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.
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