Non-Violent Communication Course Helps Chaffee County Detention Center Inmates

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

In 2004, I was falsely accused of a crime. I did not foresee how this unfortunate situation was going to morph into changing many lives in a positive way. In 2006, I founded Full Circle Restorative Justice in Chaffee County Colorado, which is a 501 c 3 non-profit   organization committed to facilitating victims and offenders to reconcile crimes and minimize involvement  with the legal system. The goal of the process is to lower the recidivism rate.   Image courtesy cartertoons.com

 I was introduced to the Non-Violent Communication founded by Marshall B. Rosenberg Ph. D. in 2007.  Patty La Taille, who is the current Executive Director of Full Circle Restorative Justice, and I initiated a bi-monthly Non-Violent Communication study group. We used Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, A Language of Life 2nd edition and the companion workbook as our guide. We appropriately named our group meeting Compassionate Listening Study Group.  I recognized the value of this innovative approach to mediation and communication skills and had a vision of incorporating it into the justice system.

Patty La Taille has taken Non-Violent Communication to a higher level in Chaffee County. She has attended two of Marshall Rosenberg’s (NVC) intensive workshops, and brought her newly acquired skills back to Salida, Colorado. La Taille facilitates NVC study groups at the Salida Middle School and Chaffee County Detention center. She, along with board member Karen, Latvala is educating students about new ways to resolve conflict with their peers.

Non-Violent Communication principals are a perfect match for offenders who are in need of more effective ways of communicating. Many of the inmates in Chaffee County Detention Center landed themselves there because of anger issues they were never taught to address in a compassionate way. Where NVC takes over is providing awareness to these individuals about the origin of their anger. NVC’s philosophy is that anger stems from unmet needs. The NVC process helps identify the needs not being met, thus causing the anger. When people are able to recognize the source of their anger, empathy takes over and individuals are able to relate to others with compassion.

The NVC program has had an overwhelming positive impact on the inmates and the Commander of the correctional facility. However, the program has been reduced from a 12 week course to once a week.

Thirty-two year old Daniel Lovato said in the four months he has studied NVC, he has learned “how to assess a situation rather than jump to conclusions. I have also learned to express my feelings without being dominant. My homies would laugh, but I don’t really care. I’m at a point in my life where I have a need for some real soul-searching. If you really take a look at yourself, (NVC) will speak to you.”  Lovato will soon be transferred to the Department of Corrections to serve a 10-year sentence for probation violations

Just like other valuable programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism, funding has been cut back. I believe the solution to this problem is for the public to be educated about concepts that make a positive impact on their communities so they can vote to implement them into the justice system and support them with private donations.

My dream is for programs like NVC and Full Circle Restorative Justice to be a normal part of not only the justice system, but a peaceful way to resolve global conflict. A small   mountain town nestled in the Rocky Mountains adopting NVC into their schools and criminal justice system is one step closer to this aspiration.