The State of California is currently dealing with a budget-draining and highly overcrowded prison system. Under court order, the State may soon have to release over 40.000 inmates. While politicians, administrators, police and citizens worry about the impact of the release of unrepentant felons, they are too often locked in to the mindset that prisoners cannot change and that rehabilitation is not possible.
The following accounts illustrate that true rehabilitation is possible and happening.
This report describes what happened when a 21-year felony serving multiple life sentences met up with the Criminon rehabilitation program.
For Michael F, the gang life and living by the gang code was the only acid test he lived by. He had been in prison for 21 years and continued to live by the gang code in prison. In his own words, 1 was living a life vDid of morals and virtues, ﬁlled with vice and violence.”
Five years into his sentence Michael decided to leave the prison gang life, but as Michael stated.
“the vices and the violence continued. He was thrown into the “hole” for violent behavior again and was to face further criminal charges.
While in the “hole” (SHU. Secure Housing Unit) Michael enrolled on the Criminon Program. In his own words, “At ﬁrst, I did so to kill time because I was in the hole facing criminal charges again.” In the SHU prison inmates are in single cells and locked down twenty-three hours a day with one hour out of the cell per day. In short this environment is not conducive to any reform or attempted rehabilitation. Or so he thought.
“As I began to do these lessons to kill the time, a funny thing happened—a desire to change began to blossom in me…”
Michael writes. “As I began to do these lessons to kill the time, a funny thing happened—a desire to change began to blossom in me, and I began to apply the things I was learning to my life. Change began. I had been under the belief it was too late for me. I had fallen too deep into the life of vice and violence. But here I was changing… relearning basic living skills, replacing the vices with virtues.
Neither Michael nor the State Prison he is in ever anticipated this dramatic change. At the end of the course this is how Michael summed up Criminon “Criminon, is not a so-called “God Program,” but by applying the basic living skills it teaches and the virtues you learn in The Way to Happiness Course, it brought forth in me a desire to change and gave me easy steps to take to achieve change… and this change led me back to my religion and opened my eyes to the fact that, even though I’ll never be free from prison, the purpose I exist for still exists…to know God, to love God and to serve God.”
Michael’s story has reached across the United States and church ministers as far away as Florida now write to this former gang member, who is now setting an example to the hundreds in his prison yard.