Prison Radio
Dontie Mitchell

In my last commentary, I talked about the TRUE program in the Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut. It’s a program where young prisoners, 18 to 25 years old, are housed together along with a small group of older prisoners, who basically run the unit and serve as mentors.

The president of the union representing correction officers in Connecticut, a guy named Rudy [inaudible] is skeptical of TRUE. He feels there’s a lack of structure in the program. Specifically, he criticizes TRUE’s disciplinary tactics. Punishments can include doing pushups, learning dictionary words, and being fined, instead of being sent to solitary confinement and revoking phone and commissary access.

Correction officers are used to using harsh disciplinary tactics, including yelling and using sticks and mace. That’s what they do here at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. But it doesn’t work. The level of violence here at this facility is unrelenting. So, where is the deterrent effect of solitary confinement, sticks, mace, and revoking phone and commissary access?

Correction officers use these tactics because they’re ignorant, poorly trained, unimaginative, and suffer personality disorders that make them abusive and sadistic.

But now, let’s look at TRUE. In its first two years of existence, there hasn’t been a single violent altercation in the program. It’s acknowledged that this model has curbed violence in the prison. So, although critics like Rudy [inaudible] can cry about TRUE being too loose, their criticism doesn’t square with reality.

The truth is that it’s much easier for correction officers to be dickheads, then to actually make a difference in someone else’s life. Harsh disciplinary tactics aren’t effective as proactive measures to improve prisoner behavior or correcting criminal tendencies. Such hard tactics are only reactive.

So, regardless if TRUE results in lower recidivism, or if a participant in the program gets released and commits a serious crime, the program works in decreasing prison violence. Which, in of itself, is a good thing for everyone, but the abusive, sadistic, and unprofessional correction officers who have a need to be harsh, mean, and nasty. Decreased prison violence, in the long run, will translate into savings for the state. A program like TRUE is a no brainer. Its what real correction looks like, and I’m willing to bet it will lead to lower recidivism as well.

This is Dontie S. Mitchell, better known Mfalme Sikivu, reporting to you from Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. Follow me on Facebook @freeDontieMitchell.

Thank you for listening, and God bless.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.