The Art of Communication is a program offered to qualifying adults in custody (AICs) at a number of Oregon Department of Corrections’ institutions across the state. Developed by Chaplain Trime Persinger at Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI), the course teaches AICs how to build positive relationships and manage conflict situations through everyday conversations. This post is part of a series which aims to share the stories of AICs who have been impacted by the program.
Below, AIC Juventino Santibanez-Castro uses the tools he learned in the program to react differently in a tense situation. AIC Santibanez-Castro shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:
I was in the day room and saw a phone open. I grabbed it and started calling my family. I tried to put my PIN number in when Inmate Brandon came to me. He was yelling and flipping out about the phone, saying, “Why are you grabbing the phone? I’ve been waiting for so long. The other person was supposed to give the phone to me.”
The way he was talking to me, I thought I had to handle something. There were lots of people around and I was concerned what they would think if I did not react. But I was taking the class and I thought of the tools. They helped me to understand the situation and react differently. I said, “I didn’t know you were in line for the phone. They haven’t answered my call. Here’s the phone. When you’re done with your call, please give the phone back to me. When we’re both done, I’d like to talk to you.”
I hung up and Brandon got the phone. He made his call. Then I called my family and talked for a short time, maybe five minutes.
After my call I saw Brandon sitting in a chair alone. I went to him and said, “Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk?”
Me: “I don’t have anything against you. I forgive you for what happened a few minutes ago. I would like to know what’s the problem. What’s the issue to make you react like that? I might be able to help you.”
Brandon started telling me about his life and how many problems he had—family, kids, and stuff. After that he said, “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I don’t know what happened in that moment. I felt like you were jumping in front of me and disrespecting me. I know it’s not your fault. Thank you for giving me the phone and understanding the situation, because you didn’t have any clue that I was waiting for the phone. I know that if you had reacted differently, things would have gone bad.”
He gave me his hand and said, “Thank you for who you are and for your behavior. It is rare to find somebody to act the way you acted.”
When he had yelled at me about the phone, it was hard for me to take that step back and cross the bridge. I did it anyway. I learned that when you cross the bridge there is more peace in your heart. I felt relief for him and for me. That made me happy.