Director discusses re-entry program's success

December 2, 2010
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Reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this blog post.

A number of people gathered in Indianapolis Wednesday night to commemorate World AIDS Day. Speakers discussed not only the history of AIDS in Indiana, but the various prevention and education efforts that are going on around the state, including a program for offenders who are preparing to re-enter society.

That program, Thresholds & Transitions, which Indiana Lawyer first reported on in the March 17, 2010, issue, focuses on helping the offenders to have healthy bodies, minds, and relationships. Through “Healthy @ Re-Entry” classes, program director Tommy Chittenden and guest speakers teach program participants about prevention of tuberculosis, as well as HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; substance abuse prevention; employment placement opportunities; anger management; and how to maintain healthy relationships with family and friends.

This program has been effective, Chittenden told the audience, because it takes a holistic approach to healthy living before and after the participants leave the confines of prison. He added the program’s sessions that require participants to self-reflect are often the first time that many of them have been asked to think about who they are and why they have engaged in certain behaviors in the first place.

He compared the information about how to avoid bad behavior to a download of information. Only in this case, the participant’s mind is the computer’s processor. So if a person’s mind cannot interpret the information because of a previous issue – whether that’s addiction or a feeling that the person is unworthy of love and respect – then that information doesn’t matter to the individual who is receiving it.

But if the mind can make some sense of it, the person can then get better.

In their evaluation forms at the end of the intensive program, he said the participants will often write they finally feel worthy of making healthier decisions because they now know why they have acted the way they have and now know how to change it when they’re back on the outside.

Some participants have been in prison 20 years or longer, he added.

To wrap up his discussion about the program, Chittenden read one of the participants’ favorite poems, “There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk” by Portia Nelson:

Chapter One
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in this same place. But, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It's a habit. But, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

For many of the people he has worked with, Chittenden said many of them didn’t know there was another street. But now they do.
 

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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