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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WSD WANTS YOU To help recruit great teachers & earn extra time for yourself! - Correctional educators with Windham School District have some of the best teaching jobs in the state, and your help is needed to get this word out! WSD is currently recruiting academic and vocational teachers for its schools statewide, and employees are encouraged to help bring in the best referrals and candidates for Windham teaching jobs.
Windham Career Expo inside TDCJ's Terrell Unit brings employers, hiring support directly to offenders - Offenders gathered to hear from a variety of employees and professionals speaking about industry jobs and work opportunities for post- release offenders. With more than 160 students in attendance at five one-hour long sessions, there were many men eager to hear what visitors had to say. Ten volunteers and community leaders from five different companies came into this Texas Department of Criminal Justice facility in Rosharon, Texas, to talk directly to students about employment opportunities.
Windham School District offers females expanded course offerings, career options - Expansion of job training programs for female offenders is unfolding in Gatesville, according to Windham School District (WSD) administrators. "WSD is proud to offer new programming for female offenders incarcerated at units in Gatesville," said Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department administrator Rick Jones. All programming is part of Windham's continued efforts to provide cutting edge career and technical education.
For WSD Employees only:
WSD employees have from July 3, 2015 to July 17, 2015 to make changes to their insurance benefits for Plan year 2016 (which runs from Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016). Go to www.ers.state.tx.us to create your login and password. You may need to establish an online account.
When you access ERS Online, you will see your insurance enrollment and personal contact information. During Annual Enrollment time, click on "Benefits Enrollment" to make changes to your benefits for Plan Year 2016. A video member tutorial showing employees how to make annual Enrollment changes is available on the ERS website.
If you will be making changes that require Evidence of Insurability (EOI) approval, such as enrolling in or increasing the amount of optional term life, adding dependent life, short/long term disability you will need to submit an EOI online.
If you don’t want to change your benefits, you do not need to do anything. Your current benefits will continue in plan Year 2016.
Go to the ERS website to find out more information about Annual Enrollment.
BY NICOLE WILCOX
Published September 2, 2015
Reprinted courtesy of The Navasota Examiner
Reporter Nicole Wilcox of the Navasota Examiner recently visited the Luther Unit for a first-hand look at Windham School District and how correctional education is helping offenders prepare for a successful life after release. Her positive report is shared below, courtesy of The Navasota Examiner.
Most residents can recall four school districts within the county - Navasota, Anderson-Shiro, Iola and Richards – but there are actually five fully operational districts in our community.
Often forgotten about, the teachers of the Windham School District don’t have bus duty, lunch duty or parent conferences. What they do have is a school surrounded by security fencing and guard towers.
The Windham School District operates within 89 different Texas Department of Criminal Justice units, including both the Luther and Pack units in Navasota. The school district’s goals, as stated by Texas Education Code 19.003, are to reduce the odds of relapse and the cost of confinement or imprisonment, increase the success of former inmates in obtaining and maintaining employment, and provide an incentive for inmates to behave in positive ways during confinement or imprisonment.
An individualized treatment plan is created for each offender, taking into account age, program availability, projected release date and varying needs of the offender. To accommodate those needs, the school district has different sections, including literacy and GED programs, career and technical education programs, and life skills programs.
“We are trying to put you in contact with jobs that will change your life,” Windham School District Superintendent Dr. Clint Carpenter said last week to a group of offenders in the vocational program of the Luther Unit.
The latest reports from the 2013-14 school year show 59,678 offenders statewide received WSD educational services. Of these offenders, 66 percent were able to attain a GED or high school diploma or showed significant gains in educational achievements. In addition to normal education classes, Windham offers offenders cognitive intervention and CHANGES programs designed to change the way they handle situations to prevent criminal behavior. CHANGES is an acronym for changing habits and achieving new goals to empower success.
“I really believe in this program,” said CHANGES teacher Victoria Koehn. “Most of them really want to change but don’t know how. When the environment is right, they really open up.”
Those entered into CHANGES are within two years of getting out of the system. It is a 14-week program that includes role- playing scenarios and a seven-step system of behavior awareness that includes saying no to drugs, civic responsibility, healthy relationship development, apologies and amends, job interview skills and being open to change.
“The healthy relationship development is a big deal,” said Koehn. “Research shows that one good relationship is enough of a motivator to stay free.”
If an offender has obtained a GED or high school diploma, they are eligible for vocational or college courses. Within the Luther Unit, a few of these courses include electrical, welding and computerized numerical computation. The computerized numerical control course deals with machining fabrication. The majority of fabrication and machining shops in the industry are moving to computerization because the machines are capable of being accurate to within 1/10000 of an inch.
“The majority of these guys are at 250 hours right now and can do the majority of the machine’s programming,” said instructor Mike Klodginksi.
The participating offenders in the computerized numerical computation course will be eligible for entry- level industry certification when they complete the minimum 600 hours of coursework and can opt for an additional 300 hours of advancement.
Electrical instructor Frank Goodman has simulated a work environment within his classroom with each student having an independent stall and project board. He is a firm believer in peer tutoring and teaches students that intrinsic motivation is self-motivation.
“I see my son in each of my students,” said Goodman. “I just want you to get paid for your knowledge.”
Like the majority of the WSD vocational classes, Goodman’s electrical course is six to nine months long, and the students are eligible for first or second year apprenticeship depending on the time put into the training.
“This was a blessing for me. I had an apprentice license before I was incarcerated. I had the opportunity to go to school, but I wouldn’t do it. This made me come to school and work on becoming a journeyman. I have an opportunity to go back to work with LECS and work for them. I am retaining the info I knew when I was working,” said offender Antonio Rivera Camacho.
Everyone within WSD has a story. An overwhelming majority of the inmates talk about their families as motivation for participating. For the instructors and administrators, it is often a calling that differs from the course of their previous life.
Welding instructor Van Campbell was a 20-year member of the ironworkers union in Cincinnati before the birth of his first grandchild made him and his wife move to Texas. When asked if he would encourage anyone else to follow in his footsteps, Campbell replied, “As a teacher, yes! It is very gratifying. I’d hire any one of these guys when they leave my class.”