Staff at Vaughn Correctional Center say giving inmates a forum to express their views is helping them gain skills they’ll need after they’re released.
Warden Dana Metzger created the Inmates Advisory Council last fall after the February 2017 riot at Vaughn. Ten inmates sit on the council. Prison staff say the inmates had to go through a kind of job interview to get a position on the council.
The inmates represent different buildings on the compound. They discuss beforehand what they’d like to bring up at monthly meetings with prison staff where they pitch ideas and air grievances.
Treatment Administrator James Simms said it’s been an opportunity to relate to each other as people and really connect.
“And if you for a moment suspend the fact that this is a correctional high security environment, as we would out here, as we’re doing right now, it’s about having a conversation and showing in that sense a mutual respect,” he said.
Simms said inmates on the council are learning problem solving and interpersonal skills.
Kelsea Stevens, a Vaughn counselor, said inmates are able to use the meetings to convince staff to make changes like removing certain food from the prison menu.
“They’ll come up with reasons why we shouldn’t serve cajun rice, not just because they don’t like it," she said. "But if we have 200 people eating and only 10 of them actually eat it, then you’re throwing away so much cajun rice. So, they’re like ‘How cost-effective for the state is that.’”?
Inmate Andre Peters is on the council. He said he sees a new level of respect between staff and inmates because of the improved communication.