Don’t Train Us to Lie

Today, I was invited to be the guest speaker at meeting for probationers and parolees. We discussed my past and my program. We were having a very candid conversation. Before I left, I opened the floor to questions. One question, in particular, started another discussion. I was asked, “If you are on diversion, how do you answer the question, ‘Have you ever been convicted of a felony’”? Before I could answer, the officer said, “Answer that question, ‘NO’”. And before I could say anything, another person said, “At (unnamed program), they teach us the same thing”!

Needless to say, I was highly upset. We are dealing with individuals that have chosen to go against what society views as normal. They have broken the law and were caught. That shows that there is something in their thinking process that is flawed. We, as trainers, must realize that and then train the to not think that way, presenting them with a different decision making process- one that is not flawed.

I quickly explained to the group and the officer that that was lying- flat out. Diversion, first time felons, and repeat offenders are ALL convicted felons! Diversion is an opportunity for a convicted felon to live trouble free for a specified period of time and if the other conditions are met, that record is expunged. But that only happens AFTER the time has passed. Until then, that individual is a convicted felon.

The reason I was so angry is because I know why this is going on. Programs that are funded by grants have benchmarks and quotas to meet. So they must find ways to gain employment for their participants. The motivation then is shifted from what is best for the client to what is best for the program. This CAN NOT be about programs. It must be about the people. We are dealing with real people, real lives, not numbers. While the employment numbers for the program may look good, it does not reflect the fact that the individual lost that job once the employer completed the background investigation and found the criminal record.

Understand this, the clients that we deal with have been turned down and looked down upon for their pasts for so long that it begins to affect them emotionally. The fact that they were able to find employment removes some the negative self image. There is a sense of accomplishment that goes with finding employment. So imagine what it must feel like to have that taken away because you lied on the application. That person, now, feels worse than before they were employed. That type of disappointment will lead a person back to a life of crime.

In short, by training this group to lie, their negative thought processes are only exacerbated and strengthened! It is our job, as trainers, to teach them that negative thinking ALWAYS brings negative results. We must make negative decision making practices unattractive. This is life or death. Leave this line of work to those that have a heart for the people, not a desire to have a great program.