A Soul Restored

VINCE

Ms. Maertz:

You should check out a guy named Mark A. Fagerwick. He has gone through boot camp and he writes (or maybe wrote) for the Pioneer Press. Just a thought.

[ANNE: Yes, Mark Fagerwick does write for the Pioneer Press, the St. Paul newspaper. I’m sharing his article here because it sums up boot camp well.]

‘Boot camp’ prison alternative — for me, a life-changing program

As a recent graduate (survivor) of the Challenge Incarceration Program, I can tell you that this program was and is the single most physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, challenging and ultimately positive experience of my 55 years.

In 2010, I was convicted and sentenced to 48 months in prison on a DUI charge. I entered St. Cloud State Prison with an attitude of deep resentment toward a system I felt had failed me by unfairly, over-zealously, over-aggressively and harshly judging me. I also harbored and presented a stance of arrogant superiority over my fellow inmates — after all, I was a successful, college-educated marketing communications professional and a deeply spiritual family man. I had achieved amazing accomplishments and attained an outward appearance of success normally associated with right living. I was not a “criminal” deserving four years in a state penitentiary (or so I thought).

The first 24 hours of C.I.P. changed all that.

I was immediately struck with the reality that all of our creator’s children make mistakes, poor choices and self-centered decisions that adversely affect families, loved ones and civilized society as a whole. And, that there are consequences for that kind of distorted thinking and the resulting arrogant, errant choices and behaviors. I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to participate in and benefit from this incredible, life-changing, life-giving program.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the staff and supporters of C.I.P. for helping to realign my priorities, restore my relationships and reintegrate me back into a civilized society where I can affect a positive change in myself and those around me through my experience and by example.

While it is an unfortunate reality that many of my peers in the program will likely re-offend and return to incarceration, the successes far outweigh the failures. And, in my opinion, one successfully saved life and reunited family is well worth the effort. We all deserve a second chance.

C.I.P. is an incredibly powerful and effective program in the much-needed reform of our criminal justice and “corrections” system. While the traditional system of incarceration and the isolation and segregation of certain criminal elements from society is necessary and has its place for many, there are also many otherwise responsible, respectful, repentant individuals who simply lost their way, made horribly poor choices and who sincerely desire another chance to prove themselves and make amends for the wrongs they have done. These individuals are irreparably damaged by extreme and unrelenting exposure to and influence of the traditional prison environment and the unremorseful, habitual and often-violent offenders confined there.

C.I.P. promotes and facilitates an effective combination of intensely regimented discipline, essential cognitive behavioral insight, intensive chemical-dependency programming, rigorous physical training and strictly controlled physical labor, all underscored by positive exposure to an uncompromising but sincerely dedicated staff and a group of program participants who are truly seeking positive change and a better way of life. Surely there are detractors who feel that C.I.P. simply represents a time cut for criminals who “deserve” to serve penance for their crimes — and to a degree that could very well be the case for some. However, for those who take the program to heart, who utilize the tools and skills provided, and learn from their past, society will realize a true and valuable asset — a soul restored, a family reunited, a man completed.

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