Reaching Out From Within, Inc. (ROFW), a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1982, is a leader in rehabilitation programs for incarcerated individuals, and utilizes factual based concepts, welcoming volunteers and incarcerated men and women of all clerical and belief systems. ROFW’s rehabilitation program offers an opportunity for a “whole person” transformation for incarcerated individuals who want to make lasting changes in their behavior in order to become a role model for nonviolence, while still incarcerated, and becoming contributing members upon their return to our communities. ROFW is actively seeking nonprofit sponsors.
Prisons are hard, unfriendly places. The main function is incarceration not rehabilitation. If inmates hope to change their lives, they need the will and inner courage to do so against long odds.
Thirty-three years ago, a remarkable, self-help prison rehabilitation program was brought to the Kansas State Penitentiary by activist SuEllen Fried who persuaded officials to establish it inside the walls with the help of a Lifer’s Club member there. The idea just hit a chord. So many people had the hunger to understand the roots of violence in their lives – from child, spousal, sexual and substance abuse to issues with authority, anger management and other problems, the program became instantly accepted on the inside.
Soon, under the initiative, counseling and guidance of dedicated volunteers and caring professionals, the prison rehabilitation spread with weekly meetings becoming the norm – intensive sessions of frank soul-searching, shared intimacy and mutual respect. In the meetings, members have to participate openly by showing the courage to reveal details of their previously closed lives, question their destructive patterns and reflect on how they might change. The only thing brutal in the meetings is the honesty constantly on display.
The goal of the prison program is simple: to transform lives. To change deep down feelings of hopelessness, despair and disconnection to hope, affirmation, empathy and love. These are new emotions, totally foreign to most members until they’re able to confront and uncover them in themselves.
Over three decades, a curriculum has emerged, known affectionately as The Blue Book. This constantly evolving document in conjunction with the weekly meeting format have given thousands the opportunity to find the courage within themselves to break the relentless chain of automatic violence haunting their lives. Rates of recidivism for program members show a huge drop.
The self-help groups now operate inside every Kansas Correctional Facility for men and women. The prison program has been transplanted to North Carolina and several other states are looking at it with interest.