Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rikers Island Graduation 4

THE WORK CONTINUES! THIS WAS WRITTEN FOR ONE OF OUR GRADUATES! When we first met, you spoke to me about your life in a way that exhibited the despair that you felt about the circumstances that you confronted. There was nothing positive that you had to say about your future. You were disgruntled. However, I felt then, as I feel now, that there is great possibility for your success. Being incarcerated is a debilitating experience as it sets us back in our lives. It was my fear that you would succumb to the feelings of despair which accompany incarceration. I Know I speak on behalf of the leaders of this DBT program when I say that we don’t want or need your business. That is to say, we do not hope to see you back in jail. We do hope to gain your business through your freedom. You are worth more to us as a functioning member of society than as an inmate in an orange jumpsuit chained to a wall. I would much rather work with you on DBT skills while in the community than in prison. I would much rather focus on helping you gain a higher level of function while you study acting in Julliard. Though I don’t mind and I have worked hard to have the ability to work with people who are in this situation, facing criminal conviction, it is my belief that you can achieve more. It is my belief that your ability to advance far beyond what incarceration has to offer us is in inherent in our human DNA. If I didn’t believe this, I would have chosen a different profession. I can’t speculate on what it is about this skills program that has changed your conversation from one of a young man who is hopeless to a young man that is hopeful with dreams of studying acting. Could it be DEAR MAN? Could it be skills in interpersonal effectiveness? Or could it be finding the middle path and validation techniques? Perhaps we will never know? Or perhaps it was all of these skills working to bring about a higher more conscious pro-social level of future oriented thinking. There is one thing that I am confident in however and that is that before coming to this program, you never entertained life beyond prison in a way that led to your happiness. How we process what we experience in life is the most important mechanism gifted to us. How do we process incarceration? How do we process the behavior that brought us to jail? A normal person may become embittered and hopeless feeling over whelmed. The constant court appearances, the constant probation requirements that never seem to end and the years that they linger can create a dysfunction in thinking that can break anyone rich, poor, educated or uneducated. The criminal justice system is perhaps one of the most mentally challenging systems any one will ever experience. To be taken from the community, forbidden to work or be educated or be with your friends and family is the most mentally debilitating experience for any creature on earth to survive. It is not a system or experience that is meant to create growth, yet that is exactly what you have done. I can’t say that you would have made this growth only through the dialogue and discussions that you and I have shared. I don’t know that these discussions alone would have been enough to break the deep depression you have felt. However, since our discussions have focused on the skills that the DBT program has offered, I have seen your depression and despair lift. I have seen future oriented thinking develop. I believe we are on the right track. Congratulations and Good Luck!

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