The criminal justice system is not designed to create prosperous people. It churns people in and out of correctional facilities over 10 million times per year. People like Pagan return home and find themselves cut off from even basic needs — housing, identification and social security numbers, healthcare, education, stable and well-paying jobs.
Most prison re-entry programs focus on job training and employment, rather than education. Yet, 70 percent of positions in the U.S. require education beyond high school. Lack of education is a major hurdle for people leaving prison.
“There's more wars engaged and fought and won in the classroom than anywhere else,” says Pagan. “If we could get out of this habit of thinking of one person in relationship to another, then gradually things will start changing. If you think about racism, it's the white man thinking of himself in relationship to other races. I'm kind of echoing what Virginia Woolf said. You have to stop thinking of people in relationship to people and think of people in relationship to reality.”