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Non-violent communication training needed in Michigan's prisons

• May 2, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Doug Tjapkes of Humanity for Prisoners says prison guards as well as inmates need non-violent communication training.

In a post on his organization’s website, the Spring Lake man painted a picture of why with a story about a prisoner whose mother had died.

In prison, “there’s no way to mourn. No one to talk to. There’s no quiet time for reflection. Other family members can’t be there with you to share memories. You may not even attend the memorial service,” Tjapkes wrote.

“So a young, 28-year-old Connor was hurting ... on the day of his mother’s funeral, and it’s no surprise that he got into an argument with a corrections officer. From that point on, specific details aren’t available, but we’ve received enough reports that substantiate the final chapter of the story. Connor told the officer his mother had died, and the aggravated officer replied, ‘(expletive) your mom!’

“Connor’s response was a quick punch to the officer’s face. And predictably, other guards raced to help and Connor became a punching bag.”

Tjapkes said he wants to avoid using “a broad brush when painting a picture of Michigan prison guards.” He said it’s not an easy job and “many prisoners live up to their reputation and make life miserable for these officers.”

So, in recent years, Tjapkes and a former Humanity for Prisoners Board chairman, Dan Rooks, have traveled to prisons across the state to lead workshops.

“I talk about the services that HFP can and does provide, and Dan, who is a practicing clinical psychologist, talks about non-violent communication,” Tjapkes wrote. “In fact, Dan is so adamant in his determination to help prisoners with anger management that he teaches a course, twice a month, on that very topic in a state prison.”

Read the complete post: “Prison guards need non-violent communication training, too!”

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