For the Whip community, shared experiences often include incarceration, probation, or parole. The national mass-incarceration trend has profoundly impacted many Whip customers and their families. While the men rarely, if ever, share stories of their experiences, it is generally known by the community members who has been effected by the criminal justice system. As such, many ex-offenders at the Whip struggle with finding employment, health care, educational opportunities and more. Unemployment is described by the Whip community as the most prevalent and enduring concern among ex-offenders. As more and more employers turn to online application processes, customers face increased difficulty in securing employment and accessing information and resources, especially those with strong aversions to technology.
Additionally, the effect of mass-incarceration is presented across Black communities in many apparent and nuanced ways. While widespread unemployment is an easily recognizable result of a biased criminal justice system, the emotional and psychological effects are drastically understated. The owner of the Whip has witnessed the benefits of support groups allowing ex-offenders a forum for discussing shared experiences. Having formerly facilitated a group called “Brotha’s, Let’s Talk,” he recognizes the need for new opportunities allowing ex-offenders to acknowledge and discuss their individual and shared struggles with re-entry into free society and avoiding recidivism.
Due to the unique nature of the barbershop atmosphere, the Whip offers opportunities for community members and customers to discover solutions to shared or individual needs, with the help of web-based information. With an emphasis on the needs, interests, and motivations of ex-offenders in the Whip community, the first workshop program, called “Second Chances,” focuses on further developing internet searching skills.
We and interested Whip customers will participate in a small-group collaborative workshop in order to provide positive experiences with technology and further address their individual information needs. Participants will learn about the following:
- The largest and most popular search engines
- Search strategies for the particular engines
- New resources or information for ex-offenders seeking any of the following: job placement and/or training, educational or vocational opportunities, community organizations providing services for ex-offenders, or services and/or regulations of government agencies.
Furthermore, participants will have an opportunity to:
- Redefine “technology” and how it can be used as a tool in meeting their individual/shared needs
- Experience technology in a positive way, and thus building confidence while reducing fears or aversions
- Openly discuss shared struggles and needs
- Educate the group with their own individual experiences, knowledge
The workshop includes:
- Three types of participant: discussion, instruction, and hands-on learning. This is intended to engage participants of all learning styles: kinesthetic, auditory, and visual.
- Technology and non-technology-related activities to emphasize that computers and other technologies are merely tools we can use to fulfill our needs.
The group will utilize the Community Technology Center space in the North-East side of the shop. Additionally, a separate laptop will be connected to the TV in the center of the shop for the instructional portion of the workshop.
- Poster board
- Colored markers and pens/pencils
- HDMI cable for TV connection
- Printed questionnaire
- 5 minutes | Welcome
- 5 minutes | Activity
- 10 minutes | Identify common issues, objectives
- 10 minutes | Discuss search strategies, tips
- 20 minutes | Hands-on searching
- 10 minutes | Share back on what we found, what was useful, compile a list of resources we found, feedback
Welcome | An informal introduction to the workshop, outlining objectives and purposes, with an opportunity for each participant, including the facilitator, to introduce his/her name and expectations for the workshop
Activity | A non-technology-related activity intended to open participants up to discussing their experiences. The activity is a questionnaire based from that used in a study by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections regarding psychological factors and re-entry.
The study consisted of a “mental health pre-release workshop is offered to DR&C inmates within 6 months of release, as part of DR&C pre-release policy. The focus of the workshop is identifying inmate attitudes that may be counterproductive to the goals of promoting successful reintegration into society and reducing recidivism. A cognitive-behavioral format is used to discuss 7 ‘dangerous thoughts.’”
The questionnaire is geared to identify concerns, anxieties, or fears regarding employment and/or living with a criminal record.
Part I, Identifying Common Issues | Using poster-board, markers, and results of the questionnaire, participants will engage in an activity-based discussion concerning struggles with re-entry and recidivism, aversions to technology, and more. Participants will have an opportunity to express their ideas and concerns by drawing/writing on the board, which serves as a visual representation or map of our discussion.
Part II, Search Strategies | Continuing with the concept map, participants will have an opportunity to share methods for current internet search and ideas for new search strategies. The facilitator will introduce handouts outlining key components to effective internet searching, including popular search engines, pros and cons of each engine, tips or strategies for using each engine, and keywords.
Hands-on Searching | Participants will have an opportunity to try out different search engines and tips, to identify what works best for them. The group will break off, allowing participants to search individually. They can copy and paste useful links into a word document.
Re-group and Conclusion | Participants will have an opportunity to share their hands-on searching experiences and the resources/information they discovered. A master document containing the links gathered by participants will be distributed to the group, with a copy retained at the Whip for future reference. Participants will also have an opportunity to provide feedback, suggestions for how the workshop may better serve participants or recommendations for future workshops.
Even though a vast majority of my workshop design was scraped for this particular session, there was nevertheless positive feedback. Our discussion on basic online searching lead to more advanced topics like webcrawling and the deep internet. One of the participants pulled in through rogue workshopping was a skilled internet researcher and offered some great tips to add to our strategies handout.
In using the internet searching experiences and methods of the participants, we were able to discuss the strengths and limitations of various search engines to identify which best suits our individual information needs. Example: I one participant to “Google” something – he typed in a full question. This led us a discussion of how various search engines function – and for him, Ask.com may prove more effective than Google, as Ask.com is better with answer full questions rather than words or phrases.