"True Grit" Program Helps Rehab Inmates - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

"True Grit" Program Helps Rehab Inmates

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Adam Rasmussen
Channel 2 News

The Senior Structured Living Program--better known as "True Grit"--was created in 2006.

With a growing number of older inmates, the Northern Nevada Correctional Center wanted to develop a program giving those men some activities outside their cells. As we found Sunday morning, "True Grit" has been a huge success over the last six years.

There are 169 inmates 55 or older in the program, and all say they're grateful and appreciative to be involved. At first glance, you would never know this is part of a correctional center.

There are no guards in sight and these men aren't behind bars. These are definitely all inmates, but they belong to the unique program.

"One cannot come into this program without taking responsibility for their crime and getting involved in therapy," says Mary Harrison, psychologist at the correctional center.

Harrison and the correctional center offer inmates all sorts of music and art classes along with wheelchair basketball. Those classes not only rehab the men in the program, but also set them up for future success.

Roughly 100 "True Grit" participants have left the correctional center in six years. Not a single one has returned.

"Our mission: no more victims," says Harrison. "And that's what "True Grit" does. We've had no more victims."

The inmates say this program is a morale boost for everyone. It gives them something to look forward to day in and day out.

"The guys out there, I've never seen them act like little kids again," says Dirk Klinke. "When they're young and having fun and enjoying it. Some of these guys haven't done things for 30, 40 years."

Klinke has been involved with "True Grit" for 8 months. He helps the older inmates with some of the activities.

"I've taken a lot from people, and I've hurt a lot of people in my lifetime, and I thought it was a good time to start giving back," says Klinke. "Starting off with these guys, it actually helps me gain some wisdom and grow up a little bit."

That positive attitude seems to spill out of everyone from "True Grit." One inmate says that's why the program is "a godsend."

"If you lay dormant, you don't do something in prison, you don't change in here, you're not going to change out there,"says William Doyle.

To make that change happen, the inmates give back to the community they hope to one day be reunited with. They knit hats and scarves which go to homeless people and soldiers.

"We're getting old and we all can find something, because they make sure there is something for all of us to do," says Doyle.

At times, I completely forgot I was interacting with inmates at a correctional center. But after a few hours, reality sets in. At 11:30 a.m., the inmates are shuffled back into their cells until the activities start up again the next day.

Everything involved with the program is donated. The wheel chairs, the yarn and even the time volunteers spend putting activities together. That means "True Grit" doesn't cost the state a single penny.

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