California Men’s Colony (CMC) Catholic Chaplain, Father J. Farao, sponsors a kind of self-help group within CMC’s West Facility that would have been unthinkable in the macho prison culture of years past.
Over the past several months, Father Farao has acted as the sponsor for incarcerated individuals who have chosen to expose the darkest moments of their developmental years. The individuals participate in a program simply referred to as Survivors. The program allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse to meet in a group setting and learn how the sexual abuse they suffered as children created barriers in their social and mental-health development.
Father Farao described how participants are given homework requiring them to probe their innermost selves while providing answers to hard questions. An example of the homework would be to read a short essay written by a survivor of childhood sexual abuse before answering questions like, “How do you feel reading this?” and “What effects did childhood sexual abuse have on you?”
The answers to these personal and painful questions must be provided in writing, but many of those in attendance feel compelled to provide their answers verbally to the group. By providing answers aloud and in the presence of incarcerated attendees, the survivor of abuse empowers themselves and others to face and defeat the demons of abuse that has haunted them for decades.
During a March 29, 2023 Survivors program graduation ceremony, several of the twenty-two program graduates spoke to those graduating as well as members of CMC’s administration. The candid and emotional testimonials provided all those in attendance with a glimpse into the trauma they suffered as children and the courage they displayed when they finally made the commitment to begin the healing process.
The resounding theme that echoed in the message delivered by the graduates who spoke to the group was, “Hurt people, hurt people.” The program helped them realize how the atrocities committed against them as children affected every aspect of their lives, including the poor decisions they made in life that ultimately led to their incarceration.
None of the graduates deferred responsibility for the crimes they committed that resulted in their imprisonment. Each graduate took ownership of their actions with a new understanding of “why” they made horrible decisions throughout the course of their lives.
In a sentiment agreed upon by all program graduates, Father Farao reminded the group the rehabilitation they are experiencing cannot be quantified by means of a score or embodied in the words on a certificate. The rehabilitation they are experiencing is true rehabilitation of the human spirit.
Submitted by: Lieutenant John Hill, California Men’s Colony AA/PIO