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An Interview with Harvey Shrum, Ed.D.
Educational psychologist Dr. Harvey Shrum is a reentry coordinator and instructor at Folsom State Prison, and has been working with the Intensive Journal program since 1992. He shares his experiences and insights about the value of the Intensive Journal method in the rehabilitation process.
J.H.: Please describe your role in the prison system.
H.S.: I have worked in the prison system for over 27 years, including 17 years at Folsom State Prison. I am the reentry coordinator, coordinating and leading workshops, and facilitating getting men ready for parole. I am also a consultant to CA Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDC&R) on reentry problems.
J.H.: How did you become interested in the Intensive Journal program and how did it relate to your work?
H.S.: I had been using Dr. Viktor Franklís Logotherapy at Folsom State Prison to find meaning and to counter inmatesí depression. Logotherapy emphasizes that all life has meaning, and strives to motivate humans to live and discover that meaningĖsomething which Frankl believed all humans have the ability to do. In 1991-92, I began looking for a simple instrument to help inmates deal with the somatic and psychic dimensions to complement the noetic, or intellectual and rational, dimension of Logotherapy.
I was referred to Marcella Hardt who conducts Intensive
Journal workshops in my area; I could readily see through my own experience
that the Intensive Journal method could also help humans find meaning for
themselves. Also, both Dr. Progoff and Dr. Frankl emphasized human potential and
the need to access and unfold this potential.
J.H.: Do you think the Intensive Journal program has benefited the inmates? If so, what changes do you see, and what aspects of the method make them possible?
H.S.: Yes, the Intensive Journal program has benefited inmates. The Steppingstones exercise is important to inmates and gives them the opportunity to list significant emotional events. The methodís non-judgmental ways helps to anchor them in their work with the method, which is done with anonymity so they have the freedom to deal with it. The Socratic dialogues allow them to discover ultimate meaning in their lives as well as provide a release of powerful feelings. The compassion of the program leader, Marcella Hardt, also helps the incarcerated men to open up.
The workshop generates several other benefits. Some people who took medication for depression no longer have to take it. The men are less aggressive, resulting in fewer disciplinary writeups. The Intensive Journal method helps them deal with the painful aspects of their lives, rather than diverting it through inappropriate behavior.
Men are better able to stay focused on what they want to do
next. In the prison, many men have not dealt with the unavoidable pain from
childhood that clouds their minds. Through the Intensive Journal
method, they are allowed to state as factual points in their lives the many
painful events that occurred. It is not so important what happened to them but
what they did with it; many turned to illegal drugs or
I find that the men are more interested in mentoring other inmates. They tell their peers that the Intensive Journal method works and that it has changed their lives.
J.H.: How involved are you in the workshops? Do you sit in? Do the inmates participate?
H.S.: In addition to scheduling and organizing the workshops, I oversee and participate in all of them. I have seen a change in attitude toward rehabilitation amongst inmates; they begin to understand that the workshop is for them. I help them keep their workbook material confidential; they can keep it locked up by someone they trust. During parts of the workshop where inmates are hesitant to read, I speak up and get it flowing. Sometimes, I explain the Intensive Journal exercise or principle in terms that inmates can more readily understand.
Inmates participate on a level equal to public workshops. Some inmates are more willing to read than others. All of the men take the method seriously; they volunteer to participate in workshops and no one has wanted to drop out. The education level ranges from third or fourth grade, with some inmatesí reading level up to the college level. Some are more literate in Spanish and write in their native tongue. Even if the men have only limited writing skills, they can still obtain a good deal from the workshop.
J.H.: Do the inmates communicate with you about how the Intensive Journal program has helped them?
H.S.: Yes. I request that inmates give written feedback in which they evaluate their experience with the Intensive Journal program. I find that they value the workshops; inmates state that they have been renewed, that it has helped them get in touch with themselves, explore inner memories and search for direction. One inmate stated, "This is the best moment in prison; I discovered that I exist." They deal with painful issues; one inmate said he was better able to "confront the skeletons in my closet and defeat them." Another said that it helped him "deal with the pain that [he has] carried for years." The men recognize that the method helps "defeat racism and the petty B.S." that occurs in the prison.
J.H.: Has the Intensive Journal program helped to reduce the rate of recidivism, and if so, how did this occur?
H.S.: Yes. I have used the Intensive Journal method in conjunction with Logotherapy to help reduce the recidivism rate. 105 men on parole have participated in at least one Intensive Journal workshop. After a ten year followup, a zero percent rate of recidivism was found. The reason for this result is that the combination of the Intensive Journal method and Logotherapy deals with all three dimensions: the somatic, psychic and noetic. They deal with the whole person.
J.H.: Overall, what is your assessment of the Intensive Journal program in the criminal justice system?
H.S.: I believe the Intensive Journal method, in combination with Logotherapy, is one of the most cost-effective programs for addressing addiction, aggression and depression that lead to incarceration. It is the most viable method to rehabilitate incarcerated men, women, and juvenile delinquents.
J.H.: What are your hopes for the future of the Intensive Journal program in California prisons?
H.S.: I hope that the Intensive Journal method is introduced at all California womenís prisons and perhaps half a dozen menís prisons. It should also be introduced in a limited way in the youth authority facility. As a pilot program, I would test its effectiveness in combination with Logotherapy, cognitive reality therapy, psychotherapy and medical therapy when it is needed.
Once it is proven to rehabilitate and reduce recidivism, then it should be expanded throughout the prison system. I believe that the Intensive Journal method should be introduced throughout the school systems as a means for preventing criminal acts rather than waiting until incarceration and instituting the rehabilitation process.
J.H.: What changes do you see happening in the criminal justice system in California, and what implications do you believe these changes have for the Intensive Journal program?
H.S.: On July 1, 2005, after 27 years of trying punishment unsuccessfully, the CDC&R they created a new mission: to emphasize rehabilitation programs.
As a state employee and consultant, I was asked to assist in
helping rewrite the curriculum for both men and recently womenís reentry
programs. My recommendations have been for the Intensive Journal method
and Logotherapy to be the key instruments in focusing on rehabilitation. I
believe that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has
turned the corner for the better.