Written by Allison Nanni
The graduates of the University of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) Take Ten program dined on Barnaby’s pizza, homemade chili, cake and Culver’s frozen custard. As inmates of the Indiana Department of Correction South Bend Community Re-Entry Facility, the 19 program participants were both unaccustomed to and especially appreciative of the fare served at the festive graduation ceremony.
The celebration marked the end of Take Ten, the 10-week, skills-based violence prevention program that builds conflict resolution expertise. Although the program is known for more than a decade of success in the school setting with youth, Take Ten also engages adult participants by providing both realistic scenarios and positive alternatives to violence.
The re-entry facility’s superintendent, Greg Cress, describes the purpose of the program: “Inmates are tasked with handling conflicts in daily interactions, whether here at the facility, on the job or ultimately upon returning to the community. There are cognitive things you can do with inmates to change the way they see the world. It is especially important to prepare them for when they get out.”
After 35 years on South Michigan Street in South Bend, the re-entry facility was relocated last year to the city’s north side. As a result, the program lost many of its volunteers. Officers at the new location had close ties with the University of Notre Dame and the Robinson Community Learning Center’s Take Ten program. They knew the program worked well with youth. Meeting with parents had always been a key part of Take Ten, so the officers and RCLC staff knew the program’s principles and values resonated with adults as well.
When Take Ten’s program director, Ellen Kyes, was asked to bring Take Ten to the facility, she accepted immediately. Kyes says, “I’d begun working with parents and other adults and felt Take Ten would be effective in a custodial setting. We have now served four cohorts of inmates and seen great results. Many of the men have expressed a desire to make changes and handle conflict better upon their release.”
Take Ten graduate Joshua Pillow, 34, arrived at the re-entry facility after completing an eight-month therapeutic program at Westville Correction Facility. Although a lot of the Take Ten principles and values were similar to those he learned at Westville, Pillow said Take Ten allowed him to better understand how his anger affects others. “Anger has always been a big problem for me, “says Pillow, who is slated to return home within 90 days. “My teachers, Ellen Kyes and Rachael Foster, have helped me to retrain my mind to think through every negative emotion that comes up.”
Pillow, now working daily for a collision repair company, explains the cognitive “ABC’s.” “‘A’ is for awareness. First I have to become aware of the angry feeling. Then I look at ‘B,’ my beliefs about that feeling. The last thing I do is think about ‘C,’ the consequences for acting on those negative beliefs. It is hard to turn negative beliefs into positive ones, but it is worth it.”