Oklahoma’s prisons are running a six-part course on maintaining a healthy marriage, the New York Times reports. More than 600,000 inmates are released each year around the nation. State official Howard Hendrick says, “And those guys are all coming to an apartment complex near you.” In prison workshops, inmates, often with their spouses present, discuss problems like money and sex that underlie disputes within a marriage.
Officials say there is more than compassion in their decision to take the program into cells. Prison chaplain Ron Grant pointed to a recent study of 524 California parolees. “When they looked at all the factors affecting whether the inmate returned to prison,” he said, “the No. 1 factor, more than drugs, more than race, more than any other demographic category, was whether they were part of a stable family relationship.” Mary Myrick, president of Public Strategies, a company that helps manage the initiative, said, “Initially in the prisons, we were thinking about it as a reintegration tool, for those about to be released back into society,” she said. “But to our surprise, it has been embraced even by some who are not getting out soon, or ever, but who want to keep their relationships intact.” The curriculum was developed by two Colorado researchers, Howard Markham and Scott Stanley, and focuses on communications skills, teaching people to slow down and listen to one another before disputes mutate into arguments.