Monday, November 24, 2008

More Empty Beds

posted by Michele Olson
I had the opportunity recently to do something that I had never done before. Along with our Milwaukee County Program Director, I visited the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility. Let me put it in simpler terms; I went into prison to observe a marriage education course being voluntarily taken by inmates.

Going into a prison and seeing the life there was eye opening. It’s a little like watching something happen that you know about, but you’ve never experienced. Like watching a hurricane or earthquake…something we just don’t see firsthand in Wisconsin. When you see it first hand, it takes on a whole new perspective and reality.

What struck me was the willingness of the inmate participants to share with the facilitator their thoughts on relationships. The tenants of the class being taught covered the healthy steps to a healthy relationship. The participants opened up about their upbringing and their current relationships.
It is becoming more and more apparent in this country that there are many people growing up without any exposure to what a healthy relationship or a marriage looks like. There are always cases of people who just make bad choices when they’ve been given every opportunity to act responsibly, but the number of people who truly never had any chance to “know better” is astronomical. They’re simply reflecting what they’ve seen modeled in life. With the idea that knowledge is power, there are a lot of powerless people walking around making poor decisions.

I was also struck by the compassion of the Deputy Warden, Social worker and staff who really had a desire to see these men succeed. They were very thankful for what was providing…basic communication and conflict resolution skills.

It was an eye opening experience, one that I won’t forget. I’ll also remember the looks on the faces of the general population of the prison. Some of these men can be confined for up to a year in this specific facility. I wondered about each of their stories, what led them there, what they had seen and been exposed to as they went through their formative years. I thought about how their lives might have been different if they had seen healthy relationships and marriages modeled along the way, and if they had started taking classes about healthy relationships in their pre-teen years. I wondered if it would have meant less people incarcerated and more empty beds.

We know from social science research that most of society’s ills fall at the doorstep of the breakdown of the family. That’s why it’s so important that healthy relationship and marriage education be given the chance to become a part of every person’s knowledge base. It truly is a way to change the world.


Anonymous said...

This is probably one of the best blogs on this site. I think that relationship education needs to be brought to our schools so that all can have the chance of knowing what a healthy relationship is. Thank you for sharing. said...

Thanks for commenting. I agree, if we can start early with teens and everyone would have the knowledge of what a healthy relationship can be like, it would truly make a difference.