September 11, 2009
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Warden Roderick James, Demilly CI
Staff members are to serve as role-models. To facilitate change we must demonstrate the
attitudes and behaviors that we want to see the inmates use. Everyone is seen as having
potential and is treated with respect; in the therapeutic community all members are expected to
accept responsibility for their behaviors.
Demilly CI began training staff members on Therapeutic/Re-Entry Communities in mid July.
The goal is to educate all staff members to include correctional officers, program staff and support staff. The purpose of the training is to help staff understand how a re-entry community works, how they are a valuable part of the community, and how it benefits all the members of the community.
The training begins with a definition of Therapeutic/Re-Entry Community and a brief history. This history includes information on how the therapeutic community concept has been used in both the Federal and state prison systems with success. Next the values of a therapeutic community are discussed and stressed as these are the basis of a successful community. Staff members learn that they are also part of the community and are to serve as role-models. To facilitate change they must demonstrate the attitudes and behaviors that they want to see the inmates use. Everyone is seen as having potential and is treated with respect; in the therapeutic community all members are expected to accept responsibility for their behaviors.
The concept of “Community as Method” was explained. The inmates and staff are both involved in the day to day running of the community. The inmates have input into the community but staff always has ultimate control. Staff and inmates work together to solve community issues. For this reason communication is very important in the community. Communication between staff and inmates as well as between the staff members in all areas of the community was stressed.
There is a difference between punishment and consequences. The training stresses that the community must be physically, emotionally, and psychologically safe for all members. The goal is to teach inmates new, positive behaviors by making them aware of how their old, negative behaviors are not working for them. A therapeutic community has strict behavior expectations just as a prison does and all members of the community know what these expectations are. They also know that there are consequences if they do not follow the rules and guidelines. Finally the House Structure and how it works is laid out. Inmates hold positions on the structure and they are instrumental in the running of the community. These inmates have regular communication with staff and together they work to ensure that the community runs as it should. Armed with this new knowledge, staff embarked on a journey and we are beginning to see change. I recall walking on the yard one evening observing the activities when the third shift Officer In Charge approached me with several of his staff. The Lieutenant. Advised me that we had an inmate at the facility that could not read or write and we needed to get him in school.
When I asked him how he knew the inmate could not read or write and stated the inmate had violated a rule and was given a learning experience – the inmate was instructed to write an essay addressing the importance of complying with established rules. When the inmate turned the essay in, staff recognized his academic deficiencies and began to actively seek a peer to assist this inmate with reading and writing until he could be enrolled in school.
This scenario is not isolated instance; staff on all shifts are starting to utilize “learning experiences” to address rule violations, and in doing are reinforcing the concepts they learned in the training – there are consequences if rules and guidelines are not adhered to.
Discipline is a factor in correctional treatment and control. The objective is the acceptance of the rules of prohibited conduct and specific institutional regulations which are required for the general welfare of the institutional community and serve as a model for law-abiding behavior following release. Staff at Demilly CI have acquired an additional tool to address rule violations; the use of learning experiences has opened up doors of communication between the staff and the inmate population and is designed to eliminate future disciplinary violations and to develop acceptable standards of behavior.