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Opinion: Teaching is Necessary to Show Our Youth How to Avoid Prison as a Life Choice




By Richard Wembe Johnson, San Quentin Prison

I have a special announcement of the community at large and in particular the students at McClymonds High in West Oakland, a school that I attended.

There will be a class being offered by Mr. Keith Dodds, who has personal and in depth insight into the criminal justice system, representing the laws, practices, and policies that impact our daily lives.

Mr. Dodds, a retired Oakland police officer who has spent more than two decades serving and living amongst the residents and protecting them, has firsthand experience on the front lines of the justice system.

The class he will be teaching is truly necessary because students have no real understanding as to the principles and procedures that regulate how you are to not conduct yourself at all times.

But equally important, Dodds’ class will show how the system is supposed to work in protecting you as a human being in this constantly changing world of official confusion and illegalities.

We live in a world that’s dictated by laws and principles, and when we’re unaware as to how to function under such procedures, we become more vulnerable to their perplexities.

I know that every day students witness various aspects of the system, be it the courts, the policing, or the arrest of people and the strictures of jails and prison system.

It’s vital that they learn and understand exactly how you can navigate through it all with resolution and clarity, regardless of the particulars.

I must confess that when I was a student at McClymonds, I often ignored attending my classes. By doing so, I forfeited my opportunity to learn exactly how the system works.

I missed out on the things that are taught in civics classes and other courses. As a direct result of my inattentiveness and lack of attendance, I was expelled from the Oakland Unified School District and sent to the California Youth Authority.

Consequently it has been mostly all bad for me ever since.

I truly believe that had a class like Officer Dodds is now teaching existed for me, chances are my life script and choices would have been much different and better.

To this very day I am paying the price for not fulfilling my potential as a youth.

Surely the laws, procedures and the entire system in general aren´t perfect. Yet when we’re uninformed, even of the fundamental basics, it allows foolery to take a complete hold of us.

This particular class being taught by Keith Dodds could be a game changer for students in so many ways.

Don’t allow anything to get in the way of precious, useful knowledge that can be utilized now and in the future.


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