Group and Individual Growth

Through the Out-o'-Doors
Page 8
Procedures 'or Protecting,
Preserving and Gathering Evidence
Page 13
Inmates Volunteer to Assist
Johnstown Flood Victims
Page 26
est in Prison - General Overview
by Earl Babbie, Ph.D.
Editor's Note: This article presents an initial examination of the use of the Erhard
Seminars Training (est) in the prison system. The research for this article involved
interviews with inmates and staff at lompoc Federal Penitentiary and San Quentin,
plus participation in the first day of the est Standard Training at leavenworth.
The report should be seen as exploratory, providing a general overView on the in-
troduction of est training in prisons, and as a first stage in the design and execution
of more rigorous evaluations.
The Erhard Seminars Training was
created by Werner Erhard in 1971.
Erhard states the purpose of the
training as follows: "to transform
your ability to experience living so
that the situations you have been try-
ing to change, or have been putting
up with, clear up just in the process
of life itself."
The training is usually conducted
during two consecutive weekends,
taking approximately 60 hours
altogether. About 250 trainees
participate in each training, led by
one of the nine est trainers.
There are three key elements in
the training. First, for a part of the
time, the trainer presents data, ideas,
and points of view for the trainees to
look at.
Second, in a series of "processes,"
trainees sit with their eyes closed
while the trainer asks questions or
gives instructions: e.g., "Recall a time
you were happy." "Locate a point in
your left knee and notice what
sensations you are experiencing
The third element-called "shar-
ing"-is an opportunity (not re-
quired) for trainees to share with the
group any of the things they have ex-
About the Author: Earl Babbie, Ph.D.,
received his A. B. from Harvard
where he graduated cum laude. He
earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the
University of California, Berkeley.
Several of his books, articles and
papers have been published. His
most recent book is entitled "Society
By Agreement. " Dr. Babbie is a pro-
fessor in the Department of
Sociology, University of Hawaii. He
also serves as president of Babbie En-
terprises, Inc.
perienced during the training or any
realizations they have had about
Currently costing three hundred
dollars, the training has been un-
questionably popular. Since 32 peo-
ple participated in the first training in
October, 1971, another 100,000 have
taken it during the program's first
five years-despite the fact that est
has never engaged in advertising.
Virtually all of the participants de-
cide to enroll through word-of-
mouth referrals. Research on
graduates, moreover, suggests that
the great majority feel they have
benefitted from it. (Babbie and
Stone, 1976)
History of the Prison Trainings
Thomas Keohane, Jr., currently the
associate warden (programs) at
Leavenworth, is probably the one
person most responsible for the in-
troduction of est into the prison
Keohane recalls that when he was
associate warden at Lompoc Federal
Correctional Institution, Gene
Stevens, mayor of Lompoc, took the
est training and recommended that
the prison staff look into it. "At that
time," Keohane recalls, 'We had a lot
of everything. We had 16 self-
improvement groups. The institution
was very active in a variety of pro-
grams." Keohane and then Warden
Frank Kenton decided to explore the
possibility of adding est to the list.
The first est training in prison was
conducted at Lompoc in July, 1974,
with 54 inmates and four staff mem-
bers graduating. Keohane indicated
that he had been accustomed to get-
ting good feedback from the various
programs offered to inmates, but
between the two weekends of the
est training "this one seemed to be
getting a little different feedback, a
little higher caliber, and a more in-
tense commentary about the effect it
was having.
"After they completed their
second weekend," Keohane con-
tinued, "the staff that took it started
talking about it. And they were talk-
ing very favorably about it."
Prison staff began noticing that
even the more radical inmates who
took the training spoke highly of it.
More importantly, perhaps, inmates
who had records of problems in
prison began "getting along."
As a result, Lompoc officials
scheduled another training-
conducted during February, 1975,
from which a total of 60 inmates and
staff members graduated. The results
of the second training were substan-
tially the same as the first.
Keohane himself then took the
training in San Francisco. Interviewed
a year later, he summed up his view
of the training this way: "It really
handles self-contentment, I think,
and satisfaction and self-fulfillment.
It makes you a more effective
Directs Programs at leavenworth
Keohane has subsequently
become the associate warden for
programs at Leavenworth and in Oc-
tober, 1976, an est training was con-
ducted for inmates and staff there. A
dozen staff members and 140 in-
mates began the training on October
13th, with a total of 121 staff and in-
mates graduating on October 21st.
George Jackson, Ch ief Deputy
Director of the Department of Cor-
rections, State of California, met
Werner Erhard and discussed est.
That initial meeting eventually led to
a training at San Quentin on June
8-9, 15-16, from which 59 staff mem-
bers and inmates graduated.
In preparation for this report, I in-
terviewed nine inmates who had
taken the training at either Lompoc
or San Quentin, eight staff members
who had taken the training, and a
number of inmates and staff who
had not.
The nine inmate-graduates varied
from being quietly enthusiastic to
being ecstatic about the value they
had gotten from the est training. The
most common result they reported
involved a simple joy with living.
They said they were more en-
thusiastic about life, more open in
their relationships with others, and
more self-confident. The non-
graduates I interviewed said essen-
tially the same thing about those in-
mates they knew who had taken the
Many of the inmates spoke in
dramatic terms about their ex-
perience of the final night of the
training. "That last day, something
snapped within me. It was like a big
cloud or something that's been
weighing me down-it just lifted."
Another said "That last night when I
got it .. . I never felt physically,
spiritually, or mentally that way
In part, their enthusiasm with liv-
ing represented a higher self-esteem.
Many spoke of coming to accept
themselves as human beings for the
first time.
A prisoner who stencils and sells
San Quentin T-shirts spoke of chang-
ing his attitude about his work: "I
didn't give any sense of value to my
work. I didn't think my work was
worth anything. That's nonsense. I
do damn good work, and I know it's
good work. I'm going to charge for it,
and I'm not going to bicker about the
Several inmates spoke of the effect
that understanding and accepting
themselves had on their relations
with others. One inmate, serving a
sentence of life without possibility of
parole, summed up the matter, say-
ing "Once you understand yourself
and like yourself and learn to love
yourself, then you've got room for
everybody else."
In large part, the inmate-graduates'
comments dealt with their views of
prison and their feelings about being
in prison themselves.
Winter Meeting
Set for Phoenix
A successful ACA Congress will
depend upon the success of the
Winter Board meeting. Im-
portance of the three-day plan-
ning session is magnified because
it encompasses committee and af-
filiated organization meetings.
Scheduled for February 15-17, at
the Ramada Inn East, Phoenix,
Ariz., it will set the stage for the
108th Congress at Portland, Ore.
Reservations can be made by con-
tacting the ACA office.
est In Prison (from page 23)
come to the penitentiary, I come for
something different, but you set
yourself up."
While each of the inmate-
interviewed felt personally
responsible for being in prison, none
seemed to express guilt, shame, or
remorse. Rather, they seemed to
have made a matter-of-fact discovery
about the way things are. Each had
"done something you get put in
prison for."
The realization that they were
responsible for putting themselves in
prison was frequently" accompanied
in the interviews by comments about
"accepting" the fact of being in
prison. "It makes it easier to accept
being here. Because you are here.
And the est training .. . allows you
to accept what is.
"One of the things that causes a
lot of the troubles in prison and
causes people to get into prison in
the first place is because they haven't
accepted what it is.
"Some people don't do this. They
say, 'I'm not the kind of person who
belongs in here. I'm just not that
person.' They go through their whole
time saying, 'I'm not that person.'
Now if somebody comes along and
treats them like they are an inmate,
they get uptight because they don't
feel like they are an inmate, and they
Responsibility for Being in Prison have troubles."
Many of those I interviewed Asked if that meant he no longer
stressed their realization, during the desired to get out, the inmate was
training, that they had been quick to correct that impression.
personally responsible for putting "Oh no! Oh no! Never happen! It
themselves in prison. This replaced means that you stop feeling bad
their earlier views that someone else about being in here, and you ac-
had been responsible or that they complish what you want to ac-
had been the innocent victims of complish while you're in here. In
circumstances. This realization was other words, your mind and feelings
not reported with regret or remorse aren't tied up in 'Gee it's terrible to
but more as a simple discovery of be in this place: "
the way things were. Most of the inmate-graduates in-
One inmate who had been in and terviewed echoed this view. One
out of prisons several times reported said "I love San Quentin. I don't hate
changing his view of why he was in San Quentin, because I love myself.
prison. "I ain't got no kicks coming. I I'm happy right here. I'm not plan-
was a chump before. Every time I ning on staying here, but I'm happy
(Continued on page 36) while I'm here."
est in Prison - General Overview
by Earl Babbie, Ph.D.
Editor's Note: This article presents an initial examination of the use of the Erhard
Seminars Training (est) in the prison system. The research for this article involved
interviews with inmates and staff at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary and San Quentin,
plus participation in the first day of the est Standard Training at Leavenworth.
The report should be seen as exploratory, providing a general overview on the in-
troduction of est training in prisons, and as a first stage in the design and execution
of more rigorous evaluations.
Relationships in Prison
Most of the inmates interviewed
reported changes in their rela-
tionships with others. Some spoke of
getting along better with fellow in-
mates - reporting more open and
honest interactions with fewer con-
One inmate spoke of walking
around, or away from, confronta-
tions. Some spoke of having very dif-
ferent relationships with prison of-
ficials. Several said they now re-
garded the corrections officers and
other staff as merely being people
with a job to do.
One described an unsuccessful at-
tempt to establish a new educational
program at lompoc. He felt that
prior to the training he would have
retreated into animosity toward the
officials; now he is looking at new
ways of proposing the program,
answering the previous objections.
Several of the staff members I in-
terviewed confirmed the general im-
provement in social relationships
among the est graduates. Many gave
specific examples of inmates who
had been in constant conflict with
other inmates and with staff prior to
the training and who subsequently
had totally changed.
Keohane summed it up by saying
"II just seems fewer of them get in
trouble after they've gone through
the training, even if they've been
troublesome since the time they got
here. They become more responsi-
In nearly all of the interviews, the
inmates mentioned the desire to
share the experience of the training
with others. The married inmates
wanted their wives to take the train-
ing. One had written to est, request-
ing a scholarship for his wife.
Another was making arrangements
for his ex-wife to take the training.
Most mentioned the desire to have
friends - both those in prison and
those on the street - take the train-
est as a Context
Interestingly, everyone interviewed
saw the est training as a supplement
to other prison programs rather than
as a substitute. Most described the
impact of taking the training on
other things they were doing while
in prison. Many spoke of participat-
ing in educational programs; others
were involved in community pro-
grams - working with juveniles, for
One inmate summed up his view
by saying "A person should have
some religion, they should have
some education, and they should
have some est."
Ted long, the est trainer who has
conducted most of the prison train-
ings, agreed that est should not be
seen as a substitute for other pro-
"Those other programs can be
valuable. Where the est experience
comes in is in terms of putting them
in a context that reveals how valu-
able they can be," he emphasized.
"The training deals with the con-
text in which people hold and look
at and interact with the things
around them in a way that produces
actual value, not apparent value or
conceptual value.
"The est context reveals the value
of other programs so it's not a ques-
tion of est versus those things. It's a
question of us pointing out to peo-
ple that those programs can be more
than a way of manipulating the
system. The training enables a
person to get into a program - to
get whatever value he can out of that
program, not try to trick it or out-
smart it."
long saw the immediate impact of
the training in terms of institutional
life, giving inmates a context within
which to hold their experience of
prison. In the long run, he felt the
training would provide ex-convicts
with a context within which to hold
the experience of life on the street.
Another way in which the est train-
ing differs from other prison pro-
grams is its one-time nature. The
"context" Long described is created
as a lasting quality of one's ex-
perience in the basic two-weekend
training. While est offers graduate
seminars for those who want to
participate in them, the 60 hour
training is regarded as complete in
Interestingly, many of the non-
Second of Two Parts
graduates I interviewed assumed that
est would require continuing ongo-
ing training to reinforce its effect -
like some of the self-help programs
they were familiar with. The inmate
and staff graduates tended to dis-
agree, however. As Keohane
described it: "lI's not rea lIy a pro-
gram. This is an experience that only
takes place on a couple of
weekends, and you don't need to
keep going back."
Future of est in Prisons
The four est trainings conducted
so far in prisons have been donated
by est without charge. In addition to
deferring the normal tuition rev-
enues, the organization has provided
the costs of supplies, salaries, and
Don Cox, the president of est, in-
dicated that while est may continue
to donate some prison trainings, it is
not in a positiol) to do so on an un-
limited basis. In addition to the
prison trainings, est has donated
' trainings to disadvantaged com-
munities and groups, to school
classes, and others.
Within the three prisons, there
was a consensus among those in-
terviewed - graduates and non-
graduates alike - in favor of more
Among the prison staff members,
there was a special concern that
future trainings be accompanied by
rigorous evaluation research efforts.
The psychologists and psychiatrists
interviewed felt this was essential,
and they are unwilling to pass final
judgment on the effectiveness of the
est training until they can observe
the inmate-graduates over a longer
period of time.
Asked if they would support a con-
tinuation of trainings in the interim,
they all said they would. A careful
evaluation of a lompoc training is in
The inmates were more un-
qualified in their support for future
trainings. Some had personally writ-
ten to est requesting more trainings,
as well as graduate seminar pro-
II is clear from this exploratory
study that est has a great deal to of-
fer the prison system. The extent of
that contribution and how that con-
tribution can best be made available
on a wider scale awaits further re-
search and study. •