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Dallas Character Council Program Studies "Trustworthiness"

Tags: Dallas
March 23, 2020 12:00 AM
By: DOC Staff

PA Coat of Arms

By Imam Arvas

The Character Council Program (CCP) has been running at SCI Dallas since 2019 with the support of the administration, Superintendent Kevin Ransom, Deputy Superintendents Stacy Miller and Jeraldo Aponte, and Program Manager Michael Goyne. It is a five-week long program consisting of the Six Pillars: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Each week a short skit is performed with a moderator, followed by a discussion with the audience. The skit is written and performed by inmates, and the moderator is an inmate as well. With this format, the inmates are put into positions of responsibility for the skits and discussion groups. Last year the program consisted of a small panel, followed by a group discussion.

The week's activities began with a welcome speech and a background of the CCP, including a congratulatory message from the Deputy Superintendent. As of the date of this article, we have received permission to record the program and share our success on the inmate's tv channel and the rest of the Department of Corrections. If one wishes this program to be mirrored at their location, please speak to Dallas' administration.

Everyone in the audience received a copy of the "Six Pillars of Character" pamphlet. In the opening statement, the moderator shared part of our mission statement, "To live and learn based on the Six Pillars of Character and create an environment where we can respect and treat each other as human beings."

The narrator then gave an overview of the skit, which will evolve over the next five weeks to show the change in each character. He said the performance was not the focus; instead we should focus on the situation and how we see ourselves, our character and our willingness to perform these actions, regardless if we are the bystander or the actor.

The week's topic was trustworthiness. The skit was about Jeff, a new inmate who trusts his cellmate, and shortly after, Jeff's trust is taken advantage of. Bumpie, Jeff's cellmate, sets Jeff up to have all of his belongings stolen from their cell while they were out for lunch. Many men shared their experiences in a lively discussion that followed, some of the ones that stood out were:

  • One older man with over 20 years inside felt everyone should be prepared for prison, based on the life they were leading outside "In the game".
  • A young man, new to prison, admitted he was like Jeff when he came in (overly trusting) because he was leading a "normal life" on the outside, coming from a good family and a good environment. He made a bad decision to get high one night and killed someone. His first encounter with the law resulted in a long-term sentence for him. Being completely unprepared and knowing no one inside, he admitted that now with two years as an Inmate, he is looking for a good role model among long term offenders, so that he can learn, grow, and come out of here as better man (not a bitter man, or a "wolf").
  • Another man stated that if we think we are of good character, and we see evil and do or say nothing, that we are part of the problem. People of good character should step in and say something. "We are a society here, everyone deserves to live in a peaceful environment, we have to find a middle ground. Just because we live in cages does not mean we have to live like animals." It should irritate any of us to see someone being taken advantage of. 
  • Another observation is that the older men can become attached to the way they have done things in the past, and do not think of looking for fresh approaches. However, that is how we fall behind, we have to keep up with the changes in our society and learn new ways of thinking from our interactions with both younger and older individuals.
  • Another young man admitted in his past he was like the cellmate "Bumpie" as mentioned previously from the performance. Now being a long time offender, he hopes to change that way of thinking by participating in this program.
  • One man who spoke said he was trustworthy. That was the point of this skit, to be better as men in this small society.

Lastly, a quote from one of the older men that stood out. "Real men will stand for something"; "Real men don't do certain things."

We can make this place a better community.

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