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7 Habits on the Inside by David Fein: What we can all learn from a prison program

Ten years ago I was invited to spend the day visiting three Colorado prisons to meet the team that created the 7 Habits on the Inside team program and the inmates who were participating in it. I had heard that inmates going through the program had significantly lower recidivism rates. But I never expected to meet people in prison who were so incredibly dedicated to turning their lives around and helping everyone around them do the same thing–it was clear 7 Habits on the Inside was having a huge impact and was transforming lives. I have been a fan, supporter and volunteer in the program ever since.

The 7 Habits on the Inside program provides a powerful solution to the complex and challenging issues that incarcerated people face. This remarkable program has been turning inmates lives around for over twenty years. Based on Stephen Covey’s book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 7 Habits on the Inside provides a comprehensive framework for even the most challenging inmates to turn their lives around.

Why is 7 Habits on the Inside so effective?  It focuses on character building and the social and emotional skills necessary to lead a successful life. The bottom line is that 7 Habits on the Inside restores hope, even joy, and the belief that every incarcerated person can become successful again. In short, it offers a reason to live.

The recidivism rate is about 54% for both jails and prisons. For inmates who have gone through 7 Habits on the Inside, the rate plummets to 9%. This is an absolutely remarkable turnaround. One visit to a 7 Habits on the Inside program or graduation and you can immediately tell that something unique, powerful and transformative is happening. The fact that it offers inmates an achievable avenue for regaining a foothold in our society—and within their families—is what makes all the difference. This program gives inmates a solid blueprint for taking their lives back.

7 Habits on the Inside Background

The Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) started the 7 Habits on the Inside in 1998.  Since then, over 10,000 inmates have graduated. The program is completely voluntary and in many Colorado prisons, there is a twelve-month waiting list to get into the program.  A significant reason the program is so effective is because a group of inmates, called the “core-group”, co-facilitate the program.  Men in the core-group are specifically chosen because of their personal commitment to 7 Habits on the Inside, as well as their deep desire and dedication to helping others transform their lives. The core-group at the first prison put on these classes rewrote the 7 Habits on the Inside’s manual to focus on inmate’s unique needs. Because of the program’s success, the DOC has expanded this program to almost every one of their facilities.

The principles from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People are transformative and not just for people in prison. Even though it was written over 30 years ago, its principles still ring true. Embracing Covey’s principles for being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand, then be understood, synergizing and sharpening the saw will improve your life—guaranteed. We all can benefit from learning and applying these principles to our lives.

If you have not read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I highly encourage your to read it. It’s great stuff and will make a difference in your life.  If you want to read a great book about an inmate who used 7 Habits on the Inside’ to transform his life, check out Weldon Long’s Upside of Fear. I’ve gotten to know Weldon and his story is amazing, powerful and inspiring.