The final analysis of the STOP (Straight Talk on Prison) program
The STOP program was a pilot educational program that was put to trial from June 2011- June 2012 at Wagners Youth Facility in Belize City prison. The program was essentially the re-socialization process of young men corrupted and hardened by the oppressive conditions in their realities. The lessons were based on the knowledge of self, the real life experiences and needs of the inmates. With the re-evaluation of their experiences through our life skills lessons and practices, we were able to do many things that contributed to the betterment of their state of mind while at WYF. With the improved personal skills and knowledge of self- developed through our program- the young inmates were better prepared to re-enter the society as a more productive citizen.
Because food, shelter, clothing are such an integral part of our lifestyle, we had to look at a process that would fit the circumstances of the youth at WYF. We use agricultural program along with other technical and academic exercises to help the young inmates to be better prepared to take care of themselves once they go back to the society. Our re-education program proved to be very successful and was the foundation to develop a high level of self-confidence and trust among the young inmates.
We expanded a garden that existed so as to encourage the idea of urban and rural gardens for food security as a real and honorable way of life. This promotion of agriculture and self-knowledge gave the youth at WYF a reason to devote their time in something worthwhile. Based on observation and the merit of the STOP program, the behavior and thought process of the young inmates began to change — the youth and the plants began to grow together. The thought that urban youth could learn organic farming and develop a nursery for a rural program began to take effect. We were able to see patience, care, and devotion growing in the hearts and minds of these young men.
Planting and caring for food crops gave the young men the idea that they can be part of something creative and caring than something destructive. They could now better understand that there is a result to cultivating crops just like there is a result to cultivating good seed in their own minds. As a result of the STOP Program at WYF, we were able to see profound changes in some of the young men. We saw the influence of caring for plants on the psyche of these young men.
Furthermore, in the process growing fruits and vegetables in their own backyard, they also learned that farming is one of way they can become self-sufficient especially in country such as ours. One young man said “I had learned that money doesn’t grow on trees but it does.” Sweet pepper is $4.00 dollars a pound, cabbage is $2.00, tomato $2.50, corn is 3 for $1.00; I can grow sweet pepper or anything I choose and sell them and make money.
The STOP Program promoted a holistic approach in the re-education of the young men in prison. Introducing some new information and agriculture to these young men created an opportunity for them to re-evaluate themselves , and through discipline, patience, devotion and trust to love themselves, to believe in themselves and to become aware of their unlimited abilities and capabilities!