Recently, Peerstar, LLC was invited to northern Vermont with the exciting opportunity to bring Peer Support and Forensic Peer Support to the Vermont Department of Corrections. For two weeks, Peerstar trained inmates and correctional staff on the basics and benefits of peer support.
Within the first week, Correctional Staff throughout the state of Vermont met at the Northwest State Correctional Facility (NWSCF) where they learned what peer support is, suicide prevention, WRAP, and the benefits and specifics of forensic peer support; information provided by the leadership of Dr. Larry Nulton and Elissa Nulton. During their time, Correctional staff were both intrigued, excited, and encouraged by the idea of training inmates to provide forensic peer support. This is a new idea to the Vermont Department of Corrections, and we applaud their interest and efforts to improve the mental wellness and success of their inmate population.
During this training, fifteen inmates from across the state met in the Education Center of the NWSCF to embark together on a two week journey of education and enlightenment. They learned about peer support, they learned about WRAP, they learned wellness tools and support strategies for anger, anxiety, depression, etc..., but more importantly, they learned about themselves, their potential, and that the Department of Corrections valued what they had to offer to others.
I (Jessica Peacock) provided the first week of inmate training, focusing on the basics of peer support, Suicide Prevention, WRAP, and Wellness. It was a week of great learning, for both the inmates and myself. I watched guarded, quiet, training attendees become engaged, empowered, compassionate participants. I saw the potential and the hope that all of these men have for their lives. Their experiences both past and present will be a gift to the others that they will some day mentor. It was obvious very early on in the week, why these 15 men had been hand-selected to participate in this amazing opportunity. I am changed after my one week behind bars. I am grateful for the experience and opportunity, encouraged by the passion and excitement I witnessed throughout the week, amazed by the potential of these men, hopeful that I will get to return, and reminded of why we do what we do.
The second week of training was facilitated by Christy DeFeo, Regional Director of Delaware County and Director of Forensic Programs, as well as Jay Murray, CPS/FPS in Delaware County. Christy and Jay spent their week focusing on the forensic aspects of peer support. Christy had this to say about their time in Vermont:
"The experience Jay and I had at the Vermont Forensic Training was truly unforgettable. We couldn't have been more pleased with the group of guys that were selected to receive the training and we felt extremely connected with everyone by the end of the training. The participants' personal growth and newly formed bond with one another was palpable at graduation and nothing short of inspiring. Jay and I left Vermont feeling so rejuvenated and grateful and are hoping for the opportunity to go back for another amazing visit."
Overall, all of us involved in this training agree that this was not just an amazing opportunity for Peerstar, but an incredible opportunity for our own personal and professional growth. And the Vermont food wasn't bad either :)
Lastly, we would like to thank Jay Murray for his passion and excitement for Peer Support and the forensic community. The energy and experience that Jay brought to the participants and the material were paramount in the success of this training! Thanks Jay, keep up the amazing work!