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Every Good Reform Starts With One Success Story

W. Scott Cole

Posted on January 24, 2019 01:55

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The TRUE program at the Cheshire Correctional Institute in Connecticut is a program that began almost two years ago, patterned on the prison system in Germany. The program filled one unit with young inmates and paired them with older inmates, who acted as mentors in the hopes that their experiment would provide a model for future rehabilitation in the United States. This is the story of a graduate of that program who was one of the first ones released.

Shyquinn Dix was serving his sentence in a maximum security prison when he was chosen to participate in the TRUE program and transferred to Cheshire. His first morning there, a guard walked up to him and said “Good morning.” He said that greeting, with no evident sarcasm, felt genuine to him and told him that this was something different. He was right. He was now in a program that emphasizes healing, accountability, family, and personal growth over retribution.

According to Dix, he felt that even the guards respected him, and for him as well as the other inmates in the unit, those guards also became mentors. Since the opening of the unit, violence has been nonexistent (something unheard of in prison). All of the inmates say they feel safer in that environment, which helps them become invested in the program’s goals. They also feel the program prepares them better to succeed when they are released. The guards report that they have less stress and feel greater job satisfaction, so the benefits are felt by everyone.

Shortly before graduating from the program, one of the guards, who felt Dix was a very good basketball player, contacted the warden and asked him to provide an assessment of Dix’s skill. The warden agreed with the guard and issued an invitation to Dan Kane, the head basketball coach at the University of Maine-Presque Isle (UMPI), to visit and watch Dix in action on the court.

That visit resulted in the offer of a scholarship, and today, Dix is a sophomore at UMPI, playing point guard and majoring in Sociology. His grades are good enough to land him a place on the Dean’s List. Dix says it was the most emotional day of his life when the coach shook his hand and talked to him. He knew the offer of college scholarship was the opportunity of a lifetime for him, and he is determined to make the most of it.

Without the TRUE program, Shyquinn Dix would be back on the streets, without job skills, very little chance of getting an education and at a dead-end with a much greater chance of just being a statistic headed back to prison within a few years. Instead, he has a promising future in front of him and the desire to work toward that future.

Meanwhile, in just under two years, the True program has been so successful that Connecticut has expanded it to a women’s prison and other states are taking notice. Five units in three other states have been established following Connecticut’s True Program. There have been no reports of results from those units yet, but hope is high for the inmates involved.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Connecticut has started the move away from insanity and done something different. That something different is spreading. Let’s hope the results keep looking as good as they have started out.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on January 24, 2019 01:55

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Source: stltoday.com

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