The Rhode Island Department of Corrections will hold its 15th annual Volunteer Appreciation and Recognition Ceremony on Tuesday, October 21, beginning at 4 p.m. in the 2nd floor Conference Room of the main administration building, located at 40 Howard Ave., Cranston. During the ceremony, the 11th annual Russell E. Dixon Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to Jean Gordon of Medford, Mass., a volunteer with the Criminon Program at the John J. Moran Medium Security Facility, established in October 2002.
Jean works full-time as Human Resources Administrative Assistant with Old Town Trolley Tours in Boston, but she has continuously shared her passion for teaching adults for well over 30 years. She has three children and five grandchildren.
Jean’s first student from the RIDOC was so impressed by the Criminon course he took with Jean that he asked if an in-house course could be established at the prison. Jean makes the 125-mile round trip to Rhode Island every Wednesday night to teach the class and spends her Saturdays correcting papers, writing letters to students, and planning. Over the past six years, she has corrected over 8,000 lessons, written over 1,700 letters to students, and her students have completed over 1,300 courses.
In her nomination letter, Patricia Fraker, the head of Criminon of Maine and Jean’s supervisor, writes, “She knows that people can change, that her students can regain their self respect, that they will be able to become valuable, contributing members of society…Her great satisfaction is seeing a student make a self discovery; it can be a small win or a life-changing win.”
According to its website, www.criminalrehabilitation.org, Criminon of Maine is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping New England with criminal rehabilitation by education. Manned by volunteers throughout the New England area, it has grown from just one student at the Maine State Prison in January of 2000, to well over 300 students across six states. Students are educated on morals, values, ethics, study skills, parenting skills, and other life skills through secular courses based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Many do so by means of correspondence courses. The one on-site program is at the Moran facility. According to the site, “Students are truly being rehabilitated, not just ‘doing their time.’ They are leaving prison with the data and skills needed to live a productive, happy, successful life.”
At this year’s ceremony, a new 8-minute video produced by Criminon International and filmed at the John J. Moran Facility, will be shown publicly for the first time.
There are over 300 men and women who selflessly give of their time and talents to the RIDOC, and close to 20 volunteer-provided institutional programs. During these fiscally challenging times, volunteers are perhaps more appreciated and vital than ever.
“The RIDOC could not sustain itself were it not for the hundreds of devoted volunteers who gift us with their time and talents every day,” notes Corrections Director A.T. Wall II. “Especially during a time when the state is experiencing serious budget shortfalls, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to these people who take time out of their busy lives to make a difference in the lives of our inmates, many of whom have had very few positive role models.”
The Russell E. Dixon Award is presented each year to an individual who represents “the spirit of volunteerism” in memory of Russell E. Dixon, a man who was not only a respected employee of the RIDOC but also an active volunteer within the Department.