Cognitive-behavioral program helps to reduce imprisonment cycle

Published 02/18/2016

Monthly graduation ceremony marks success

February 18, 2016 A Raleigh program aimed at helping to break the cycle of repeat crime offenders is making positive strides in the community, empowering individuals with the tools they need to lead successful lives.

FHR (Fellowship Health Resources, Inc.), an organization providing a network of clinical and supportive programs across eight states, has implemented a cognitive-behavioral program called Moral Reconation Therapy, also known as MRT.

In place for more than a year, February 11 marks the 10th graduation ceremony to take place, with nearly 200 participants completing the program.

Developed in the 1980s, MRT is designed to break the imprisonment cycle by promoting positive self-image and identity, while helping participants gain the skills necessary for enhanced decision making.

“The curriculum we are using is not new, but it’s on the horizon as being one of the best to treat individuals in the criminal justice system,” explained Brandon Robinson, FHR’s Director of Substance Abuse and Correction Services. “These individuals are on probation and if they don’t complete the program they have the potential to go back to jail.”

Contracted under Reduction Recidivism Services, individuals in this program are typically anti-social, have high non-violent arrest records, and are seen as at-risk clients. Some are on probation, others are on post-release supervision, and many are statistically likely to return to prison.

An example of an individual who completed this program is 62-year-old male who had spent 30 years - more than half of his adult life - in jail.

“At FHR, MRT is structured as a 16-week program, where peers hold one another accountable for their progress. Individuals are taught to shift their thinking from blaming others to taking responsibility for their own actions,” said Robinson.

Participants in FHR’s program have multiple incentives for completing the program. First, it dramatically reduces their odds of returning to prison. Second, a graduation ceremony is an emotional capstone experience that marks a turning point in their lives.

“The people in this class start off rough, but it turns into a very supportive community that wants to help one another stay honest and make progress,” said Clifford, an MRT participant. “It is a self and life building commitment.”

The idea to include a graduation ceremony, which differentiates FHR’s program from others using MRT, came from Neal Brown, an FHR clinician and former police officer. These ceremonies mimic a typical graduation, and include the selection of a valedictorian and salutatorian from the class.  

“The graduation ceremony at the end of the program is an opportunity to come together – from family members and friends, to former alum, to parole officers - to listen to what the clients have learned and the tools they now have. They express that it’s important to be a part of society and to be productive in it,” said Brown.  

“In addition to benefiting the participants, the impact of the program extends to the community,” added Robinson. When these individuals stay out of jail, it is saving the community money and tax dollars. They are the picture of what could happen if more counties and states utilized this type of program.”

To learn more about the programs and community initiatives of FHR, visit our website at Brandon Robinson, Director of Substance Abuse and Correction Services, can be contacted at 919-573-6544.



Grace Cabral                                                              Mike Ratté                   
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