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Thresholds & Decisions


Volunteer To Go To Jail?!

What if you could go to jail, and go home at the end of the day? No lawyers fees. No record. What if you could help someone else not go back to jail? No crow bar, no tunnel, just the tools for making decisions. in Spring 2009 we will once again be hosting training sessions for volunteers interested in teaching decision making skills to people incarcerated at the Sullivan County Community Corrections Center as well as the Grafton County Department of Corrections (GCDOC.)

"If it is to be, it is up to me," is how Betty Abbott, Thresholds Director Emeritus sums up the Thresholds and Decisions (T&D) course. The five steps: see the situation clearly; know what you want; expand the possibilities; evaluate and decide; and act. Trained volunteers use the professionally developed, structured curriculum to teach decision-making, problem solving, goal setting and image building. Superintendent Ross Cunningham said, "The Sullivan County House of Corrections is excited to be able to work with RSVP to bring in new programming for offenders currently incarcerated."

Since 1991, over 292 inmates have graduated from T&D at the GCDOC in North Haverhill, New Hampshire. RSVP & The Volunteer Center, which serves Grafton and Sullivan Counties, and sponsors Thresholds locally, provides training for volunteers at no cost to the volunteers. To find out more, or to register for the training, call Teresa Volta toll free: 1-877-711-7787 or email: for more information. The training, volunteer manuals, and participant handbooks are being funded in part by grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service, United Way of Sullivan County, and Sullivan County.

Who can become a volunteer teacher? Anyone over age 18 (who is not on the facility's staff or does not have family incarcerated at the facility,) from any walk of life who is willing to have references checked, submit a criminal background check, take the training, co-teach with other volunteers, and follow the curriculum. The six week commitment involves meeting with an inmate one-on-on for 1 hour twice a week, plus the time it takes to review the curriculum and prepare for class.

"What's in it for the volunteers?" Sheila Asselin, an RSVP volunteer says, "It's the most satisfying volunteer see the basic good in anyone...that most people are redeemableÓthey have more good than bad...learning about them, I learn about myself." Sheila's advice to anyone afraid of going into the jail, "It's probably the safest place you could be!" Volunteers' lives are enriched by reviving their own knowledge and learning new things. T&D volunteers have been recognized nationally with a Daily Points of Light award, as well as the National Association of Counties Acts of Caring award.

Inmates participate on a voluntary basis; they are not court- mandated, required or coerced to take the course. The recidivism rate for Thresholds graduates at GCDOC is about 10% less than the general corrections population. This not only saves tax dollars, but helps to support people who will be moving back into the community to live and work. Last year, seven offenders from Sullivan County's Therapeutic Housing Unit graduated from the initial class.

The impact of volunteer teachers? They're non-threatening because they are not part of the staff of the institution. They must care or they would not be there. They are punctual and dependable. They are free. They free up the institution's personnel for other things. They want to be there, so they abide by the rules. Volunteers involve and educate the community by bringing it into the institution. Thresholds volunteers are well trained and have a lifetime of knowledge to give.

Thresholds is based on the contention that behavioral change is motivated by the creation of a changed self image. T&D teaches that decision making is the only tool one has to maintain control of one's environment. It also teaches that decision making is a skill that most people can learn to use. It teaches how to choose and condition attitudes and to exercise freedoms while coping effectively with the limits of daily life. By expanding possibilities and choosing a complimentary attitude one begins to accept responsibility for him/herself. Anyone can reach realistic goals. As the workbook states, "Everyone is born to choose; no one is born to lose." Making realistic choices or decisions gives the individual power over his/her life and makes the individual productive, restores values, and enables him/her to live responsibly within the limits and values of self, society and the world.

Thresholds volunteer In His Own Words: Dick Highter

Thresholds and Decisions in Maine

RSVP of Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.

RSVP and
The Volunteer Center
Mailing address: 10 Campbell Street, Lebanon, NH 03766
Call toll-free: 1-877-711-7787