Centinela helps incarcerated veterans with ‘The Fight Club’

By Forrest Lee Jones

The Fight Club, a Biblically-based program designed to help veterans suffering from PTSD and other psychiatric disorders, came to Centinela State Prison in June. The goal of the program is to see how it can impact prisoner reform, Wayne Hughes wrote in an op-ed for the OC Register.

The Fight Club’s framework is formatted like a boxing match with 12 rounds or lessons that help prisoners work through their personal problems under the club’s philosophy. Prisoners are encouraged to move past bad experiences in their lives and into their future, to defy the giants and fears in their lives, like King David did in the Bible against Goliath

The prison’s warden, Raymond Madden, requested the program be conducted in the maximum security yard where most prisoners are housed with life sentences for committing serious crimes. There were 27 participants in attendance during the three-day event, reports Hughes.

Inmate Etienne Moore’s testimony demonstrated the impact the program could have on one person. Moore was convicted of two counts of first degree murder at the age of 24 and sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole. He alleges that he was “…tried and convicted of a crime [he] didn’t commit.”

He experienced adverse consequences because of his tall stature and race, which contributed to his initiation into a prison gang, where he says violence and drugs became a way of life. After hearing about the Fight Club he decided to join, according to the report.

At the outset, he entered the program full of anger and bitterness. After hearing stories from embattled veterans suffering from PTSD in war-torn countries, Moore’s heart was transformed. After the third day of the program, he said his life was changed.

Empowered by the change, Moore had a renewed interest and determination to put a two-point Fight Plan into place by creating a greater bond in his marriage and obtaining freedom from prison. He said the experience affected the attitude he had toward his incarceration.

“I’ve gained a new focus to help young men who come into prison, to help guide them away from the gangs and trouble makers,” Moore said. “I know I can make a difference by sharing what I’ve learned in the Fight Club.”

The Fight Club is operated and sponsored by an organization called The Mighty Oaks Foundation. The organization is sponsoring four more classes at Centinela State Prison and plans to start classes at Calipatria State Prison and others.

According to the report, 90 percent of all prisoners will be released from prison someday, leaving open the question of what type of person they will be when released.

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