I've written so much about the dysfunction, deceit and organizational sickness within the Bureau of Prisons, that when they get something right, I must write about it. There is clearly one area here that rises in sharp contrast to the culture--the Psychology Department.
My first contact with one of the psychologists was during an initial examination when I arrived in August, 2015. This exam is part of the orientation of every inmate, but it was apparent from her questions that she had carefully read my Pre-Sentencing Investigation Report and was familiar with my background and family history. The examination was thorough and her feedback was helpful. I had no contact with the department for a long time after my intake exam. There are 3 clinicians on staff responsible for 1200 inmates at the Low Security Prison next door and for 175 campers, so I tried not to bother them.
Fast forward to early 2018, and I noticed the psychologists were offering a class on Anger Management at the camp. I didn't consider myself angry, but I know a few people who are angry with me, so I signed up for the class. Thankfully, I was one of 10 inmates chosen for the class where I quickly admitted that it's almost impossible to be here without being angry about something. The class forced me to identify the causes and develop proactive skills to manage those feelings.
A few months later, I was fortunate enough to be selected for another small class on Basic Cognitive Skills offered by the psychologists. In this weekly class, also lasting 9 weeks, we looked closely at the types of thinking that can lead to criminal behavior. Sadly, I saw some of my own sick thinking repeated in those discussions. Again we looked at ways to step back and rationally and logically react to difficult situations.
In both these classes, I worked and learned with many men who have been incarcerated for most of their adult life. It was exciting to watch the changes take place, as new ways of thinking and responding were suggested, debated, and implemented. If Congress, the President or the Department of Justice is looking for what prison learning should be, I recommend a visit to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, but they should ONLY talk to one of the psychologists.