Papo Comes Home

‘PAPO COMES HOME” –AN EX OFFENDER TRAINING AND ORIENTATION PROGRAM TIMES HAVE CHANGED WHILE SERVING TIME HAS NOT CHANGED THAT MUCH…

In 1973, I produced a training tool to be used by QUERER, a South Bronx ex-offender resocialization agency. The product, a fifty minute videotape with an accompanying Trainer’s Guide, explored issues and all-too- likely experiences facing an individual reentering society after substantial time served in prison. “Papo Comes Home” tells a fictionalized story, using a composite of experiences of individuals who had faced the challenges of reentry. These experiences are presented in exaggerated ways, using humor to keep the subject matter both interesting and non-threatening. The story addresses, in separate segments, a series of the common challenges related to reentry, including adjusting to a changed “outside world” and its pace and expectations; dealing with Parole Officer expectations; avoiding temptations and trouble; feelings of aloneness; pursuing employment and the challenge of how to explain the time gap in one’s employment history; reacquainting with family who have moved ahead; and getting help. The video was intended to be used in segments, as part of an orientation program lasting one to two weeks, with each segment introducing a discussion, in which viewers are encouraged to reflect on how they would handle each situation that Papo faces.

The video was used for several years by Querer, as the focal point of discussions for individuals who recently left prisons, and were participating in orientation programs at the agency. It was also used during that time, as part of presentations by counselors in New York State prisons, as prisoners neared the time of their release. Papo Comes Home was shown in 1973 at the American Corrections Association annual conference, in Seattle, and as the result of that showing was also shown to Correctional Social Workers in the State of Massachusetts.

After sitting, unused, for years, the tapes have recently been resurrected and transferred to DVD. After all this time, it is both good and sad to see that the content and approach of this material remains highly relevant… There are several different ways that the material can be valuable now… Here are some of the possibilities…

  1. The story can be re-produced, with some modifications reflecting changes in the society itself as well as requirements of parole and other official institutions. Some topics only minimally touched on in the original version can be included in a new version. These include changes in sex roles and relationships, health concerns, and the wider spectrum of issues related to substance abuse. A more in depth look at the relationship of an inmate to family members on the outside, would also be appropriate. In its re-produced form,it could be made available to ex offender programs and others serving people recently returning to society after lengthy institutionalization. Re-entry has recently been subject of articles in the New York Times and other publications.
  2. Fictionalized versions of at least some parts of this story would make good material for new TV series.
  3. A variant on Number two, would be a film or tv series, in which the original footage is used as the background to the story narrated by Papo, many years later…
  4. A program could be developed in which recently released individuals in programs around the country are provided DVDs of the original story, plus video equipment and related resources, with each group encouraged to re-make the story to fit their current reality. This could be a learning project for the ex-offenders (and staff), that could be useful in many places…
  5. With regard to each of these, updated Discussion Leader’s Guides and Local Resource Guides (where to get help, legal and employment advice, etc…) would be important in each setting. Copies of the original Guide are available.
    Resources would be needed to pursue each of these options. I am available to work with organizations on planning, scripting, development, and training using the original and updated materials.