Dr. Brenda Stratton, self-help author, recently visited inmates at CCWF and CIW.

Dr. Brenda Stratton, self-help author, (center, standing) recently visited inmates at CCWF and CIW.

By Lt. Michael Dunn, AA/Public Information Officer
Central California Women’s Facility

A self-help author took the time to visit two female institutions recently, sharing her insights with women incarcerated at California Institution for Women (CIW) and Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF).

On Aug. 25 at CIW and Aug. 26 at CCWF, Dr. Brenda Stratton, author of “Lord, Deliver Me from Me – How to Stop Becoming your Own Worst Enemy,” provided books, a workshop and book signing for inmate facilitators and participants.

Dr. Stratton traveled from Virginia to facilitate these workshops and lend perspective and relevance to the material, which was well received at both prisons. Since 2014, female offenders at both CCWF and CIW have been engaged in curricula from several new self-help programs. After completing the program, sometimes more than once, the question the inmates consistently asked was, “What is next? How can we dig deeper? Why do I keep making the same wrong choices?

The desire to learn even more about themselves birthed the next project: “Lord, Deliver Me from Me – How to Stop Becoming your Own Worst Enemy.”

Velda Dobson-Davis and Debra Herndon introduced this material as an independent self-study program to the women at CCWF in January 2016. This gender-neutral program was created to help individuals examine some of the issues that keep them from moving forward with their lives without slipping back to old behavior. The material encourages participants to overcome obstacles and explore spiritually the plan intended for their lives.

The program began with development of a genogram. The women were required to develop a true chart that identified all of their family issues and then determine which had the most negative impact upon their lives. They learned neither the problem nor the issue had as much impact as the manner in which they chose to handle the problem. They also realized many of these issues from birth caused residual affects today.

Newly appointed CCWF Chief Deputy Warden J. Espinoza addressed the group and encouraged them on their journey toward self-rehabilitation. She pointed out that groups like Beyond Violence and Lord Deliver Me from Me will help participants not only have a good quality of life inside the prison, but also prepare them for successful reentry into society. She spoke of the desire to bring additional programs to CCWF.

Some of the participants provided the following feedback:

I liked that the material reflected the fact that you can turn your test into your testimony. It was enlightening to ponder that a baby in its mother’s womb can feel the emotions that the mother is experiencing and it can impact the child from that point on.”

“I appreciated the authenticity and rawness of the book regarding forgiveness. Thank you Dr. Stratton for voluntarily flying here at your own expense to share with us.”

“I felt that the event was very empowering. It gave us a chance to look at freedom from the inside, which allows us to let go of hurt, pain and anger.”

“Dr. Stratton touched my heart with deep compassion. She shared a private moment from her life which brought back memories to me and many of the women in the rom. I realized that I had never fully forgiven myself. I now know what I need to do to be healed.  Forgive myself!” 

“The manner in which she described the impacts of unforgiveness … as in the olden days, you carry a dead body around and the poison from that decayed body would leak into your body and eventually kill you … wow!”

“Hearing about her own rejection helped me realize that I was not alone … that there are many others who have been challenged with the same issues which I am allowing to destroy me.”

“I like how she illustrated about the empty bucket with holes, no matter how many times you try to fill it up with joy, you will always feel rejected until you fill the holes. Powerful.”