SRV in the News – May 18, 2012

Recently in Canada, there has been a media sensation over the release of former media baron and still-writer and columnist Conrad Black from an American prison (where he was serving time for various white-collar crimes). On May 4th, despite having renounced his citizenship in 2001, Black arrived in Canada a free man, on a 1 year temporary resident permit.

Black’s situation highlights several relevant SRV points, including; the protective capacity of one’s held or formerly held valued roles. Black is well known as a former media-mogul, corporate executive, and as mentioned is still well-known as a respected biographer and newspaper columnist. These roles, several of which he was able to retain during his prison stay, provided a defense for him against various wounds that other people in the devalued role of prisoner often endure. While other prisoners are often stripped of their valued roles while serving their sentences, Black was able to hold on to his role of writer and even continue working.

As often stated in SRV workshops and by Wolfensberger himself, money is a defense against wounding and devalued roles. Purportedly, Black flew to Canada in a private jet, pointing to the fact that he still holds a significant amount of wealth. The impoverishment of devalued people is often ignored, but as Wolfensberger has pointed out, it is often the one unifying feature of devalued people in general; whatever other devaluing condition they may have, they are also poor. Money may be the simplest way in which to help devalued persons defend themselves against further wounding.

Interestingly, it seems that while in prison, Black had time for reflection and began to identify with his fellow prisoners. He likely saw himself as being like his fellow prisoners and gained a better understanding of the injustices that they faced. In SRV terms we refer to this as “interpersonal identification”.  It is often mentioned in SRV workshops that the biggest advocates of prison reform are often prominent persons who previously would not have given the issue much thought, but after spending time in prison and identifying with their fellow prisoners, are released convinced that things need to change. Black, a prominent citizen, has spent time in prison and is now actively championing prison reform.

As well, see this more recent article.

Steve Tiffany

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 7:57 am by stevetiff · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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  1. Written by Esme Santiago
    on June 4, 2012 at 7:02 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I really relate to this post, not from a prison reform perspective, but from an urban school teacher’s perspective. I work for the Reading School District, an inner city school district that has recently received a lot of negative publicity about the amout of debt it is in. The last number I remember hearing is around $53 million in the hole. Reading, PA is also currently known as the poorest city in the entire country. This poverty is giving a devalued role to anyone who associates with Reading.

    I grew up in the city of Reading, and I love it. I love teaching in Reading as well. However because of its poverty, anyone that I tell “I work for the Reading School District” I 99% of the time will receive a look of pity, shock, or disapproval. When I tell these nay-sayers that I love Reading, and I love working there, the disapproval occasionally moves to me. “Is that the only job you could find honey?” or “In this economy it is hard to find a good job, I’m sorry.” People devalue me because I associate with Reading, PA.

    Finally, my passion for Reading, PA, and education has turned into my Passion for the reform and betterment of the Reading School District. Unfortunately, the district is looking to cut 170 jobs to save money for the district, and since I have only been teaching for 3 years, my job is on the chopping block. However, I will still champion for inner-city public education, because I refuse to devalue the students that grow up in my fine city.

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