Telford Unit offenders change thinking patterns
By WSD Teacher Pam Patterson
The U.S. military has advertised that they are looking for "a few good men." The saying insinuates that there are many who may answer the call to be proud, brave and courageous in the face of fire; however, there are only a few out of the many that will continue to stand undeterred under the breath of adversity. Like this saying, there are only a few that have stood through months of hard testing and come out victorious for a notable cause: the freedom to choose right thinking and right behavior. Windham School District's Cognitive Intervention program at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston graduated a "few good men" recently. Some may not know that at the Telford Unit offenders designated as G-4s are able to attend a Cognitive Intervention class. G-4 offenders are not typically the best behaved offenders. A typical class may begin with 20 stalwart G-4 young men who are ready to change, ready to leave the past behind, and ready to make permanent changes to incorrect thinking patterns. They want to prevent a life of perpetual missteps. At the end of months of lockdowns, building turmoil, and day and day encounters with officers or other offenders, the members begin to drop like petals from a flower. Some believed they could be successful by riding the fence and the winds of true change blew them back to where they began. Although those that remained struggled through personal challenges, they stayed their course and they finished this part of their journey. It is hoped they will continue on to personal freedom by using their endowed gift of personal choice to remain free.
One of the last classes to graduate went from 20 students to 10 students after four months. While the word 'failure' may erupt about the program, the undeniable evidence of remaining students' fortitude is their elevated G-2 statuses. The movement towards leaving prison is marked by a determination to never return.
As a cognitive instructor, I want to publically commend each student that passed the test of longevity and character to receive a certificate. Many students who previously would allow fits of rage and indignation to take over their lives, made conscious decisions to not allow emotions to rule the rest of their lives. They made a decision to change.
I feel each student that received a certificate earned it by doing what is necessary to mature by making adult decisions to be personally responsible. "If imprisonment enables nothing else, it affords us time to stop and think," said student K. Hall. "Are the decisions we are making going to meet our needs over time? If the answer is 'no', and we continue to commit wrong acts, we have sacrificed our reality for fantasy. We have to understand that results take time. We might not receive our penalty for our acts today, but it inevitably is coming."
Hall and others in the class now are writing new chapters in their book of life. They are creating their own happy endings.
What a beautiful way to begin a chapter in a life that was previously littered with pages of pain. It is our hope that all young men and women incarcerated in this state can grasp the importance of changing destructive thoughts in order to achieve that elusive thing that many miss in life… peace of mind and spirit. Change your story. Change your thoughts. Change your life.
Reprinted from The ECHO.
Other articles that may interest you:
Why teach offenders in Windham School District? - "Correctional education is important because someday these guys are going to be my neighbors. They are somebody's child, somebody's father, and somebody's brother. We need to help them get there. They are going to be back in society, and I want them to be productive citizens. … so I need to help them -- or we need to help them – I can't do anything by myself. I expect my students to learn respect, empathy and the ability to succeed."
Bastrop Man Receives Governor's 2016 Criminal Justice Volunteer Award - (AUSTIN) – Garrett Stanley of Bastrop, Texas was presented the "Judy Burd – Windham School District" Award during the Governor's 2016 Criminal Justice Volunteer Service Award program today (April 15, 2016). The award was presented by Dale Wainwright, Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, and TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston during a ceremony held in Austin.
Message to WSD employees:
State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) 2017: NOW – Oct. 31!
Once again Windham School District is privileged to support the State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), allowing employees to make donations to eligible charities of their choice. Employees at every campus have the option to participate, and WSD is proud of the legacy employees promote through caring for others.
The Windham School District raised $22,314 statewide last year for SECC, topping the 2015 total of $20, 470.
This year's WSD goal is $24,800!
If you are on a unit, you will need to turn in your SECC contribution, cash or payroll deduction (the easiest way!) ASAP to the school office or WSD designee. Donations will then be sent to Dina Valenta in the WSD Administration Business Office and become part of the WSD campaign total. Charity choices and codes are found in the SECC booklets at each school site or go to http://www.secctexas.org/. Forms should also be available at your work site.
If you are in the WSD administration offices, please visit the Superintendent's Office to make your gift to the charity or charities of your choice! Donations may be made with checks, cash or payroll deduction (the easiest way!). In addition, WSD Administration's Annual SECC Silent Auction is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Huntsville (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. ) All employees and WSD friends are welcome to participate, and the auction features hundreds of items in a wide variety of values. Unit and school fundraisers may also involve silent auctions, bake sales, food sales and other events. Everyone is encouraged to also enjoy participating in SECC events held by TDCJ and other agencies.
For the third year, WSD fundraising for SECC will include the sale of official WSD shirts and jackets to school district employees. New items will be hoodies and unit vests/aprons. Proceeds will go to designated SECC charities. More details regarding shirt orders and will be emailed to employees in mid-September.
How do WSD employees help us meet the overall WSD fundraising goal?
- Make a cash, check or payroll deduction donation at your job site.
- Order a new WSD shirt or hoodie (profits to SECC!) –or a few! – Details to be announced soon!
- Participate in WSD fund-raising activities at your site for SECC.
- Enjoy the privilege of helping others in need!
Unit employees should be sure their donations are sent to Dina Valenta in the WSD Business Office in Huntsville, preferably as a campus group.
Do not use truck mail. Please hand deliver or use U.S. Post Office (campus donations need to be sent through the registered mail with tracking number; do not send cash through the regular or truck mail).
Your participation and donations are appreciated! Please join us in helping make a difference in many lives!
Make a positive difference in countless lives through the 2015 State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC)!
SECC is a two-month charity fundraiser that allows state employees to conveniently make monetary donations to charities of their choice, helping those in need. The SECC will be held Sept. 1 – Oct. 31. SECC involves many state agencies and entities, and WSD is a well-known as a generous supporter. Last year WSD employees contributed an amazing $11,884, proving WSD a leader in giving.
WSD employees participate by making gifts through the Windham campaign, no matter where they work geographically. WSD employees may participate through job assignment sites to include TDCJ facilities statewide, as well as WSD administrative offices in Huntsville. Unit and regional employees will participate in the WSD campaign at their job site. Administrative employees in Huntsville will participate in the WSD campaign at their job site.
Donations may be made through payroll deduction or via check and cash. Each WSD unit campus should designate an SECC contact person, who will then pass on campaign information. Make this person known to the WSD unit staff.
All employees are invited and encouraged to join the WSD effort for SECC and easily make a great difference in many lives!
Note to employees: Specific campaign details will be communicated to units by email. WSD employees should be careful this year to mark their donation materials with “WSD” at the top of all forms, to differentiate from TDCJ’s separate contributions.
Pablo Gonzales: Thanks to job-focused training, project manager enjoys work, family, life - "When I got out of prison with a felony, nobody wanted to hire me," says former offender Pablo Gonzales, who overcame the difficulties of building a career after release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Thanks to educational opportunities, vocational training and strong faith, Gonzales is now a project manager near San Antonio for American Directional Boring Companies Inc. (ADB). He helps install aerial and underground utility jobs and handles OSP/ISP fiber optics cable work for communication clients in South Austin, such as Google, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.