Taft Prisoners Contributing to the Lives of Others

By · Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

TOAD is an acronym for a leadership group in which I participate under the direction of Counselor Griffin at Taft Camp. The letters in TOAD stand for Those Outspoken Against Drugs. Several inmates participate in the group with the intention of helping others make better decisions. Each month, Counselor Griffin escorts a group of TOAD members to nearby schools or centers that hold adolescents who are at risk of delinquency or on the verge of criminality. The TOAD members lead a seminar that describes their own experiences and the consequences that follow bad decisions.

Besides the monthly field outings, the TOAD group meets each Monday afternoon to discuss the strategies for growth. Counselor Griffin and the other TOAD members have charged me with the responsibility of coordinating the one-hour meeting scheduled for Monday, November 5, 2007. In preparation for that meeting, I asked each TOAD member to be ready to describe the most influential book that he has read and tell the group how that book has influenced his life. My purpose in requesting each individual to share such information was to encourage the members to think about hope and self- empowerment. Frequently, when those of us in prison discuss our personal backgrounds, we spend too much time painting a picture of despair. The at-risk adolescents who listen to TOAD presentations have no shortage of struggle in their young lives. Many come from broken homes and live in neighborhoods filled with gang influences, drugs, and criminal lifestyles. They sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation of TOAD members descriptions. Yet I am convinced that providing audiences with strategies for building hope and self-empowerment, TOAD members can inspire the youngsters to make better decisions.

I intend to open the Monday meeting with a discussion on the importance of goals. I will discuss how goals relate to success and invite the other TOAD members to interact in the discussion. To provide one example of the importance I place on goal setting, I will read the 2 November Blog entry I wrote on the subject. Following that discussion, I will talk about Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That book has been influential in my life and I want to explain the ways that I incorporate those habits in my preparations for release. Then I will ask each TOAD member to discuss his book of choice. Finally, I will conclude the 1-hour meeting with a discussion of how delivering a message of hope can help our audiences and TOAD participants focus on success. I encourage those who have questions or comments on TOAD to post them here, or write me directly at Taft Camp.

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