‘Fix communication, lower the anger’
The Bell County Detention Center just graduated its first inmate from a 26-week anger management course.
The course focuses on domestic violence education and anger management. If a person is a state inmate and completes the entire 26-week program, they can have time taken off of their sentence. County inmates however, do not get time off.
The inmate, Brandon McCarty, had been working with Jim Woodring and Zach Bay in the program.
Woodring is from the Bell County Peace and Kentucky Homes Network and works as a family relations counselor, domestic violence counselor and victim’s advocate in the court. He also does drug court and sees private counseling clients in the area.
Bay is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Middlesboro, and assists Woodring.
Woodring will counsel an entire cell, which often holds a dozen or more inmates at a time.
Woodring stated that he concentrates on one of two cells when he does his courses, to build a relationship. The graduate, McCarty, just happened to be in one of the cells Woodring visited.
“My experience, at base, is that everybody has a communication issue. If you fix the communication issues you fix a lot of the anger and domestic violence. I’m doing mostly communication skills workshops,” said Woodring.
When asked how receptive the inmates are to Woodring and his program, he stated that there are two layers to that question.
He said that due to the nature of being incarcerated, any new face is welcomed, but at the same time it takes some time to gain credibility with the inmates.
“These are guys that have had lots of drugs going on, lots of violence and have faced a lot of situations, and they don’t want to get burned again. And trust is not a common thing with them. That’s why I keep going to same the cell — to build some kind of rapport. The longer you go they get to know you, you get to know them,” said Woodring.
Bay stated he “backs Woodring up” and is “kind of the sidekick.”
“I try to collect items that might be a gift to the prisoners. I can get some magazines or that kind of thing. Sometimes they’ll ask for things — like a certain book or certain item and I can work on getting that,” said Bay.
Woodring said that pencil and paper are high demand items for the inmates.
Woodring stated that getting to the heart of effective communication is key to anger management, because anger stems from how people communicate.
“You fix communication, you lower the anger,” he said.
Bell County Jailer Gary Ferguson stated, “I’m very appreciative to have this kind of program…often times when inmates come in they have all kinds of issues already going on. To be able to focus on a program of this type for several weeks in a row and to complete it is huge. It says a lot about the direction they will probably be going in whenever they do exit our facility and enter back into society.”