A Second Chance for Inmates
Inmates at Coyote Ridge Correctional Facility are helping one another work their way out of violent behavior patterns.
Fifty-nine inmates gathered for a sort of graduation -- to receive a diploma and a handshake for good behavior.
The Department of Corrections calls it the Evidence-Based Offender Change Program.
Inmates learn about the correct way to react and behave in a given situation thru role-playing with other prisoners and counselors.
Ronnie Stombaugh has spent the last decade behind bars for burglary, assault and weapons charges.
"I coulda used some of the skills from this program back then," said Stombaugh.
He's one of the first Coyote Ridge prisoners to graduate from the program.
It's based in part on the iceberg metaphor - what you see or hear is only surface, and so much is hidden under the water.
"When you're in a situation you don't always understand what somebody's going through. It could just be the surface you're seeing and underneath the water, there's always a lot more going on," said Stombaugh.
Kelvin McCauley is in prison for burglary and assault. He says it's time to find another way to live.
"I don't want to continue the lifestyle, coz I'm tired of doing time," said McCauley.
To change their behavior, these guys are doing what tough guys usually don't. They're talking about their feelings," said McCauley.
"Recognizing other people's feelings, recognizing your own, and the warning signs involved so you could stop, take a step back and think about it before you act out [is important]," said Stombaugh.
The goal of this program is to change inmates' thinking, to help avoid lost tempers and decisons that would land them back behind bars.
The prison staff and inmates say the program is not easy, but it works. Since last April the 'pod' of 130 inmates learning the program has had only seven violent incidents, while the neighboring pod had 44 incidents.
Associate Superintendent Andrew Sawyer said he is seeing results.
"There's a distinct difference between A side and B side. And B side is the program side - in their behavior, in the noise level, and in their interactions with staff," said Sawyer.
For Mccauley and Stombaugh, the future looks a little brighter.
"If there's anything I can do to never come back here and get out there in society and be a contribution to the society, then that's what I want to do," said Stombaugh.
"It would be something totally brand new to me to go out there into society with a different frame of mind," said McCauley.
To qualify for the program, inmates must be at high-risk to re-offend, and must have between five and nine years left on their sentence. Both McCauley and Stombaugh have several years on their prison terms.