This is my final draft: The Last Supper Lecture Series

At Texas State University, a former Texas prison inmate discussed many challenges he faced in prison as well as the work he is doing to help advocate for a change to the criminal justice system.

On Oct. 3, Jorge Antonio Renaud, spoke of his 27 years spent in prison in Texas after being convicted of drunk driving and robbery. A room full of 52 students gathered to listen to Renaud as he recounted his experiences as an inmate in the Texas prison system.

Renaud started off by addressing prison as a cage to punish criminals.

“How do we hold people accountable? I don’t believe in a cage,” Renaud said.

Renaud’s first offense happened when he was 19 years old; he was involved in a drunk driving arrest. He began to describe his first time in prison, saying that older men raped him repeatedly. As this continued, he turned towards a life where he did not want to be touched or loved again, a feeling you just never get over. The audience was dead silent.

Despite this, Renaud did find love with a woman who taught poetry. He married her in 1987 after being released from his second stint in prison. Together, they had a daughter and he began working for the Austin American-Statesman as a copy editor.

Unfortunately, they divorced, ruining Renaud’s progress. He said that he began to abuse drugs and started other bad behaviors that led him to be sent to prison once more.

Although Renaud was not specific on the details of why he was incarcerated, he did say that his fear and worry worsened each time he went back to prison leaving him depressed.

“I deserve this treatment, I am always going to end up back in prison,” he said he thought.

Renaud then mentions how being a Hispanic man in Texas played a role in the criminal justice system.

“I started to see intentional marginalizing of certain groups of people,” he said.

During the last time he was incarcerated, he noticed that police targeted people of color, which angered him and motivated him to do something. Therefore, he started to educate himself about criminal justice and eventually published a successful book called, “Behind the Walls: A Guide for Family and Friends of Texas Prison Inmates.”

He then began to list strategies that are used to justify criminal justice policies, one being storytelling. This is when people appeal to emotions by describing graphic, violent crimes in order to defend the incarceration of criminals.

However, counter examples such as underlying stories of racial profiling and the treatment of people incarcerated goes unheard of, said Renaud. He suggests that an accurate argument must represent both sides; therefore, more underlying stories need to surface.

His success continued once released from prison where he attended the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work.

Renaud now works for Texas Advocates for Justice, where he and his colleagues try to help break the barriers people have when they leave prison such as finding a job and re-building self esteem. They try to convey that there is a place for everyone in society.

Renaud’s mindset has changed over the course of his punishment. At first he thought,

“I deserve this.”

Now, looking at the big picture, he realizes,

“I don’t deserve this.”

The affects that prison leaves on a person are not just emotional, it also affects a person’s ability to make a living.

“I got turned down from a job because the lady said I was too much of a liability considering my criminal record,” said Renaud.

The audience began to wonder what specific affects going to jail could have on a person.

“How does going to jail affect a person,” Ruben Juarez, a student at Texas State University, asks at the end of the lecture.

Renaud took a moment to gather his thoughts then answered,

“Jail is a very brutal system, it turns people towards gangs. You will most likely encounter rape and afterwards, people of color will be rejected for jobs leaving you feeling like jail is all you’re worth.”

Offering some solutions, Renaud suggested the key is to override the mindset of individuals who go to prison and leave thinking they are going back. In order for this to happen, jobs need to be provided for those previously incarcerated and self-worth needs to be apparent.

Students left saying they felt inspired to help make a change in the Texas Criminal Justice System.

“Being a white man, it helps me learn about the world from people who aren’t like me, and it is very humbling,” says Texas State student, Kaleb Mandeville.

I have sent an email with some suggestions/feedback.

The Last Supper Lecture Series

Officially released in 2008, Texas State University welcomed a man previously incarcerated a total of three times to discuss his challenges faced in prison, including depression, rape and violence, in order to advocate for changes to be made in the criminal justice system.

On Tuesday October 3rd, Jorge Antonio Renaud, joined Texas State University to speak of his 27 years spent in prison in Texas for drunk driving and robbery charges. A room full of 52 students gathered to listen.

“How do we hold people accountable? I don’t believe in a cage”, Renaud opens with. This is the ultimate question.

Renaud’s first offense happened when he was barely an adult at nineteen years old; he was involved in a drunk driving arrest. He then begins saying that older men raped him repeatedly in prison. This continued on leaving him a life where he did not want to be touched or loved again, a feeling you just never get over. The audience is dead silent.

Despite this, Renaud did fine love in a woman who taught poetry. He married her in 1987 after being released from his second term. Together, they had a daughter and he began working for the American Statesman as a copy editor.

Unfortunately, him and his wife got a divorce awhile later, ruining Renaud’s progress as he began drug abuse and bad behaviors that led him to be sent to prison once more.

“I witnessed much gang activity that purposely went unnoticed by the guards”.

This fear and worry worsened each time Renaud went back to prison leaving him depressed, which caused him to think, “I deserve this treatment, I am always going to end up back in prison”.

“I started to see intentional marginalizing of certain groups of people”

During his last time incarcerated, he noticed that police targeted people of color, which angered him and motivated him to do something. Therefore, he started to educate himself in Criminal Justice and eventually published a successful book called, “Behind the Walls: A Guide for Family and Friends of Texas Prison Inmates”.

His motivation for writing sparked from his interest in philosophy during his very low time in prison saying, “I can be a good individual in a cage”.

He began to then list strategies that are used to justify Criminal Justice policies, one being storytelling. This is when people appeal to emotions by describing graphic, violent crimes that have been done in order to have them defend the incarceration of criminals.

However, counter examples such as underlying stories of racial profiling and the treatment of people incarcerated goes unheard of. He suggests that this one sided argument of whether incarceration is acceptable or not needs to have both sides available.

On the bright side, his success continues once released from prison where he attended the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a Masters degree in Social Work.

Renaud now works for Texas Advocates for Justice, where he and his colleagues try to help break the barriers people have when they leave prison such as finding a job, re-building self esteem and try to convey that there is a place for everyone in society.

The mindset Renaud has changes over the course of his punishment, going from “I deserve this” to looking at the big picture and realizing “I don’t deserve this”.

“I got turned down from a job because the lady said I was too much of a liability considering my criminal record”, said Renaud in describing one barrier people face after they are out of jail.

“How does going to jail affect a person?”, a student asks at the end of the lecture.

Taking a second to gather his thoughts then says, “jail is a very brutal system, it turns people towards gangs. You will most likely encounter rape and afterwards, people of color will be rejected for jobs leaving you feeling like jail is all you’re worth.”

“What can be done?”

Offering some solutions, Renaud suggests the key is to override the mindset of individuals who go to prison and leave thinking they are going back. In order for this to happen, jobs need to be provided for those previously incarcerated and self-worth needs to be apparent.

Closing with, “a cage is not the answer for people with behavioral problems that society has caused”, Renaud opens the room up for discussion.

This lecture got great feedback and left students feeling inspired to help make a change in the Texas Criminal Justice System. As well as helping people understand what incarceration life is truly like from someone who has experienced it for years.

“Being a white man, it helps me learn about the world from people who aren’t like me, and it is very humbling.”, says Texas State student, Kaleb Mandeville.