Inmates at California State Prison, Corcoran are experiencing healing through a restorative justice program called Building Resilience. At least 50 inmates have graduated, reported The Hanford Sentinel.
Building Resilience helps inmates discover how past behaviors, thinking and unhealthy relationships form the underlying cause of their criminal behavior, reported the article.
The program is taking place with some of the state’s most violent offenders in Corcoran’s Level III and IV security facilities and Security Housing Unit.
In therapy, inmates sit in a circle and dialogue in six two-hour sessions, facilitated by other inmates, who have graduated from the program.
“They don’t open up right away,” said Correctional Counselor Mike Tann, but some men “share by the end of it and open up about being sexually abused or the abuse they committed on others.”
Tann currently manages the program. He also trained a group of inmates to facilitate classes for others.
Building Resilience is modeled after a program called Beyond Violence, a similar program targeted at women incarcerated in jails and prisons throughout the United States.
Tann said the Resilience program has had a positive impact on the population in more than one way. Since its creation, serious rule violations have dropped by 20 percent and major violations such as assaults by 10 percent, he said.
Tann also said it improves the prison environment, making it safer for inmates and correctional staff.
According to Lt. Edward Sanchez, more inmates are enrolling in programs like Building Resilience due to the passage of Proposition 57, which incentivizes such programs for inmates working toward an earlier release date.
In a graduation speech for Building Resilience, prisoner Tyrell Tatum said, “I know it’s difficult to talk about the trauma we’ve been into. It helped me a lot to identify my triggers. I was kind of skeptical, but as I got involved, I could see it beginning to touch me and (it was) helping me learn.”
Mike Clark, another inmate who has been incarcerated for 35 years, called it “the best thing I’ve participated in.”
At the beginning, Tann was uncertain how the program would work, and Clark was very doubtful it would work at Corcoran.
“We’ve seen programs here come and go, and I didn’t have high hopes for it, but it’s working,” Tann said. “I hear from staff that they see the difference in the amount of problems they’re having. We looked it up, and it’s right there. We have the proof. Incidents are down.”
Acting Warden Michael Sexton commented, “It’s a neat program. Numbers just don’t tell the entire story. We see changes (the inmates) make in their lives. We’re happy the program is here.”
Graduates had their pictures taken in their caps and gowns, so that they could send them to their families.
“It’s not the end,” Tatum said. “It’s just the start of something new.”