Teaching Social Skills to Prison Inmates
May 4, 2016
WALLA WALLA – It’s the soft skills that often determine if inmates will find jobs and stay out of trouble after leaving prison.
“A soft skill is how I relate to you right now,” said Calvin Thorpe, a workforce development specialist at the Washington State Penitentiary. “How I talk to you, the questions you ask, and if I can respond. And if you make me upset, will I hit you upside the head with a bar.”
Thorpe teaches inmates appropriate ways to deal with people. While the social skills he teaches may seem like common sense to the rest of us, many inmates did not learn them growing up.
“I see the light bulb come on often,” said Thorpe, 36, who previously worked as a corrections officer and as a family counselor before taking his current job with Correctional Industries, CI. “It’s so hard to measure change while you are in prison. But I do see offenders get that aha moment of ‘yeah, I shouldn’t have done that. I can see how that is stupid … I can see how that’s not right.”
Thorpe was awarded the Petrine Marciniak award this week for his work. The state Department of Corrections award is named after a former agency employee known for inspiring the people around her.Todd Cunnington says that’s certainly been true of Thorpe.