Our perception shapes our reality, but when trauma has affected us, it alters how we perceive events to protect ourselves. Trauma changes how we see the world, our place in it, and our sense of safety. This transformation can be summed up by the three E's: event, experience, effect. Those who have endured trauma live in a constant state of hypervigilance, seeing their daily experiences through a different lens.
A significant portion of incarcerated individuals have faced chronic or repeated traumas, and these traumas can be amplified during their time in correctional facilities. The environment can easily evoke feelings of fear, panic, and agitation. Recognizing this, CoreCivic has taken a significant step towards fostering healing and rehabilitation through staff training in trauma-informed care. This approach centers on empathy, compassion, and sensitivity, with the aim of reshaping how both staff and incarcerated individuals perceive and interact within the correctional setting. Leading this initiative is Michelle Iannucci, director of Treatment and Behavioral Services at CoreCivic. Ianucci is educating and training CoreCivic staff in the fundamental principles of trauma-informed care and its profound implications for incarcerated individuals and those who work with them.
Trauma-informed care training encourages a shift from a judgmental and punitive stance to one that is empathetic. At its core, is the ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes. Iannucci emphasizes that this skill is necessary for helping victims reframe their trauma. A caring staff member who can reflect feelings, validate emotions, and accept the resident's perspective has an opportunity to help the resident remove the lens of trauma through which they view their experiences. Creating a sense of safety is essential for behavior change, and trauma-informed care asks caregivers to bear witness as residents express their fears, feelings, and perspectives. Providing a space for residents to voice their turmoil and then validating and valuing their experiences creates the safety needed for reflection, consideration, and eventual change.
Trauma-informed care empowers choice and voice, which are often stripped away during traumatic events and incarceration. As agency and self-advocacy are restored, relationships between staff and residents are strengthened. Building trust and transparency is crucial for helping incarcerated individuals transition from insecurity to empowerment. Staff members are taught to use language that promotes safety and to collaborate with treatment staff on therapeutic initiatives. In more focused sessions, counselors and residents work together to foster healing and adopt new, more prosocial behaviors. CoreCivic's leadership recognizes that this approach must be facilitated and supported through policy governance and continuous monitoring of the physical environment to ensure the physical and mental safety and well-being of all.
It's important to acknowledge that both staff and incarcerated individuals may carry personal traumas into their interactions, influencing their perspectives and reactions. Trauma-informed care training raises awareness of the profound impact our own traumas can have on our responses. This knowledge empowers individuals to be more reflective and less reactive, leading to productive resolutions in challenging situations.
Trauma-informed care is a potent framework for healing and rehabilitation within correctional facilities, emphasizing empathy, compassion, and sensitivity while making emotional safety a cornerstone of the rehabilitation process. By recognizing and responding to trauma constructively, both staff and incarcerated individuals can move towards a mentally healthier future. CoreCivic's commitment to this approach reflects a profound respect for each resident's healing journey during their time incarcerated, ultimately promoting successful re-entry into society. As this approach becomes second nature, our communities transition from merely understanding trauma to actively engaging in programs that prioritize emotional safety and remove the obstructive lens of trauma from one's point of view. In this newfound clarity lies a vision of hope, transformation, and a future of possibilities.