In late 1999, Mr. Scott Kinsey, an attorney in Kokomo, Indiana, was at a crossroads in his life. With five young children and both parents working, Scott and his wife were struggling to meet the demands of their professional careers and their family.
Then Scott met Mr. Doug McAdam, who, for over twenty years, had been working with a program called Successful Self Direction (SSD).*
Doug had traveled around the world teaching this program, in both government and private sectors, to professionals and non-professionals in business, education, and mental health.
As Scott studied the materials, did the exercises and learned the concepts, his life began to take on new meaning and purpose. He was finding ways to express things that he had always felt in his heart but had not known how to say.
Within just a few weeks, acting on his experience and family precedence, Scott began realizing the program's potential to help troubled youth and adult criminal offenders in Kokomo. He envisioned court ordered participation through the sentencing and probation processes.
The late Judge Robert J. Kinsey, Scott's father, had left a legacy of caring for troubled youth, as evidenced by the multi-million dollar juvenile detention facility in Kokomo which bears his name and by the "Robert J. Kinsey Award" which has been presented annually, since 1984, to an Indiana judge who distinguishes himself in service to children.
Scott presented his idea to Doug, who could not help but question whether individuals who are "ordered" to take this program would successfully complete it. Previously, he had only taught people who had volunteered to go through the program.
Mr. Brande Watson--a friend of Scott who had worked as an addiction counselor, parole officer, high school teacher and college professor--was included in the consultation between Scott and Doug, while Brande also took the SSD course. Like Scott, Brande became excited about the potential applications for the program.
In February, 2000, Scott Kinsey, Doug McAdam and Brande Watson decided to form SSD, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation with a professional advisory board, to offer the Successful Self-Direction program in Kokomo, Indiana. Over the next few months, they met with judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers and others involved in the criminal justice system. Scott went on a local radio talk show to inform the community about this new program and solicit support.
By the summer of 2000, judges began putting criminal offenders into the program, as a condition of probation. Scott, Doug and Brande made adjustments in their personal lives so they could devote themselves to teaching and promoting the classes. In the fall of 2000, they also began teaching the program to jail inmates, all of whom voluntarily signed up for the SSD program voluntarily.
In the first year, which ended June 15, 2001, "We had 153 inmates in the program, with only 3 re-offending," reports Doug McAdam. "The six months ended Dec. 15, 2002, we show 81 inmates with only two re-offenders." By comparison, the traditional recidivism rate is 80 to 85 percent, according to court officers.
"We now have letters of support from all four judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, the county sheriff and a special proclamation issued by the county commissioners, as well as a support letter by a clinical psychologist," McAdam said.
Inmates who have taken Successful Self Direction have written letters to the Kokomo Tribune, praising the course for its positive and transforming impact on their lives. Doug and Scott have also received very favorable receptions from radio and newspaper interviews.
* - Successful Self Direction is a program written by Marian Crist Lippitt. It is protected by applicable copyright law. SSD, Inc. has been granted a license, by the copyright owner, to use these written materials.