Teaching Inmates Social Skills

Yesterday we were at beautiful St. John’s Church near Eolia, the oldest Episcopal church west of the Mississippi. It was the annual Homecoming picnic which ended the churches services that ¬†go from April to October. The church has no heat except two wood stoves. The Bishop conducted the service, the day and trees were gorgeous and the food abundant and delicious.

There I visited with a man who runs the AA program in the prison, where I miss being so much. I used to work with Agnes Wilcox who directed Shakespearean plays with the men as actors.”I also attended their NAACP sessions and was a member. In addition, Jamie Tomek, a fellow volunteer and I organized a series classes for men who were to be released to help them in the outside world, financial management, job hunting skills, housing, nutrition. One of these classes was “Social Skills”

In order not to offend the men, I started the class by explaining that executives in big corporations often took such classes to brush up on their manners. My dear friend Elizabeth Wills, who is from Germany, taught with me. We told the men they were hence getting the benefit of American and European culture. We discussed and practiced telephone manners, table manners, helping ladies in and out of cars,in and out of doors, being seated at the table. They wanted me to tell them what a six course meal would consist of and something about which wine to drink with what. We discussed clothing, proper hygiene, how to use and leave a person’s bathroom , how to speak to people who waited on you at restaurants or in stores. Above all I emphasized the importance of the words PLEASE & THANK YOU. I also impressed on them that instead of saying “No problem” it was more effective to say “You’re welcome or even “My pleasure” The men really liked this class and told us they were very grateful for our being there and our help, as their manners were a bit rusty from years in prison.

Oh how I do miss being there….. The men expressed so much appreciation for our being there and it was such needed and fulfilling work.






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