Authentic rehabilitation of criminals: A psychiatrist's view 

Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, independents and Libertarians, all are for successful rehabilitation of American criminals.  The key word is "successful."  Beyond the important discussions about the role of punishment, "paying a debt to society," psychological, moral, or spiritual redemption, and "doing the time" in common parlance, is the nature of the complex process, components, or atmosphere of a criminal's successful rehabilitation.

A GED or education in general for criminal prisoners has parallel importance to practical job training and associated social-vocational skills — not easy tasks to accomplish.  The teacher-mentors with a genuine calling to serve and teach in such prison programs are invaluable and morally majestic.

For criminals with significant histories of alcohol and substance abuse, twelve step–oriented treatment approaches and sobriety maintenance establishment are obviously crucial.  In fact, the inner searching and honest psychological inventories associated with A.A. and N.A. work with a sponsor and meeting attendance have remarkably similar qualities to successful psychotherapy experiences.  In fact, when anxiety disorders or significant personality and behavior disorders are present separate from substance abuse, group and individual therapy experiences are imperative therapeutic opportunities.

A final theme involves what I would call an inner attitude — spiritual and psychological change of heart and mind.  Some of the most profound changes of heart, mind, and spirit are observed in faith-based prison ministries as described by Charles Colson of Watergate infamy.  A close friend of mine and a psychiatrist has led a Bible study group in a local prison in his hometown.  Over the years, he has seen such changes in some of the members of his groups that are inspiring.

Jared Kushner in his remarkable bookBreaking History, eloquently describes Donald Trump's pardon of Alice Johnson, a grandmother who helped other prisoners with Christmas plays in prison.  Johnson said, "I'm free to hug my family.  I'm free to live life.  I'm free to start over.  This is the greatest day of my life."  Kushner said of Johnson, "Her emotion was raw, her joy contagious, her long suffering and love emanated from her smile."

Alice Johnson (White House photo).

Donald Trump told Kushner, "Jared, that is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  I've been around for a long time, and that was beautiful.  I can tell she is a solid person.  There must be more like that in prison.  Let's find more worthy cases to do."

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