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A Fire on the Cross
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Legal Arena

Successful Rehabilitation of Today's Criminals

An Effective Solution to the Justice System’s Revolving Door

By William Shea

he 30 men in the group were called by the authorities “the most dangerous men in this prison,” reported J. Diaz, a criminal rehabilitation expert.

“They were on heroin for 10 to 25 years,” Diaz said. “Until two months ago, they were all still on heroin inside the prison. The warden wouldn’t even come in here without five armed guards.”

Things are different now, Diaz noted. You can see the difference in their faces. These inmates—the roughest in a tough Mexican prison—are today drug-free and want to stay that way. And, equally important, they are learning how to live honest lives outside prison upon release.

Diaz, who supervises the Criminon program within the prison, has worked regularly with the inmates and personally observed the changes, which others have termed miraculous.

Finding the Point a Person Lost His Self-Respect

The mission of Criminon (meaning “no crime”) is simple if formidable—to wipe out crime by eradicating the factors that create criminal behavior. Criminon, whose international headquarters are in Los Angeles, is a revolutionary and effective program whose actions speak in terms of results.

“Criminon eliminates any mystery about the sources of crime and demonstrates that crime has exact causes which can be addressed and resolved,” said Joan Lonstein, president of Criminon International. “Success story after success story from criminals rehabilitated by Criminon who do not return to crime substantiate these beliefs.”

The program utilizes the discoveries of author and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard. Among them, Mr. Hubbard found that an element exists common to every criminal which is key to resolving the crime problem.

Every criminal’s “career” can be traced to a loss of self-respect. Interviewing criminals, one frequently hears words such as, “One day I found I couldn’t trust myself.” When a person can no longer trust himself, he becomes a threat to society and his fellow man.

As early as 1952, Mr. Hubbard launched a criminal rehabilitation program with juvenile delinquents in London, England. After many years of additional research and discoveries, Criminon was formed.

Established in 1970 in New Zealand, the Criminon program consists of exact steps, each one bringing about precise changes in the individual. Growing out of the worldwide Narconon drug rehabilitation program3, Criminon now operates within corrections systems throughout the United States to rehabilitate criminals by restoring their sense of self-worth so that they can become productive members of society.

“They Now Feel Remorse for What They Have Done”

Criminon volunteers conduct on-site programs for inmates in prisons, while others administer courses to prisoners by correspondence.

On-site Criminon courses begin with practical instruction in how to communicate. That is followed with a course in learning how to learn, and continues with a course based on The Way to Happiness.

The centerpiece of the Criminon program, The Way to Happiness is perhaps the greatest tool in reforming the criminal. The course based on the book, written by Mr. Hubbard, covers 21 precepts that make up this non-religious, common sense moral code. Each precept is studied so that an inmate not only understands how it applies to his own life, but so he actually can utilize the precept to increase the survival potential of himself and others.

One corrections officer described this course’s success with the offenders under his care as “dramatic,” noting, “Extraordinarily, they now feel remorse for what they have done in the past.”

The Way to Happiness helps restore a person’s innate goodness and pride. A person on the Criminon program soon discovers he is the one in charge. Pride and self-trust return upon recognition of the betrayal of his own essence, the breaking of the one contract he must not break: the contract with himself.

Take the case of a recent graduate of the program in Florida, who wrote, “I’ve gotten a better outlook on life and a means to better understand how people want to be treated—the way I would want to be treated myself. I wish that I could have known about this course a lot sooner! I would recommend this course to everyone. I hope that what I’m saying will help someone else. I used to be a criminal, but now I’m not and don’t know how to thank Criminon enough for the opportunity of going through their course.”

This step alone has created astonishing results. In one study where juvenile recidivism decreased sharply, the youths had completed only a course based on The Way to Happiness. The director of the juvenile court and chief probation officer at that time, Danny O. Black, said, “Over 90 percent of the juvenile offenders seem to internalize the values and we don’t see them again as court referrals. ... I have over 500 letters on file that these kids have written saying how The Way to Happiness helped them straighten their lives out.”

Addressing the Problems Which Led to Criminal Behavior

Criminon addresses an individual’s problems which led to criminal behavior and which can send a person back to prison again and again. For each problem area, the Criminon program has a separate section of instruction.

“It is application of the principles taught that makes the difference,” said Tammy Terrenzi, Criminon’s executive director. “By an individual’s direct utilization of the precepts learned on the section of the course involving The Way to Happiness, for example, he learns not only how to behave ethically and morally, but why he should. This understanding makes true reform possible and has given Criminon the success it now enjoys.” Other Criminon courses include:

  • Learning Improvement. A large percentage of inmates are illiterate, and this course in study skills teaches the ability to learn any subject. Literacy is fundamental to vocational or other training that will enable a reformed criminal to make a living from his own production.

  • Communication Tools. Communication exercises taught on this course increase a person’s ability to face life and not withdraw from it—the very act that preceded and precipitated the criminal condition.

  • Coping with Negative Influences. When an inmate is released from prison and returns to his previous environment, he often falls back into old patterns with former associates and ends up back in prison. This course helps him learn the social and antisocial characteristics of his friends, family and associates and makes him much less susceptible to harmful influences.

  • Conditions of Life. This study of all aspects of an individual’s life and his personal ethics and integrity helps an inmate take responsibility for past misdeeds, rather than perpetuate them.

Criminon replaces unworkable methods that have only exacerbated the crime problem. It rehabilitates individuals so criminal behavior is laid to rest—permanently. And its effectiveness is causing the word about Criminon to spread rapidly.

In any given week, more than 1,700 inmates in over 550 prisons across the United States are enrolled on Criminon correspondence courses. More than 220 volunteers assist the inmates through their courses.

Remarkable Results

Whether the program is administered by correspondence or in person, the results are remarkable. In a world plagued by violence and crime, Criminon is reversing that trend. Many graduates attest to the program’s workability.

One recent graduate said, “I’ve been a three-time loser in prison. I was disliked and I had no use for the values of life. New things have changed in me because now I’ve found how the simple principles of life helped me find a new meaning. I love life, people and mainly myself! It put new meaning in me that I never thought would ever happen in me. I’ve found my ‘Way to Happiness,’ and I only wish I could give you what I now have.”

Another stated, “As a result of the Criminon course my attitude toward life has changed and the relationship I have with all people is a lot better. This course has given me back faith in myself. Without Criminon taking the time to instill values and ethics into the lives of lost souls, I would still be living a life of confusion and ignorance. Thanks a million.”

And another, a juvenile, wrote, “I can be something in life. Before I just wanted to be a gang member. Before, LIFE meant gang-banging. Now I don’t even want to associate myself with it.”

Criminon’s contributions were summed up by James Jacob, Supervising Detention Officer of the Los Angeles Juvenile Hall where a successful program has been in operation since March 1994. “Criminon is hope,” he said. “It’s something that we’re lacking in today’s society. The results of the program well exceeded our expectations in my unit, and I would therefore recommend Criminon to any corrections facility. I can only see good things coming from it.”

Changing Lives for the Better

Criminon has proven that means do exist to reduce the recidivism rate in our society.

As one inmate wrote, “There are those inside and outside prison who still question in their minds and hearts the proposition that most wrongdoers can learn to change their way of life. It is essential that all who are incarcerated hear something other than negativism that is directed their way. This course has helped me to redefine my own reality and make concerted efforts towards my own change and that of fellow inmates.

“It has for me been an exciting challenge to achieve and know that I now have many opportunities open to me, now that I have found and faced up to what was missing from my misguided life.”

“The Criminon program has moved the entire field of criminal justice into a realm where actual rehabilitation is possible,” said Joan Lonstein.

Lonstein points to Criminon graduates who have started successful businesses after leaving prison and who are today crime-free and productive members of society as evidence that something indeed can be done about the crime problem. One man, for example, today owns and operates a bakery, while another runs a greeting card business he started in prison.

Startling in its simplicity, Criminon does not use drugs, nor does it employ punitive restraints. It does not use aimless conversation for lack of a better tool. It is not psychiatry or psychology—which have no knowledge of what makes a criminal and thus no workable solutions.

Cause for Optimism

The results from the Criminon program paint an encouraging picture—and give cause for optimism in an otherwise bleak field.

The hope that this program has given to the men there is nothing short of miraculous. That same hope has dawned for women, juveniles and others wherever the Criminon program is delivered.

As an inmate in Tennessee said after completing one of the Criminon courses:

“Each day brings with it a new experience, therefore each day I am amazed at the positive attitude and way of thinking that I have achieved, thanks to this course.

“Most men, when they have been in prison for as long as I have, give up. I had given up myself, but thanks to the Criminon course I have learned that there is always hope. It matters very little if I ever get out of prison (I hope that I do someday). What matters to me now is the type of person I am. Now I strive to be the best person I can be. Now that I have hope, I look forward to each tomorrow, eager to encounter its new experience.”

Thanks to the men and women who administer the Criminon program within the prison system, today there is a way to rehabilitate the criminal—to restore his self-respect and make him into a productive citizen who is, perhaps for the first time in his life, an asset to the community.

For more information on the Criminon program, write to: Criminon International, c/o Narconon International, 7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 220, Los Angeles, CA 90028, or call (323) 962-2404.
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