Ex-Inmates Share Their Stories at Panel Discussion in Lewes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Ex-Inmates Share Their Stories at Panel Discussion in Lewes

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LEWES, Del. - Five ex-inmates are offering their perspectives on what life is like inside Delaware's prisons.

Their stories came in the form of a panel discussion hosted by the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice at the Trinity Faith Christian Center in Lewes on Tuesday night. The ex-inmates discussed their perceived injustices, ideas for the future, and answered questions from the audience. One of the speakers was Daniel Paskins, who spent twenty years in Delaware prisons for robbery and weapons charges.

"I've seen people denied just certain clothes, denied food, I've seen people just denied showers," he told WBOC. "I've seen people denied a lot of different things for a long period of time in prison just because you're dealing with an officer who maybe hasn't been trained well or has some sort of other problems he's dealing with that aren't recognized until it's too late." 

Paskins and the other panelists said they believed more training was needed for correctional officers, and opening up lines of communication can help make real change.

"If we can address it at the root level, if we can deal with it, maybe there's an opportunity that situations like [the Smyrna riot] won't happen again," Paskins said.

SDARJ Co-Chair Charlotte King said they hoped the panel started conversations, not just between panelists and the audience, but afterwards too.

"My purpose or my goal is to impact the public narrative because that's what causes some of our problems," she said. People don't know who the other is. None of us do. So this is an opportunity to find out how did we get in this position."

King said they've had many panels featuring police chiefs and judges, and this was a chance for ex-inmates to share their voices as well.

The panelists advocated for more educational and job training programs inside the prison, and post-rehabilitation programs for when prisoners get out. Charrer Flemmings was an audience member at the panel discussion, but spent 30 years in Delaware prisons, most recently in Smyrna. He echoed their thoughts, specifically mentioning job skills like brick laying and auto shop mechanics. 

"They need more programs better education and job skills," he told WBOC. "Or else it'll become a revolving door because they'll just go right back to what they know--that's either selling drugs or robbing."

Paskins said while there's a long way to go, he believes discussions like Tuesday night's is the first step towards progress.

"Sometimes people come in and hear it and as soon as they walk out, it's gone, so it's something you have to be persistent and consistent with if you really wanna make a change. If people don't move, there's no movement," he said. "I would just say awareness from every aspect, from every point of view is important--awareness of exactly what's going on and recognizing that and not covering it up."

"Not pushing it to the side," he said. "Because later, it's too late."

For more on the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice, click here. 

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