Today I went with the psych club I am part of to the Cherokee Mental Health Institute. It was a very large campus but the most intriguing part for me was the Civil Commitment for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO). This wing of the institute was a “secure, long-term, and highly-structured setting to treat sexually violent predators who have served their prison terms, but who, in a separate civil trial, have been found likely to commit further violent sexual offenses.” The first patient was admitted in 1999 and he is still there. Their program is set up so that it takes 5 years to “graduate” if you do everything correctly. You are released once you are deemed and prove that you are less than likely to commit another offense. The people that are admitted are the worst of the worst. No one has “graduated” from the program, which is discouraging.
It was somewhat frightening to be there. We could not go on to any wards, even for the patients with mental illnesses. We saw the control room which was fascinating. None of the doors in the sexual offender ward could be opened without someone in the control room unlocking it. There was constant communication between the control room (which was away from the ward) and the people who worked directly with the patients. I was also impressed with the level of communication within the staff. They have a very good system and very qualified workers.
As we were getting a tour we stopped to talk with a therapist who worked there. As he spoke, my fear turned to a feeling of despair. These men are the worst of the worst. Some of them have been there for 10 years without hardly changing. How do you work with people who don’t even want to change? How do you handle the manipulation and bitterness these men show towards you? Then the feelings of despair turned into heartbreak. How could these men be so far from the truth? How can love become so twisted? None of the people we talked to seemed to be Christians and I started to wonder how they could do it. I am having trouble seeing God presence in Cherokee. How can these people who seem to have no hope in God come to work every morning? There seemed to be little reward from being a therapist at this institution.
It was a wonderful, eye-opening field trip. I heard and felt things I never thought I would.
On a side note, we hit a big deer with antlers on the way back. No one was hurt and there was little damage to the van (especially considering the size of the deer). Oh, and we had an amazing driver! 🙂