Freedom Behind Bars
Life Coach Training for Teen Girls in Prison By Reuel Hunt
When you think “Juvenile Inmate”, what comes to mind? Perhaps you envision out of control children, rude, disobedient, misguided, untrustworthy, and even useless people. Unless we personally know someone that we love and respect within the incarcerated justice system, we tend to look at this population very unfavorably. I know I had these negative notions about prisoners until I went behind bars and started talking to them.
Through Coaching Kids, Inc, I began visiting the Rite of Passage – Betty Marler Center in Denver, Colorado in 2005 and the Ridgeview Academy in 2001. CKI staff and volunteers bring life coaching skills to a group of incarcerated young girls on a weekly basis. Each week a different concept is introduced, explored, and eventually integrated into their lives. Think back to your coaching training. Remember how powerful learning about values, perspectives and how to really listen was? Now imagine what those skills provide for girls who never learned how to love themselves or communicate powerfully. The transformation I witness every week is unbelievable.
The program that Coaching Kids, Inc. (CKI) brings to these inmates offers a new way of thinking and an opportunity for real change. We create a feeling of comfort and safety for the group. They¡¯ve often never felt that kind of safety before. This sources a new calmness and brings the group into the present moment. With that, the girls can express their thoughts and feelings more freely than they ever have. Who would have thought that such freedom was possible behind bars? We provide them a new vision of self and the world around them, show them new ways of finding hope, teach tools for communication, self-awareness, discovery and creation, and offer them a vision of a positive future.
We use the very same coaching skills that you use with your clients. We show that failing is part of the process of life and that staying the course and recovering are keys to attaining success. We focus on the positive, and we model being present, failing, staying, recovering, co-activity, integrity and compassion.
Mentoring is another way of connecting with and supporting the girls. By one-on-one mentoring, CKI is giving external support to build their future selves. We look at what success means to each individual and to help the girls develop a realistic and structured plan to attain their new vision of life ahead. We encourage the girls to see themselves in a positive light both in the present and the future, thus creating a strong connection to the lives the girls dream of living and lives they are living now.
Most of the girls in this program realize there is a need for change in their lives because without a change they will return to being locked up, and according to them, that is not the desired outcome. Even though we all know that change takes time, it¡¯s remarkable to see the shifts in these girls after just a few weeks. The volunteers who provide the coaching are profoundly affected, too. This is a give and take relationship. The girls are taking the time to listen while the volunteers are giving them an opportunity to grow and vice versa.
The ability for youth to change is immense and relies on their ability to absorb new skills and concepts. . Whether these kids attend a private high school in Maui, an alternative school for students unable to attend a traditional high school in the Rocky Mountains or an inner city school in a big city, youth are very receptive to life coaching and life coach training. Though it takes a great deal of trust, communication, and a safe environment to create a connection with the youth, once this is established, the flood gates of learning and hope are opened.
Another piece to facilitating the change within these youth is the adults and young adults providing this material. The youth will respond greater and are more open to this type of work when the material is provided by people who show their own vulnerabilities, trustworthiness and openness.
Our future depends upon training strong, skilled and healthy youth. The power of coaching lies in its adaptability ¨C from boardroom to classroom to prison, these skills make a difference. Many coaches have connected with a vision of every person in the world having a coach. The power and impact of that vision is immense. At CKI, we¡¯re doing what we can to make sure that kids behind bars are included in that vision.