Prison substance-abuse program helps self-confidence, cuts recidivism
Draper • The noises coming from the gym at the Promontory facility at the Utah State Prison weren't the typical sounds of squeaking sneakers and bouncing basketballs.
Instead, the painted cinder-block walls resonated with the sounds of 30 men's bass voices repeating an affirming mantra they have said every day for at least the past year while working to overcome drug and alcohol addiction and take responsibility for their actions.
At a Thursday morning graduation for the Con-Quest program, which has 400 inmates in it at any time, the graduates were recognized for completing the program. Only about 30 walked as some inmates already had been paroled or moved to a different housing unit.
Inmates spend between 12 and 18 months in the program, undergoing intense psychotherapy and watch-dogging by other inmates, who call each other out on everything from a bad attitude to not wiping down the bathroom sink properly.
One of the most marked changes in the men who graduated Thursday was that of self-confidence. Men who wouldn't have dared get up in front of a group of people teared up in front of their fellow inmates and family members as they talked about the power of the program.
"Today I'm confident with who I am," said graduate Ervin Brafford. "I carry myself with honesty and integrity and I treat others as I would want to be treated."
Graduates' speeches were filled with moments of humor and tears over regretted past behavior or love for family members. Thanking those family was a constant refrain in the graduates' speeches.
"Thank you families for being here," said master of ceremonies and former Con-Quest graduate Kit Moser. "You're the backbone of what we do."
Dustin Dimmick has battled addiction for 14 years. He cut out his family for a long time.
"Before I started this program, it was one-and-a-half years since I had seen or talked with my parents, but now I do," he said. "I can't put a value on having a relationship with my parents."
Forming a strong relationship with family, and having a strong support network once out of prison, is highly emphasized in the program.
It appears to work. The recidivism rate for the typical prisoner is 65 percent, said Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke. For graduates of the Con-Quest program, it's only 28 percent.
Donna Kendall, the program director, encouraged the graduates to remember the hard work they've put in and the lessons they've learned as the move back into society.
"I'm calling you all out to make sure that it ends here," she said. "I don't want to see your faces again."
Nate Workman, who has been in and out of prison for drug and theft charges throughout the past decade, said he was disgusted with himself and horrified that he had treated strangers so much better than his own family. But after completing Con-Quest, he has a much better relationship with his family.
"This program has been a breath of fresh air. I think more healthy now," he said.
It's a change his mother, Jeanne, has seen, too. Her son had been through drug treatment programs before, but his attitude always stayed the same. This year, though, she has seen a "remarkable" change in him.
"He doesn't call home asking for money. He doesn't complain about anything, his circumstances, or anything at the prison," she said, the pride evident in her voice. "He's done this all on his own."
During his speech, Workman asked his mother and grandmother, Norma, to stand for recognition of their support.
"Nothing you taught me brought me here," he told them. "But everything you taught me is bringing me back."