Thursday, June 28, 2007

Toastmasters teaching inmates public speaking skills

One of the cool things I was privileged to witness at the Restorative Justice Conference in Kerrville was the presentation of completion certificates to two female ex-inmates who'd participated in the Toastmasters public speaking program while incarcerated. A gentleman who'd been with the organization for many years in the Texas Panhandle visited the prison unit weekly where they were incarcerated to mentor women who'd volunteered for the program. One of the gals had been out of prison for three weeks, the other just five days.

It was really neat - both were so bright, well-spoken, and deeply appreciative of the fellow who'd volunteered his time. (I didn't catch his name, but to me this fellow is a true, unheralded hero.)

I've heard of Toastmasters my whole life, and known a few people who've participated to hone their public speaking skills. But I've never heard before of the program working with prison inmates. What a great idea! Those kind of communication skills will benefit those women for the rest of their lives.

See a video example of inmates participating in the Toastmasters program, and go here for more information if you'd like to participate in such a program.


David Tarrell said...

Enjoyed this article and the one about restorative justice, as it echoed a lot of the things I see as a p.d. in Omaha. Just this morning I read a victim impact statement where the owner of the year old client stole sought $16K in "pain and summering" restitution. He obviously won't get it, and tthe judge laughed, but I keep thinking there has got to be a better way.

I once worked with a guy who trained inmates in SAlt Lake's prison about job skills and other things aimed at reducing recidivism. He described being scared to go into prison but soon learned that the "tough" inmates reacted most positively to anything that resembled a diploma or that rewarded their achievement. he hadn't anticipated this, but it was so new to them to be praised and not just screamed at.

Anonymous said...

This is a step in the right direction. I've always said that the focus in prison should be shifted from Punishment, to EDUCATION. The class mentioned in this article also helps raise the self esteem, a necessary item when interviewing for a job. Unfortunitly, "breaking down" the prisoner is a matter of fact in U.S. prisons, so will counteract the class. The shift needs to come first, BEFORE the classes start.