THE NEED FOR A NEW APPROACH
E-Mail    by Calbraith MacLeod    Bio/Address

    Right now, we have two core programs in Vermont, the Violent Offender's Program (now called Cognitive Self-Change I think) and the Vermont Sex Offender Program. I have been in both of these programs in the past as well as in numerous other program. In seventeen years of prison, the only program offered by corrections that ever helped me progress toward a non-destructive lifestyle was the Chapman University Program at Lompoc. It was here, the last vestige of my ego was cracked, and this allowed me to begin to entertain new ideas, particularly that I may not be as brilliant m I'd always thought.
    In the Violent Offender program one is asked to write "thinking reports" (see attached) when he encounters situations that did or could lead him to victimize someone' The report consists of describing the situation and listing the thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns one experienced. The object of the exercise is to become able to recognize in advance when one is heading toward victimizing behavior m he or she can intervene in the process. It is thought that the earlier me can recognize he is heading for trouble the easier it will be for him or her to intervene.
    I have no problem with the self-awareness this exercise delivers. In fact I think it would be useful as a small part of a rehab whole. It is not a whole unto itself.
    The problem with this program is that it does nothing to address the underlying desires and anger the person is experiencing. It is behavior management at best. The person remains as burdened by anger or desires to commit crime as s/he ever did, only now, s/he is living a miserable existence but able to keep from being arrested. But how long will it be before a person full of anger and burdened by desires to commit crimes says to hock with this exercise? Not long after he is no longer forced to do it. It just isn't practical to live one's life in this way. This program is like telling someone who is repeatedly arrested for driving drunk that all he needs do is recognize when he is drunk and get someone to drive him home. This does nothing to address his underlying problem, and, besides, how long will it be before he can't find someone to drive him home or just doesn't feel like bothering with it?
    Both the facilitators of this program have been arrested for domestic abuse while "teaching" others how to intervene in destructive behaviors. While this does not reflect on the helpfulness of the program methods, how are the inmates to give heed to the methods these people forward?
    The objective of the Sex-offender program is basically the same as the V.O.P. One works to become able to recognize patterns and cycles of behavior, thoughts, and feelings m he or she can intervene in the cycle before it gets to a point where it would be difficult to stop one's self from behaving in a destructive manner.
    The problem I experienced with this program is similar to the problem I have with the V.O.P. It does nothing to address the underlying problems of the offender. A person can still be living a miserable life, a life plagued by anger and compulsion and a lack of self-respect. it is still like telling an alcoholic to call a cab when he's drunk an he will avoid a D.W.I. charge and prison. That is the second problem with the programs. They both rely an a person's few of consequences, namely a return to prison to prompt him to continue to intervene in his behavior. Many people after release entertain thoughts like "I was better off in prison." For some prison poses no threat, and for others, they are too busy thinking of how not to get caught to think about how to intervene. Where does this leave the offender?
    The person who began the sex-offender program was taken to court by one of the woman he'd hired for sexual harassment, and he was found guilty. Not that this reflects of the program, but again, it is hard for inmates to give much credence to the methods of facilitators who act the part of criminals.
    To secure Federal and State funding, prison therapists and program coordinators need to 'prow' their methods effective. They need winning numbers. Unfortunately, most therapeutic success rates are made possible not by effective methods but by carefully excluding all those who can not be easily manipulated, supervised, or frightened.
    The great mass of men in prison don't share the advantages of mindlessness and trepidation enjoyed by the few who "quality" for treatment. So, what practical use for most prisoners are the methods used m the "treated" minority?
    The termination rate among aspiring prison program participants is enormous. Step into any prison for a few months and watch the change in the program clientele. As soon as a person proves himself to have a mind of his own, the treatment staff finds a reason to exclude him from treatment. Unless a convict has the constitution and gastric fortitude to stomach exposure to a daily does of humiliation and almost perfect ability to hide his or her intelligence, what chance do they have of completing the current therapy program? Furthermore, what chance do they have of benefiting from the program methods? No chance, no chance at all.
    Many of the prison therapist's successes are, simply put, built on frightening people into acting in a particular way. Not only do they not know how to equip people to command their own lives, they rarely if ever 'correct' anyone's behavior without continuous supervision. Right from the early days of therapy convicted people are exposed to around the clock observation of their behaviors. Together with the threat of continued incarceration, the continuous supervision allows the therapists to evoke the behavior and answers they want to hear from their subject until the person is released from treatment, parole or probation. When you read about, or even when you hear the convicts involved with it speak about, a 'great' correctional program that has a "proven" success rate due to the therapists dedication, hard work and effective methods -- add on your own postscript.  Of course, don't forget that heavy and continued use of fear and supervision is the bedrock for the continuation of and testimony to that "success."
   Typical Convicts don't have the gutless simplicity necessary to relinquish control to one in position of an academic theory of how they should think, feel, and behave; and they shouldn't be foolish enough to do w. We're light years removed from those who dominate the rehabilitation programs and so conveniently 'prove' the soundness of the therapist's and facilitator's methods.
    Of course, many people lack the application and resolve needed to do justice to a treatment program. However, m many people are given ineffective treatment and w have no chance of obtaining satisfactory results, irrespective of their degree of application. Of the minority that is "treated" and released, how many make real progress toward maintaining non-destructive behavior after they are no longer supervised? Very few if any.
    As long se we maintain a mentality of "That's not how the therapists do it' or, 'That's not how the one with the college degree does it," then we'll get nowhere but into a well of frustration and despair.
    I know more than a bit about this well of frustration and despair. I've been in it, and stewed in it, for years. I spent all of my 20s, together with most of my 30's, utterly consumed by professional rehabilitation approaches. If following the rehabilitation methods offered by the prison therapists was the key to success, myself and many others would have been able to command our own lives 20 years ago. We never were.
    There's a prevalent opinion among prison therapists and facilitators that fosters the notion their job is not to teach convicted people how to control their own lives or develop the ability to live serenely. Prison therapist's view their jobs as simply to stop the convicted person from committing more crime, no matter how the convict feels, no matter how he must suffer through life, no matter what kind of destructive medication, continuous supervision, or continuous fear it takes to ensure non-destructive behaviors. This opinion neglects the fact that the initial reasons behind the convicted person's destructive actions were because he was marching, in a distorted way for serenity and self-command.
    Such negligent therapeutic opinion lives in domains that have no contact with integrity. It's the opinion that encourage convicts, especially younger ones, to develop unrealistic expectations regarding how they, after treatment, are now going to be able to lead normal lives.
    It's the opinion that leads hundreds of convicts down the road of wasting years in utterly inappropriate and ineffective rehabilitation programs.
    It's the opinion that encourage the excessive attention upon following the instructions of inappropriate role models and, ultimately, leads to the convict's dangerous build up of anger and resentment.
    This callow therapy position believes that fear and supervision will keep one on the right track irrespective of their personal happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    It's the position that causes an much heartache, frustration, and pain because it promises something it can't deliver, long term non-destructive conduct. It moves the falsely guided to set themselves and others (sometimes others they care greatly about) up for eventual harm.
    When the harm does come, when the convict re-offends, the therapists and facilitators declare "See what happens when you don't follow our recommendations In reality, they may just m well have told the person to "just say no" and sent him on his way.
    To state, or imply, that all serious and determined program participants didn't develop the ability to stop committing crimes merely because they hadn't tried hard enough and long enough, and because they didn't have a sufficiently positive attitude, is a grow insult. I'm but one of the countless number of typical convicts who have applied themselves to current rehabilitation treatment programs with dedication and diligence enough to match any recipient of a doctorate degree. Don't tell us that we didn't try hard enough or seriously enough.
    We tried all right. We tried, tried and tried some more. And we tried with utter and complete - no fanatical - dedication. We lived, slept, ate and drank the methods of the prison therapists, with our self-esteem and goals way up in the clouds. We gave our ton of flesh. But we never obtained control over our lives like the average non-destructive citizen.
    What's particularly galling, for typical convicts, is to have a theory-toting program facilitator lecturing about how we should behave, while the facilitator himself often acts every part the criminal. Even more infuriating is when a facilitator moans about how hard he found it to fight a particular character flaw. He neglects to my that the character defect was never really an integral part of his make-up, and that he had always enjoyed a feeling of self-command before he was 20, 15, or even 10, and that he had never felt uncomfortable in the world. There's a connection with reality when at least some honest therapists acknowledge the role of self-command and serenity in endowing them with the necessary tools for successful living.
    The person who initially developed into a non-destructive lifestyle (though of course not perfectly w) simply can't understand the criminal lifestyle. No matter how much they try, they can't understand. If I had a magic wand I would put some therapists and facilitators in the shoes of a typical criminal weighted down with compulsions, unstable emotions, and no self-respect. After he's struggled to become able to just stop hating himself for a few minutes each day after years of determined effort and many setbacks, then he might begin to understand what I man. It I could then wish him into the shoes of the person with an obsession for sex, or drugs, or money, or power w strong that he repeatedly hurts those he cares most for and destroys the relationships and things he needs the most, he would, when feeling suicidal, finally get the full message that how we feel on the inside matters a hack of a lot.
    All of us can transform ourselves, and develop serenity and self-command enough to lead us to living a non-destructive lifestyle. However, we can never, ever gain control over our lives or truly enter into lasting non-destructive lifestyles under the methods of supervision and fear used by today's prison therapists. This might not be a palatable truth, especially for prison therapists, but its the truth nevertheless.
    Every convict should grasp this key point right from the very beginning. Don't devote yourself to becoming rehabilitated using today's prison therapist's methods. Go through their programs for the "good time' days and parole if you must, but dedicate yourself on the side to building self-respect, serenity, and self-command by methods that work toward these goal& Spare yourself from having your life, and the life of those you care about, nigh-on destroyed by the "correctional" deception.

Response to MacLeod's Article by Stephen Fraley

Calbraith MacLeod is author of the self-help book -- Practical Reformation (available $10.96 Plus $2.00 S&H from Audenreed Press, Box 1305 #103, Brunswick, ME 04011) -and is currently serving a 40 year prison term. He may be contacted at: