Rehab on hold: COVID devastated prison learning programs

March 6, 2023

By Aaron Morrison, Associated Press, March 5, 2023
Full Article with video and photos here


Image by Freepik

CHOWCHILLA, California — Joseph Sena has spent nearly half of his 27 years in prison for manslaughter. For almost as long, he’s been striving to make himself a better man than when he arrived.

He has taken courses in creative writing, addressed his addictions, and attended school in prison, hoping to be judged fit for parole and ready to return home to Los Angeles if he ever becomes free.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, tearing through prisons and killing thousands, it severely disrupted or shut down the very programs prisoners most desperately need to prepare them for eventual release.

Trauma counseling, training in carpentry, masonry and barbering, and college courses were slow to adjust to pandemic learning. Isolation and uncertainty replaced creative outlets and mental health therapies for months on end.

Sena grew depressed and anxious — he began to doubt that he’d be known for anything other than taking a life when he was 15.

He remembered the words of a poem he wrote to the man he was convicted of killing.