a natural tendency to label other people and perpetuate stereotypes. I find it especially true when we haven’t walked in their shoes. Not all stereotypes are negative. There is an abundance of both negative and positive. One example, there’s a general belief that religious leaders are good, worthy and honorable people; however, the generalization is debatable. Conversely, criminals are presumed to be bad, lesser than and unworthy. In reality, we are all just people. Human beings who are trying to navigate our way through this life. Labels, stereotypes and titles don’t define us. It doesn’t mean that we have lived or will live life according to that ideology. To be fully enlightened, we can’t discount the good or bad aspects of someone purely to support the classifications society has assigned. Instead, we should consider the total sum of who they are. In showing gratitude, kindness, empathy, and compassion we extend grace and demonstrate humility.

“I use my job to engage empathy and compassion for people society might stereotype or ostracize.”

Michael K. Williams