Just over a year ago, Criminon Tennessee graduated its first class from the Criminal Justice Center (CJC) Correctional Facility in the heart of downtown Nashville. The Director of Criminon Tennessee, Tracy Fesler, was extremely proud to talk about the progress her students make during their time in the program.
“Some of these guys get in trouble because of a momentary upset—one thing sets them off and they make a mistake that puts them on the course for years of self invalidation and degradation,” says Fesler.
The Criminon program is an evidence-based intervention that creates safer communities through its education curricula for offenders. Criminon means “without crime,” and Criminon Tennessee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. According to criminontn.org, “[Criminon International] is the management body for the network of Criminon chapters and offices in over 20 countries that services over 11,000 offenders weekly.”
Fesler says most offenders begin a life of crime after they lose their own self-respect. “I worked with an inmate who told me the exact moment in her life when she lost her self-respect. She had stolen candy from a shop at a young age, and she was met with a group of adults all coming down hard on her for this—her parents, teachers—all people she looked up to were telling her she wasn’t going to make anything of herself, so she didn’t.”
The fundamental principle that underlies the Criminon approach in methodology is the restoration of the individual’s self-respect and common sense values to avoid relapse into antisocial patterns of behavior.
Fesler says another aspect is that many offenders learn by example. “They learned this lifestyle from the culture that surrounds them. They see being a drug dealer as ‘cool,’ because their role models do that. They are missing so many good opportunities because they can’t even imagine having another lifestyle,” she says.
The Criminon curricula utilize the principles and methods of author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard – who also had personal experience in law enforcement, walking the “beat” as a Special Officer in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1948. Hubbard wrote in detail about the rehabilitation of the criminal, once noting, “[Man] becomes a menace only when he has to compensate with dangerousness for his own loss of prestige.”
Criminon Tennessee works with inmates at every level. Fesler is excited to move the program even further in the coming year. “All that I do is help people restore their respect in themselves and others. This is incredible work, and I’m passionate about helping more and more people,” she says. For more information on Criminon Tennessee, visit criminontn.org.