Prison Inmate Tames Anger Through Forgiveness

Editor’s Note: This unsolicited article was written by an inmate in the Columbia Correctional Institution at Portage, Wisconsin, and first appeared in the Institution’s September inmate newsletter. It is reprinted verbatim. 

September 2016 – This is my fourth incarceration and will be my last because of the life sentence I am now serving. During this time I have been in many groups, programs, counseling sessions, ad nauseum and was never able to understand why I kept hurting people.

At Columbia Correctional Institution I was assigned a psychologist who suggested I participate in a group based on the book Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope by Dr. Robert Enright of UW-Madison’s Psychology Department. I made the best decision of my life when I accepted the challenge.

This was the prisoncuffsonly program that ever asked me, “What happened to you to make you the way you are?” Everyone in the group had stories to tell about how they had been used, abused, and/or misused by those they trusted and/or looked up to. We began the process as a group of individuals mostly afraid to tell our stories or let others in. As we plodded through the first weeks some wanted to give up, some felt their stories too bad, and some just didn’t trust enough to share.

As we progressed and our stories came out, we were exposed to people we never truly knew – in my case, people I most likely would never have associated with. We became close like a family and knew the group was a safe place to deal with the anger and resentment that had plagued some of us over fifty years.

“This is the best program I have ever been associated with. . .”

We could talk about those who wronged us and altered our lives, and we could begin to forgive them and release our anger.

This is the best program I have ever been associated with and would recommend the book or program to anyone. If it’s not available in your institution, talk to you psychologists or chaplains about calling CCI for more information. You can also contact Dr. Enright at the following address: Dr. Robert Enright, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dept. of Psychology, 1025 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 3706.

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