The Narconon Program comes to Michigan State Reformatory
Hill Top News
Michigan State Reformatory Circa 1973
by J. J. Johnson
Professional efforts to help persons with behavioral disorders began with the institutionalized. At that time, some two hundred years ago, society regarded its psychological misfits as sinners who were being uniquely punished by God, and who deserved additional punishment from others.
The misfits were thrown into prisons and put in chains along with others unable to earn a living. The people running the institutions served not as “healers” but as agents of social and economic control.
Due to a drastic change in public attitudes, social approach to correction is different today.
Within the parameters of this institution we have the opportunity to interact, on a weekly basis, with young men and women in group counseling sessions. This co-educational type group leans more toward therapy than counseling, since the latter implies direction and professionalism.
These young people are college students, non-professionals, coming from different backgrounds, and pursuing different goals in life.
There’s a non-directional approach in counseling where little structuring of the group’s interaction is regulated or restricted. The leaders of the group would act as perfect models of empathy, encouraging communication and expression of feelings; meaning, the conversations may range from pimping to politics, and on to a favorite television show.
This play-it-by-ear methodology has proven effective in giving each individual a chance to exploit his or her knowledge, and at the same time gain insight on what he or she may not know.
A counter-part to the non-directional group counseling has been put in practice here by yet another female. Her name is Marjorie Perreault. She’s a young woman of small physical stature who has undertaken the mammoth responsibility of directional counseling. The program she has brought to the Reformatory is the first of its kind in Michigan, placing emphasis on substance abuse. She pushes her students hard, driving home the point of “can” in an attempt to extract the word “can’t” from their vocabulary.
The main objective of the program is self-awareness of the world and people minus the crutch of drugs. She’s had past experience working in prisons coupled with a knowledge of the streets that escapes most people in her working capacity.
Narconon, the name of the program, is not small-time. It (Narconon) reaches out internationally to five other countries. They include: Africa, Mexico, Canada, Berlin (Germany), and New Zealand. So, if you thought that all that happens here at M.R. was work, movie, and cell study, become aware – get involved!