ARISE Life Skill Lessons and Staff Training

A non-profit since 1986
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Evidence-Based Life Skills Lessons and Professional Staff Training
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The ARISE Goal: Reduce Juvenile Recidivism

young man sitting with handcuffs

For more than 30 years, we have worked to reduce juvenile recidivism and have assisted troubled youth to become productive, well-adjusted, law abiding adults.

Through our life-skills lessons for teens, incarcerated youth are helped to build self-esteem, control anger, discover the personal and financial value of education, learn how to maintain their health, make better decisions, communicate effectively and to choose better relationships.

The lessons are designed to show participants that actions have consequences – and to make clear the specific consequences of the individual choices they have made. Participants are taught how to identify with those they wish to harm (due to anger, frustration, bullying or any other catalyst), how to place themselves emotionally in the shoes of others.

ARISE enables at-risk youth, through interactive group sessions conducted by a trained facilitator, to identify with the feelings of others while showing empathy and consideration.

Jane Wilson – a tutor, literary coach and life skills instructor – wrote a paper while she was a Senior at Stanford University (2007) entitled, “Reducing Juvenile Recidivism in the United States.” In it, she noted that some 2.4 million juveniles are charged with offenses annually; 55% of juveniles released from incarceration nationwide are rearrested within one year; and in urban centers, 76% are rearrested within one year. Ms. Wilson’s studies indicate that the most effective programs in reducing recidivism are those that are respectful of the youth, help them develop empathy, and teach them interpersonal skills such as anger management and conflict resolution.

Through its anger management curriculum, “Drop It At The Door,” the ARISE program teaches youth to make better choices in managing anger, showing them how to effectively resolve conflicts without resorting to violence. They learn that they, alone, are responsible for their actions, not anyone else.

ARISE staff training for “Drop It At The Door” incorporates over 100 lessons and interactive sessions, teaching adult participants to listen reflectively and to show empathy towards rebellious and defiant youth. Trainees are led to recall instances when they were in situations where they didn’t handle anger or intense emotions well, leaving them filled with guilt and remorse. At the end of the day, the trainees understand that empathy and kindness generate positive results where judgmental punishment does not. The end product of such ARISE training results in staff becoming inspired, dynamic mentors, able to encourage and manage troubled youth in a positive, encouraging environment.

The emphasis in all five days of ARISE “Drop it At The Door” training is on empathy – emotionally putting themselves in the place of others – with a steady focus on positives, not negatives. By respecting and validating the at-risk youths under their guidance, everyone benefits: the youth, coworkers, family members – everyone. This is accomplished by not offering unsolicited advice, sermons, lectures or negative put-downs but, instead, providing an empathetic, nurturing focus on the positive. Ultimately, the ARISE staff training programs and ARISE life skills curricula create an environment where empathy and respect are the norm.

The latest research conducted by Dr. Kristin Winokur of the Justice Research Center (2010), concluded that youth in facilities using the ARISE life-skills program, in which the staff had the appropriate ARISE training, did better in terms of recidivism than the comparison site. The difference was slight, but it was a step in the right direction and much was learned about how to strengthen and improve the training.

In the Empathy subset of the Teen Conflict Survey – which measures the ability to listen, care and trust others (developed by Boswoth and Espelage, 1998) – the youth and staff getting ARISE programs demonstrated significant improvement in empathy attitudes, while results for the control site not getting the ARISE program declined. The staff at the ARISE program treatment site also demonstrated statistically significant higher scores on the Empathy Index as compared to their pre-surveys.

It appears that the first step in reducing recidivism is to change the culture in juvenile justice to an atmosphere where staff are respectful of the youth and coworkers, demonstrating empathy and providing cognitive and behavioral skills training such as anger management and conflict resolution.

The following is an excerpt from Ms. Wilson’s paper:

Failures of the Current Model  Effective governmental and non-profit programs are invaluable instruments needed to reduce recidivism. Though this paper does not intend to provide guidelines for creating better programs, it should be noted that the programs most effective at reducing recidivism have been those respectful of youth; family-like in size and setting; connected to the community during and following treatment; empathy-developing; accountability-oriented; and marked by efforts to teach juveniles cognitive skills (such as anger management, decision-making, etc.). Effective programs are certainly worthwhile and should be continued.

With your tax-deductible donations, ARISE can turn stumbling blocks into stepping-stones for the toughest kids on the planet. Your support is greatly needed and appreciated.

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