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Working Toward Empathy and Understanding

CoreCivic | 6/19/18 7:41 AM

Stephanie Salois 2

CoreCivic managers find that inmates take a critical step toward successful reentry when they make amends for their past.

“They need to be able to change their narrative with themselves,” said Stephanie Salois, who facilitates Victim Impact programs at Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby, Montana.

“They need to be able to say, ‘What I did was terrible. I can’t change that, but I can recognize what I did was wrong, and use that to help me do better.’”

Over the course of 17 weeks, Salois leads discussions with inmates to explore how offenses ranging from property crimes to murder hurt victims and ripple through communities. Through workbooks, discussions with crime victims and other tools, they review the impact of crime on victims’ families in direct, clear ways.

Newspaper clippings and media reports are used to illustrate how crime affects their community outside prison walls.

“They have to answer a lot of ‘what-if’ questions,” Salois said. “What if this was you? What if this was your mom? It’s eye-opening for many.”

Constructive emotions can run high when crime victims share their experiences with the inmates.

“I’ve seen inmates cry and admit they never thought about their victims’ point of view,” she said. “We had one man in the middle of a long sentence who had not been friendly with other inmates. After our program, he said he began wanting to feel empathy.”

Salois said inmates who go through the program change over time. Those who finish have a better understanding of how their actions can impact others.

“One inmate here has changed his entire demeanor,” she said. “Now he has almost two years of clear conduct. Things like that make you feel like you’re doing something right. They show how much safety and reentry are intertwined.”

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Topics: Reducing Recidivism