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 Jerome Sloan explains how the program has changed his mindset. AIC Sloan shared his experience with Trime Persinger, who wrote it down as follows:
I was always emotionally reactive—from the age of five I would run away from home if I thought I was going to get into trouble or if I was resentful about something. People who didn’t react seemed corny to me.
When I was 19 years old I was sentenced to life without parole. Of my first seven years in prison, I spent over four years in the hole (Disciplinary Segregation Unit). Then I tried to escape and spent two more years in IMU (Intensive Management Unit). My sister sent me self-help books; I was trying to find something. When I got out of IMU that time I wasn’t a gang member any more. But I still did drugs and brought drugs into prison. I went to IMU again—that was when I finally got clean.
Taking the “Art of Communication” course and then teaching it helped me to step outside of my ego and see things from other peoples’ perspectives; I learned how to “cross the bridge.” That wasn’t important to me before but it’s important to me now. I used to think that solving my problems meant convincing other people that I was right. Now I can see that there’s another point of view and that’s OK.
When I was in the gang, and for many years afterwards, I would put people into a box in my mind. If they stepped outside the little box I created for them, I would get angry and there would be a conflict. Now I’m way more into people the way they are. It’s OK if they’re not the way I want them to be. I can handle it.