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From the inside, out: Transforming Baltimore prisons

Acting in Faith  |  By Madeline Schaefer, Jun 28, 2013

Vacant row homes await demolition in Baltimore's Middle East neighborhood next to the expanding Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.

AFSC/Bryan Vana

The Friend of a Friend mentoring program in Baltimore is doing more than providing support for incarcerated men; it is inspiring a movement for serious reform of the criminal justice system, from the inside out. 

Madeline Schaefer sits down with participants as they share stories of the program's success and their own transformation. By learning how to deal with conflict nonviolently, and by connecting with one another, participants are reclaiming their voices and speaking truth to power.

You can read more about the Friend of a Friend program in the summer issue of Quaker Action or read about Lucy Duncan's visit to the program when the men talked about the meaning of love.

To listen to more audio stories, see the Calling forth the Goodness podcast page, or subscribe to the podcast through iTunes so you don't miss future episodes.

Produced by Madeline Schaefer. Music by Quakers.

Transcript (excerpt)

Mike: Words are cheap, and seldom true, but love and Friend of a Friend speaks volumes for me and you...

Madeline: On this episode of Calling Forth the Goodness, I sit down with participants in AFSC’s “Friend of a Friend” program in Baltimore as they share stories of how this grassroots mentoring program is building a network of trust and self-determination that is transforming U.S. prisons from the inside out.

Sitting in the cafeteria of Hagertown’s Correctional Facility in Maryland, Tafari—a current employee with the Friend of a Friend’s work release program—would regularly hear seemingly cryptic messages over the intercom.

Tafari: Friends, Friends, you know what I mean, they would call it over the intercom. And I would joke and at that time I wasn't really conscious or really aware of the things I was doing.  I still was rippin' and runnin' still you know trying to dip and dab, playing both sides of the fence

Madeline: Eventually, a few of Tafari’s friends convinced him to give it a try and attend one meeting.

Tafari: When I went to the program, I seen that it was the best of the best.  You know, people of different backgrounds coming together, trying to build something. And when I seen that I was like, man, this is something, you know, that I never thought would exist.

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About Friends Relations

Lucy Duncan works with other AFSC staff to foster strong relationships between AFSC and Quakers.

Lucy is AFSC’s Director of Friends Relations. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. She attends Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and lives with her son and partner in a Quaker cemetery.

Sophia is the Friends Relations Fellow this year who works closely with Lucy. She is a recent graduate of Guilford College where she majored in Sustainable Food Systems and Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies.