For those of us who have seen the therapeutic community model at work--this is familiar. It takes a lot to implement because people have to change everything about themselves in order to make it work. Hopefully, they will combine the program with help with reentry. It's difficult for people to make positive changes and not be able to be successful when they get out. That's when old habits rise up and take over.
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. —
No talking while others have the floor.
No horseplay either.
At Airway Heights Corrections Center, these guidelines are part of a new prison management model dubbed Right Living.
The concept, which requires inmates to obey rules of polite behavior that Miss Manners would applaud, has been used nationally in drug dependency programs for offenders who are preparing to re-enter society. The all-male Airway Heights facility west of Spokane will be the first in the country to implement the model prisonwide, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.
According to the Right Living handbook, inmates learn to interact as if they were participating positively within a community structure. The program stresses a work ethic, learning new skills, honesty, accountability, manners, civility and respect.
"The primary goal of the community is to provide members with a sense of belonging, acceptance, and skills for living without self-destructive behavior patterns," the handbook says.
Inmates who have participated in similar programs "are 5 percent less likely to re-offend," said Rob Herzog, Airway Heights' associate superintendent of programs.
George Skinner, a minimum security inmate and an appointed leader in the Right Living program, said: "If one of us doesn't come back in here, it has been a success." Authorities say the program works because participants learn that they tend to get the respect they give.
A bulletin board in the hallway of one of the prison's minimum security units lists behaviors expected of "community members" performance, responsibility, self-examination and self-sufficiency. The five principles - honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, respect and humility - also are up there.
Airway Heights began implementing Right Living last month in its minimum-security facility, which houses 600 inmates. Medium-security inmates will join the program in mid-2009, officials said.