Miracle at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution Forest

Cindy SanfordJuan (name changed), convicted of aggravated assault at 21, has been in solitary for five years. He has seen and experienced it all: brutal cell extractions, hunger strikes, flooded pods and endless hours spent screaming at his cell door.

By the time I met him, he’d racked up over 80 misconducts in numerous prisons and earned the enmity of most of the officers forced to deal with him. Hardly your model inmate.

Yet from our very first visit, I was struck by the humility and sadness in his eyes. Somehow, despite his “bad-boy” reputation, I sensed there was more to him, something worth saving.

Unfortunately, that was not an opinion shared by the officers at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Camp Hill. While corrections officers now receive some mental health training, most still have a mind-set geared toward control and punishment, not mental health care. So it was probably inevitable, given Juan’s conduct, that he would have a rough road in prison and numerous conflicts with staff.

But I am a registered nurse, not a corrections officer. My training never presumed that harsh punishment was the best cure for behavior disorders. A few months after I met Juan, he sent me his medical records, which were a depressing read to say the least.

Addicted to crack at birth, a victim of severe child abuse and neglect, four suicide attempts as a teen, multiple mental health hospitalizations and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. If that weren’t enough strikes against him, an MRI of his head revealed mild brain damage, presumed to be the result of a beating by his parents. In my view, this was a kid who never had a chance.

“Do you have any contacts or support on the outside?” I asked during that first visit.

Juan looked down but not before his eyes clouded over. “No.”

“Not even a friend — or some other relative?”

“No. There’s nobody,” he said quietly.

I smiled reassuringly, hoping it conveyed the right amount of support without leaving the impression I felt sorry for him. But it was hard not to. Far too many young people, seriously abused and neglected as kids, end up right where he is.

Some enforcement types refer to people like me as “hug a thugs.” I know how they think because I used to be one of them. My grandfather was a New York City police officer. My husband is a retired wildlife conservation officer.

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“Resilience” premieres at Sundance Film Festival to sold-out houses

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

(l to r) Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, who appears in Resilience; Robert Redford, father of Resilience director James Redford; Clifford Beers Guidance Clinic site coordinator Laura Lawrence, who appears in Resilience; Resilience producer and director James Redford; Resilience co-producer Dana Schwartz

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Resilience, a documentary that looks at the birth of the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and how it spawned a movement across the world, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. The first two screenings — both on Friday — were sold out.

Not bad for a film whose director, James Redford, wasn’t even planning on submitting it to the festival.

The buzz started before the festival even began. Wired.com listed Resilience as No. 2 in the 25 documentaries not to miss. WhatNotToDoc.com also singled it out. Nonfictionfilm.com did a story about the documentary.

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Integrating ACEs increases hope for healing at One Hope United in Illinois

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

Tammy Ambre (l) and Keri Bechelli of One Hope United

One Hope United attempts to lead those affected by childhood trauma down a Healing Path.

That’s the name of a three-year-old program that has brought a different approach to helping people with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The program operates out of One Hope United’s office in Gurnee, IL, north of Chicago, and three others in the metropolitan area.

“It’s specifically trauma-based treatment, rooted in evidence-based practices,” says Jill Novacek, director of programs for the four Illinois offices of One Hope United. The organization works to ensure safe, loving environments for children by educating and empowering them and their parents—or, if need be, foster parents. The program serves children from

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Judges can do enormous good if they look at what works for juveniles

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By Judge Steven Teske

Champions for change is key to reform. No champions, no change.

No matter the number of evidence-based programs we identify, and the best approaches and models to deliver them, they are meaningless unless someone calls attention to them.

And when all else fails, the law must be changed to force leaders to lead.

Mandating change is sometimes necessary because leadership is like a flashlight — what we see depends on who is holding the flashlight. Not all leaders direct the circumscribed beam of light in the direction of what works.

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Mind powers: Meditation matters for special education students

Students participating in the Mindfulness Meditation program at Five Acres School in Altadena, Calif.

Students participating in the mindfulness program at Five Acres School in Altadena, CA. ____________________________________________

By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleforSocialChange.org

While meditation has expanded in recent years from a zen-seeker’s path to higher consciousness, to a best practice for hard-charging CEOs, it’s now gaining a foothold at a school in Southern California serving students with serious emotional and behavioral issues.

Administrators at the Five Acres School in Altadena, CA, are testing whether meditation and mindfulness can help students succeed in the classroom. A new mindfulness program implemented there in two semesters over the past year has helped pupils stay in the classroom and minimize emotional outbursts that can derail the learning process, according to administrators.

Students at Five Acres have ended up at the school because of behavioral issues that have led them to be

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Keeping trauma-informed teachers in Oakland, CA, schools

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Dr. Joyce Dorado, director of UCSF’s HEARTS program

 

by Shane Downing at ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

Last New Year’s Day, when 13-year-old Lee Weathersby III was shot and died in Oakland, CA, nearly 200 of his middle school peers and teachers received therapy.

In the Oakland Unified School District, Sandra Simmons’ job is to help coordinate that therapy on school campuses. As a behavioral health program manager for the district, Simmons oversees crisis response across the district. She has organized behavioral health training and counseling for students, teachers, staff, and administrators for the past five years.

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Momentum grows for trauma-informed movement in Tennessee

Atennessee

A little less than two years ago, a group of ACEs activists from Memphis came to a meeting of the Philadelphia ACEs Task Force and made a site visit to the 11th Street Family Health Services for “information and enlightenment,” according to Chris Peck, a member of the six-person delegation. Since then, these and other leaders in Tennessee are poised to take what they have started in Memphis statewide, demonstrating that ACEs research has the power to galvanize communities and even whole states to make fundamental changes to benefit children, adults, and families.

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