My eyes were opened in prison - Before Tuesday, August 28th I had never visited, much less toured, a prison. This day of experiences with Oakhill Correctional Institution, Madison-Area Urban Ministries (MUM), and Just Bakery have forever changed my thoughts on criminal actions, Restorative Justice, and gang violence. To sit in a room with four men serving life sentences for murder is not something I had ever thought I would do. The morning panel presentations and tour at Oakhill challenged me to embrace unfamiliar territory. I was astounded to learn about the support for inmates and their capacity to create new goals and dreams. Hearing that all four of the inmates credit their life changing with the Restorative Justice program, leads me to wanting to learn more. In the afternoon, my learning continued through an open and honest panel conversation with active peer mentors in the community. Their work as peer mentors, inside the judicial system, and supporting of the reentry of the incarcerated back into our communities represents neighborly love.

To end on a high note was a visit with Carmela at Just Bakery, a vocational training program for individuals who have significant barriers to employment. Hearing her story, and her goals and dreams, really put the “icing” on an interesting day. I look forward our Just Bakery ordering event in October, and I am proud to promote this easy—and delicious—way we can support their work and the LGM team addressing this community issue. Honestly, outside of nightly news reports, I had rarely thought about the prison system, incarcerated people and their impact on community. My eyes have been opened.