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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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