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Thinking for a Change: Encouraging Positive Change in Incarcerated Individuals

April 12, 2023

By Danielle Jimenez Communications Office

(Danielle Jimenez, Communications Office)

The Thinking for a Change (T4C)(pdf) class is one of many programs the Department of Corrections (DOC) is using to change the way prisons approach rehabilitation and reentry. It is a cognitive-behavioral-change program that teaches cognitive-restructuring theory, social and communication skills, emotional regulation, and problem-solving skills to empower individuals to successfully reintegrate into society.

Thinking for a Change is research-based and designed for justice-involved individuals. Through T4C, participants learn to think before making decisions, rather than acting impulsively based on emotions and feelings. Graduates of the program have reported significant changes in their thinking and behavior, leading to positive impacts on their lives.

"Before all this, I was more impulsive,” said David Parkhurst, a 2023 T4C graduate at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. “I didn't really care what happened, really didn't think about the consequences. But now it gives me the opportunity to step back and really think about my actions."

T4C is intended for groups of eight to twelve and is delivered by trained facilitators. It consists of 25 lessons that build upon each other, with sessions lasting between one and two hours. A typical course may take around 30 sessions, with the curriculum delivered two times per week.

Topics covered in the course include: active-listening skills, recognizing the thinking that leads to trouble, problem-solving strategies and self-evaluation. Students learn how to ask questions, give feedback, and respond to the feelings of others. They gain an understanding of how thinking controls their actions and the importance of noticing their thinking patterns. Additionally, the course covers how to prepare for a stressful conversation, respond to anger, and deal with accusations.

The program has received evidence-based support, including studies showing it is associated with significant reductions in disciplinary infractions and recidivism rates.

Individuals participating in T4C are making a positive choice to be part of the solution, despite the challenges of being incarcerated.

As one graduate put it, "You are not felons, you are not your number on that badge, you are not any other negative or worthless adjective that anyone tries to place on you,” said Raymond Bell, a 2023 T4C graduate and graduation ceremony speaker at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. “You are so much more than what brought you here. Thank you for thinking for a change, and changing the way you think."

By using programs like Thinking for a Change, DOC can address the cognitive, social, and emotional needs of incarcerated individuals. By recognizing the potential in every individual, and empowering them to make positive changes, DOC is working to create a safer and more positive future for Washington’s communities.