Ridgeland, SC (WSAV) – A program aimed at getting people comfortable speaking around others is now targeting those in a very uncomfortable place – the Ridgeland Correctional Institution.
South Carolina state prison rules don’t allow the media to show the inmates’ faces but the focus here is more on what you hear from the ones spending time behind bars.
“Pitch, tone of voice, adding a little personality,” one inmate said of what he’s learning at Toastmasters.
“There was a study done out of Louisiana and it said out of all the inmates who were released from prison who were involved in toastmasters- none of them returned,” one said.
It’s clear the inmates are not where they want to be in life right now but they feel like Toastmasters
can help get them there and stay there.
“We’re just trying to push ourselves to do better, make amends for our mistakes we made in the past and just take our lives forward,” one inmate said.
The Ridgeland club is one of two Toastmasters programs at a South Carolina prison. With guidance from volunteer mentors, participants work on crafting and presenting different types of speeches.
Table topics, impromptu speaking, which is when you have to think on your feet,” volunteer Jodie Randisi said.
Those in the audience aren’t just watching but evaluating and sharing feedback that can help their fellow man.
“Part of what we do in Toastmasters is support one another- uplift one another. The next individual may not have the particular skillset that you have but maybe through sharing they can acquire some of the gifts we’re sharing in this room,” an inmate said.
Since the Toastmasters club at Ridgeland Correctional started last Fall— the men say they have successfully removed street-talk from their vocabulary and replaced it with words of purpose.
“So if I had to go in front of a judge I need to be presentable I need to be respectable also I need to show him why I made the particular change in my life and why he should release me back into society,” a participant said.
It’s a process of growth not only as speakers but as believers in themselves and each other.
“I want them to do better than me… I want them to exceed expectations,” one inmate said of his classmates.
The club accepts donations to support their educational material.
Besides the Toastmasters Club at Ridgeland Correctional, there is another one at the prison in Allendale.