I recently attended a commencement ceremony at Kinghaven Treatment Center. One of the men graduating from the program had asked for Better Life support and to be reintegrated into a church community. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was blown away!
Four men stood up to share their stories and spoke about the people, the program, and the relationships.
As I listened to men tell about their experiences and friends and family share their words of support, I couldn’t help but think this was a picture of healthy reintegration! This was what every offender desperately needed for healthy reintegration. It was powerful!
And it was a picture of why Better Life and the entire reintegration network is so committed to placing parolees into supportive faith communities where the experience and modelling of healthy relationships, needed resources, and faith practices can have a game-changing/life-changing impact on an offender.
The stories at the ceremony also highlighted that a very high percentage of offenders wrestle with issues of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction. What may come as a surprise is, far too often, addiction treatment and mental health are left unaddressed as an offender moves from a Correctional Institution to parole.
It's heartbreaking that, when the challenges of addiction and mental illness are left unaddressed, the probability of reoffending is extremely high, even when we place the affected individual into a faith community.
As these challenges become more obvious to Better Life, we have renewed our commitment to advocating for the men and women we support so that both addiction and mental health needs are taken seriously and addressed. We will continue to advocate for those who are challenged by addiction to go into treatment before they are reintegrated back into the community so that they have the best opportunity to experience a healthy reintegration and become a contributing member of their community.
As we think about the issues of addiction treatment and therapy for mental health issues, we were recently able to send DG to a very specific type of therapy for PTSD. DG’s experience shows how valuable therapy can be for reintegration.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) has gained in popularity over the past 20 years and is quickly becoming an accepted method of treatment for people experiencing symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), or those who have experienced some form of trauma in their past. Rest assured, there is no shame in attempting to resolve something so impactful upon your quality of life.
The treatment is primarily accomplished via ‘talk therapy,’ with the added component of guided eye movement. This serves to ‘reprogram’ how the brain interprets and responds to some of life’s many challenges. This therapy can be quite intense for a person and one would be well-advised to allow time to decompress, post-session. The number of sessions required depends upon the depth of the issue being targeted and one’s receptiveness to the designed therapy.
For my part, while working with a Social Worker some time ago, I raised an issue I was having for discussion. For the longest time, I’d been getting irritated quite frequently—while in my bedroom, awake or asleep—and eventually realized that the sound of my door—any door, being opened or closed—was responsible for eliciting such a strong emotional response. At times, I would feel my entire body tense, becoming hyper-alert. Still others, I would instantaneously become disproportionately angry.
I’ve never doubted that one of the many consequences of serving a lengthy prison sentence is PTSD. Frankly, I am of the opinion that anyone, man or woman, is likely to experience symptoms of PTSD after serving only a year or two behind bars; in some cases, even less! Inexplicably, this issue with doors did not manifest itself fully until I was in the community. Moreover, I have since spoken with a number of CSC staff, who admit to similar psychological and physiological responses.
Though one may think that witnessing violence with some frequency, would be the impetus to symptoms of PTSD, there are numerous less obvious causes which can be equally devastating to the human psyche. Therefore, I would encourage anyone reading this to be open to the possibility of deeper, residual, and unchecked effects of incarceration. At the very least, talk to someone about this. They are likely to bring a more objective view to the situation. Doing nothing about these responses only negatively impacts a person’s quality of life, as well as increases the risk of future problems, which may very well lead back to life in prison. That choice rests with you!
In conclusion, let me add that this is the longest DG has gone without reoffending.
What’s made the difference? As he concludes, That (the) choice rests with you! That’s always, and ultimately, true for each of us. BUT, alongside that choice, when we can provide the people and the resources to welcome and support parolees in the context of a faith community, it truly changes the outcome of a person’s life.
With that in mind, please accept my heartfelt thanks. Thanks for investing in the "least of these," as Jesus referred to the marginalized in our society. Your investment impacts a life, a community, and ultimately an entire nation!
Thank you for the difference that you make!