Program aims to H.E.A.L.

Published 1:05 am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

By Katie Wood

The Selma Times-Journal

City officials and members of the community gathered at Tabernacle of Praise Monday morning to reintroduce the Help Encourage changes in Attitude and Life program, known as H.E.A.L.

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The program, which launched five weeks ago, was created to help decrease the number of assault and harassment calls to the Selma Police Department. The H.E.A.L. program focuses on issues such as anger management and conflict resolution.

“Our goal is to get people to start thinking before they act out of violence,” Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley said. “We’re the police but we cannot lock up all our problems, it’s not even possible. We can try to rehabilitate people before they ever get into the system.”

H.E.A.L. is a court-appointed program that meets once a week for a month. The classes serve as counseling sessions and are followed up monthly to monitor the participants’ progress.

Three of the first eight participants to complete the program were in attendance to give testimony to the program’s success and effectiveness.

“Removing yourself from a situation is the right thing to do,” participant Ondray Carter said. “It doesn’t take away from your manhood; it doesn’t mean you’re afraid.”

Carter added that he is now sharing the things he’s learned from the H.E.A.L. classes with others in the community. “I’m telling [the boys in my neighborhood] what [Pastor Effell Williams] told me. It’s making a difference.”

Raymond Dukes, another participant of the program agreed that the “macho thing” is not the way to handle issues in the community.

When Dukes was first appointed to the H.E.A.L. program he remembered saying, “I don’t really need to be here.” But after completing the initial month of classes, he said he’s learned things about himself that he didn’t know before.

“It was a great experience,” Dukes said.

After hearing that the H.E.A.L. program is working and that through it, people are being helped, city prosecutor Major Madison, Jr. rose to his feet. “A crime is a crime,” he said. “Just as there are gateway drugs, there are gateway crimes. If you can prevent someone from getting on that track, I think you’ve served that individual, the criminal justice system, the city of Selma, and the state of Alabama and the nation.”

If the pilot program of H.E.A.L. continues to see success, city leaders hope to use it as a model to use in other cities and even outside the state.

“We’re just trying to make an impact on the community,” H.E.A.L. Coordinator and pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Effell Williams said. “We’re helping people. By trying to change attitudes, we help them change their lives.”