September 20, 2015
The Post-Prison Education Program paving the way to success via high-quality higher education .... From prison to Pierce College in 5 days: 
Ari Kohn at the Men's Wearhouse in Puyallup, helping to load hundreds of donated suits for future students.

Board of Directors members Maggie
WIlkens (left) and Peter Heymann, help staff member Megan Hammond (right) load suit after suit, until the minivan was at maximum capacity!
300 suits!!  Thank you Men's Wearhouse!

Rob Beers, himself a 
former prisoner of Coyote Ridge, looks on as we wait for Keith to come through the doors. When asked if he remembered what release day was like, Rob responded, "you don't sleep a wink!" Peter Heymann is playing Candy Crush.

King 5 TV captures Keith Whiteman walking out of prison for the last time.
Emotional words from Keith to the King 5 TV team about his first thoughts as he departed the prison.

Looking good thanks to Men's Wearhouse!
Board of Directors Member, Maggie Wilkens (left) & Director, Development & Policy, Megan Hammond
Ari and Keith arrive at Pierce College

Keith at Pierce College with TRIO program staff.

Happy tears as Keith Whiteman reunites with Denise Arnold, PhD, LMHC, Pierce College's Social Service Mental Health Program Professor.

Stay tuned for the story from King 5, but what started with a suit donated to Men's Wearhouse a couple months ago has turned into an emotional testimony of one of our Program participants, Keith Whiteman. The Post-Prison Education Program was there as he walked out of the gates of Coyote Ridge Corrections Center last Monday morning ~ and headed straight for blueberry pancakes in Ellensburg en route to our office in Seattle.


Addiction is classified as a DSM V mental illness - called substance dependence by the American Psychiatric Association. We see it rampant in our communities every day. The solution we've found lies in re-humanizing the criminalized and letting them know that their community is behind them, not against them. Yesterday, Mr. Whiteman, who was introduced to drugs by his father at 12 years old, was taken out for his first real meal in 3.5 years, but most importantly driven from the Post-Prison Education Program to Spanaway to reunite with his Mom, Sister, and Son. And along the way, Men's Wearhouse provided a suit and tie he proudly wore Friday when he walked onto the campus of Pierce College to meet with staff of the TRIO program.  Mr. Whiteman plans on attending the University of Washington-Tacoma after graduating Pierce College. He eventually wants a degree in social work, to give back to the community and work with others who suffer from the disease of addiction.

Post-Prison Education Program team gets an
"UMPH" with the addition of Michelle Conley, MSW, CDPT, Director, Applicant and Student Services
Having been part of the team who welcomed Mr. Whiteman into the free world was an incredible honor for which my words can only insufficiently describe.  First and foremost, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for Ari Kohn, Peter Heymann and all who make Post-Prison Education Program. As someone who subscribes to the belief that successful preparation for re-entry begins the moment someone enters prison, it saddens me that more often than not, such a smart and humane practice is not implemented. The case with Mr. Whiteman was an exception to this rule because  PPEP, in collaboration with Walla Walla Community College, took the lead. Throughout his incarceration, Mr. Whiteman has been offered continual support, mentorship and guidance by PPEP to appropriately address his needs on day one of his release. This partnership between prisoner and supportive community (whether an agency like PPEP, family members or the like) is not only invaluable; it is crucial to maximizing the success of reentry, the reduction of recidivism and the subsequent increase in public safety.
Mr. Whiteman's reflections of his experience on the inside only further emphasized the importance of the work that PPEP does. After having achieved his AA while incarcerated, Mr. Whiteman left the prison world driven by his passion for education and eager to earn his Bachelor's in Social Work. While discussing his educational goals, Mr. Whiteman inspired me saying, "I want to focus less on me, I want to be other-centered." What an honor it was to be in the presence of a man who for 3.5 years has been deprived of so much, and during the first hours of release focused only on how he is eager to serve those around him, how he will become a driving force for good.

Michelle Conley, MSW, CDPT
Director, Applicant & Student Services
Post-Prison Education Program
(206) 524-3333, Ext. 108
Post-Prison Education Program | 206-524-3333 | |