Weekly inmate support groups provide mutual benefits

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2008

By Harold Keller

A month ago, Major Philip Hebert, the warden at the St. John Parish Sherman Walker Correctional Center, asked if I would do a weekly support group at the facility. I have a hard time saying no, so I agreed, but said I would have other people come in periodically.  

The meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. every Wednesday.  When the time approached for the first session, I was sorry I had agreed to start the group. However, that feeling didn’t last long, because within a few minutes of the meeting, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be.  

I’ve enjoyed the groups more than any of the inmates. One thing I have learned is, regardless of the group of people you speak to, they all have many things in common. They all want to be acknowledged, want you to be honest with them, and are looking for encouragement.  

Last week, my subject was: Improving your Low Self-Image. There were, approximately, 20 men in the group. I made the statement that the biggest fear most people with a low self-image have is public speaking.  

I then said, “Tonight, we are going to take the first step in fighting rejection by overcoming the fear of speaking in public. When it is your turn to speak, I want each of you to approach the podium with confidence, walk upright with a smile, and let your body language send the first message.  Then, when you get to the podium, speak to the audience as though you are convinced that what you have to say is worth listening to.”  

The subject I chose for each person to discuss was: What is the one thing in your life that you don’t like about yourself?

“Who’s first?” I asked.  Without hesitation, a young man jumped up and said, “I’ll go first.”  

He shared that the thing he disliked most about himself was the way he treated his grandmother who has always been good to him. “I know she loves me and if I would have listened to her and kept going to church with her, I wouldn’t be here.” That set the tone of the meeting.  

Every man got up, spoke and was greeted with applause as they finished. It was a great evening for me and all in attendance.

If you have any questions, or comments, please write to Get High on Life, P.O. Drawer U, Reserve, LA 70084, call (985) 652-8477, or e-mail: hkeller@comcast.net.