Opening Doors® FAQs
Opening Doors targets a number of important factors related to the successful development of interpersonal skills, it is particularly focused at improving skills to resolve conflict and build healthy relationships.
Community building, affirmation, trust, listening skills, speaking effectively in conflict, the value of personal choices, learning that our thought life controls our emotions and our actions, discovering the power of taking thoughts captive and eliminating "ANTS--automatic negative thoughts," learning the value of planning ahead for successful conflict resolution, and understanding the "law of use" ---- new knowledge remains theory unless it is put into practice.
The facilitated learning (aka experiential learning) format used in the program makes it very different from most inmate programs. Opening Doors does not use lecture, workbook or video. The entire 3-day agenda is designed to maximize participant involvement in a variety of exercises and activities--some are serious and some return humor to the prison environment. But each activity has a purpose. After each completed exercise, facilitators ask questions to discuss the concepts or skills that can be learned from the activity. Facilitators then "connect" the learning from each separate activity throughout the 3 days in such a way as to build information and skills throughout the program.
One additional qualitative factor that differentiates the Opening Doors program from most other inmate programs is that it is highly successful in raising the consciousness level and the possibility of desired behavioral change for participants. Research has shown that in order to successfully change behavior everyone goes through a precontemplative and a contemplative stage--no matter what type of behavior change is desired. These two stages of change always precede preparation and action which are directed at actually changing behavior. In order to assist individuals in moving toward change, Opening Doors focuses on those factors that increase the likelihood of successful behavioral change: increased consciousness, which is invaluable because becoming aware of the undesired behavior is the first step in changing it; increased awareness of defenses used most frequently to avoid change; and the development of supporting relationships.
Research has indicated that many inmates have not historically done well in the typical class-room setting. The "what works" research for inmate rehabilitation is clear that attempts to develop new skills are more effective when the teaching technique matches the learning style of the inmates. Experiential learning is interactive and maximizes the investment the inmate makes in his or her own learning. Moreover, learning that takes place at a "heart" level is more likely to improve behavior than principles that are taught in a traditional classroom setting which typically involves "head" knowledge alone.
An Opening Doors program is usually facilitated by a team of 4 trained facilitators. Often the team consists of 2 outside individuals from the faith community (individuals who volunteer their time--a significant contributing factor to the success of Opening Doors programs, and who have the right "heart" for "investing" in the life of another person) and 2 inmates who have been trained to facilitate. The lead facilitator is always an outside volunteer. Inmate facilitators never have sole control of the program.
No. People in the faith communities are the ones that are most likely to have the heart to volunteer their time. In fact, inmates often express new "hope" upon learning that program facilitators freely give their time to do this program for them. However, facilitators are prohibited (by written contract with Opening Doors of Ohio, Inc.) from engaging in any conduct that attempts to "convert" inmate participants to their own faith beliefs. The familiar saying, "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" accurately describes the training philosophy and methodology used by Opening Doors.
The minimum number of participants is 10 and the maximum is 20 per program. Slightly smaller groups are most effective when facilitating the program with women.
No. All facilitators are required to model the self-disclosure that is necessary for a successful program. Such disclosure would require staff to "cross the line" by divulging personal information and life experiences in front of inmates. Volunteers are able to do this effectively without the same concerns that apply to staff.
The frequency of programs depends on the Institution and the availability of the outside volunteers to facilitate. It is expected that most Institutions will offer the program approximately once every quarter.
Opening Doors has now completed programs for more than 1,000 inmates in the Ohio prisons. The written evaluations of those that have completed an Opening Doors program are consistently positive. (This is true without regard to gender, race, religious beliefs, length of incarceration, security level--minimum to super maximum, age or amount of time before release). Many inmates will comment that it is the best program they have ever attended. A 5-point rating scale is used in the evaluation process and 80-100% of inmates uniformly rate the program in every aspect measured either 4 or 5, with one exception. The lowest rating is consistently given to the area of "beginning to build trust" and it is not uncommon for inmates to rate this area as a 3 (or below).
Opening Doors is a voluntary program. Because it is participatory, inmates should always be given the option of attending. In fact, an inmate who begins an Opening Doors program but does not want to continue attending all 3 days is permitted to leave the program. In our experience, this rarely happens.
As of this date, one or more programs have been held in 8 different Ohio prisons: Madison, Mansfield, Marion, Ohio Reformatory for Women, Ohio State Penitentiary, Ross, Trumbull and Warren. Current plans include expanding into some of Ohio's juvenile correctional facilities in 2006.
A written evaluation is conducted after each program and the results are summarized. Additionally, Opening Doors of Ohio, Inc. maintains a data base of past participants and is presently considering how to design appropriate follow-up steps to further evaluate program impact. Grant funding is being sought to conduct demonstration projects which will permit outcome measurements from the program in the context of Opening Doors® In The Family.