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Gene Atherton Institution Management
with Gene Atherton

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Colo. program helps provide hope to inmates

"Seven Habits on the Inside" program focuses on the reality of prison life for offenders who are currently incarcerated

By Eugene Atherton

"Seven Habits on the Inside" is a program started several years ago in the Colorado Department of Corrections by the Chaplaincy program with support from volunteer trainers. It was modeled after the principles presented in the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, and is delivered in collaboration with the staff of the Franklin Covey Company.

Over the years, the program has been shaped to both preserve the principles of 7Habits and to focus on the reality of prison life for offenders who are currently incarcerated. It is active in eleven Colorado correctional facilities and intentions are that it be introduced in every facility in the state.

The class series involves 8 sessions plus a graduation ceremony. The first class is a foundation class which gives an overview of the course. The remaining classes teach one of the 7Habits in each session.

The program is supported by a group of inmates selected to be "Core Group Members." They are assigned and committed to assist the instructors in teaching the course. Additionally, they serve as role models for 7Habits behavior and attitude with the other inmates.

At the beginning of each class, a Core Group Member provides an overview presentation of the material covered in the previous class. In the last 40 minutes of each class session, the students break out into several discussion groups to consider how that day’s lesson applies to their life in prison. A Core Group Member acts as a facilitator of each of the discussion groups.

The chemistry involved of instructors in combination with Core Group Members is a great contribution to the success to the program. Initial impressions along with some attempts at measuring outcome indicate a promising future for the program.

I have served as a corrections professional for 35 years. I have never seen a program so completely effective in providing hope of a better future for inmates. It is clear that nearly all inmates are looking for a way to abandon their criminal past. The change in their thinking and behavior begins to show in the first three classes and continues throughout the program.

A major element of the correctional mission in every jurisdiction is to provide resources and opportunities for inmates to exchange criminal conduct for a legitimate life through successful relations with others. Correctional history has not done well in that regard. I believe this program to be different. 7Habits on the Inside is now being offered by the Franklin Covey Company in the form of media packages and training consultation designed to create the course in a correctional environment.

For further information please contact Jeff Carney at Franklin Covey Company.

About the author

Currently in his 33rd year of service in the criminal justice field, Gene Atherton is contracted to serve as the Institutions Program Manager for the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center Rocky Mountain Region. He served 27 years for the Colorado Department of Corrections. After promoting through the ranks, he became Director of Prisons for the Western Region in Colorado until retirement in 2004. For the last fifteen years Mr. Atherton has served as a technical assistance consultant and trainer for the National Institute of Corrections on a variety of topics related to corrections. He has served as an author of numerous ACA publications. He has provided evidence in Federal Court as an expert witness on a variety of correctional issues, including conditions of confinement, use of force, unlawful discrimination, and management of high risk offenders. He currently serves as a member of several committees for the American Correctional Association.

Atherton joins CorrectionsOne through the Correctional Management Institute of Texas. See all the CMIT columnists here.

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