Address by
     Hon. Judge
     Henry E.
     Autrey

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TESP - an Alternative Sentencing Program
that Utilized the Transcendental Stress Management®
 Program for Offender Rehabilitation


Hon. Judge Henry E. Autrey
United States District Judge, Eastern District of Missouri

 

Summary of Address by Hon. Judge Henry E. Autrey to a Group of Federal Probation and Parole Officers
 

On October 18, 2006, Hon. Judge Henry E. Autrey addressed a group of Federal Probation and Parole Officers about The Enlightened Sentencing Project (TESP) and the Transcendental Stress Management (TSM) program. Here are highlights of his talk:

 

Judge Autrey explained that shortly after his friend and colleague, Hon. Judge David C. Mason,  started using the TESP as an alternative sentencing program with his probationers, he did the same.  Here are some quotes from Judge Autrey’s speech.

 

TESP - an Effective Sentencing Tool for Judges

Judge Autrey said:

”Having come in contact with Farrokh and having the opportunity to use [the TESP program] for my probationers when I was in State court, I find it is a very solid and effective sentencing tool for judges.  It’s no secret that much of what we do with respect to the probationers and parolees, and in supervising people, is trying to “put fires out”.  In our minds, and in our philosophy, we have a desire to do things for them and to provide opportunities for them that will keep them from coming back.  That’s really what we are shooting for.  That is our goal.  But I think, realistically, we are also mindful of the fact that a significant percentage of those people that we work with, will be back.  Right?”

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High Recidivism among Probationers

When I was over in State court, Circuit Court, that was a problem I grappled with every Friday.” Judge Autrey continued.  “Friday was sentencing day and probation revocation day. And so a whole day was taken up getting all those recidivists and sending them back to the Department of Corrections because they didn’t comply with their conditions of probation. They wouldn’t stay off drugs.  They’d pick up new cases.  They’d get in some domestic disputes with their girlfriends or boyfriends and pick up criminal charges.  They wouldn’t report, wouldn’t tell their P.O. [probation officer] where they were living, they’d drop dirty [urinalysis showing trace of drugs] repeatedly.  It was very frustrating. Kicking off your weekend like that, as a judge, is not the way to go! Taking a lot of human beings and just basically crumbling them up like a piece of used paper is not the way to go either.”

 

Recidivism Statistics on TESP Participants

Judge Autrey described the results he had with the probationers he had sentenced to the TESP program:

 “I started keeping recidivism statistics two months after I started referring people to [TESP] until the time I came over here in 2002.  It was far less than for the people that weren’t doing it.  And for me, if you are back in, in six months, and I have to revoke your probation, that was significant.  A tremendous [number] of probationers are back within that six months, with me having to revoke their probation for “dropping dirty” or for picking up new cases… Those were the keys.”                                               

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Significantly Lower Recidivism Rate

“My people who had TSM as a condition of their probation had tremendously less number of returns within that six-month period. I think my number was like 6%, which was radically low in comparison to everybody else who was not using TSM.  And 6% is a great number!  As far as I was concerned that was functionally the equivalent of zero!”

 

Treating What’s Inside

“It got me more keyed up in thinking and believing that TSM is a great tool and program because it really treats what’s inside.  Everything else treated external factors like employment, education, and that kind of stuff.  And I think probationers are no different from anybody else.  You can have a great job but if you’re messed up inside, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.  You can live in a great neighborhood but if you’re messed up inside, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.  You can live in the best state or the best city in the world but if you’re messed up inside then it doesn’t mean a whole lot.  You’re still going to have a lot of problems.

 

It’s that happiness quotient. You hear people say, “If I lived in Florida where it’s sunny all the time I’d be just as happy as can be”.  It’s a lie.  Whatever problems you’re having here in St. Louis with the weather, you’re going to have in Florida.  It just might be sunny all the time.  But you’re still going to have the same problems.  If you’re living in Tahiti and you’re messed up inside, you’re going to have the same problems.  If you’re a cold weather person and you’re living in Alaska and you‘ve got problems inside, it’s till going to be bad.  You can be with the bears and go fishing but you’re still going to have the problems because it’s not where you live, it’s not your surroundings, it’s what is going on inside that’s making life tough for you.”

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Obviating Negative Personality Traits with TSM

Judge Autrey continued:

“You can live around people who are doing drugs all the time, but if you’ve got your own head straight, then it’s not going to affect you.  It’s not where you are, it’s not who you’re around, it’s who you are and what you are doing that creates problems with you.  That’s why this stuff is such great stuff because it obviates all those negative aspects of your personality.”

 

Personal Benefits of practicing the TSM program

Judge Autrey then spoke of the personal benefits he had derived from participating and doing the TSM program himself.

“With regard to my doing the TSM program myself, I’d already decided that, given the opportunity, I would participate. I had always been interested in meditation. After all these years, I get to do something I’ve been interested in.  I didn’t have to go search for it, it came to me, which, in the greater scheme of the cosmic universe, is a sign that you should just go with the flow.  And so I did.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Now I don’t know how far along you all are?  So you have learned the program and are doing it?  O.K.”

Incredible Experiences

Judge Autrey continued:

“TSM is just incredible.  I mean there are things that I experienced and felt, especially initially, that I had never experienced before.  Now I understand why [the Beatles] Harrison and Lennon and McCartney were so heavily into it at the time, because it is incredible.  And even more so for me because I never thought of myself as being particularly stressed.  Although people consider my job to be stressful, I didn’t perceive it as particularly stressful.  I didn’t have any problems sleeping at night;  I don’t take it [work on the job] home with me.  When I go home, that’s it.  I’m not working.  I turn it off.  I don’t stress out about decisions I make.  I make them and I move on.

So you say,  ‘well what would  TSM do for a person like me who doesn’t have much stress to begin with?’ And the simple answer to that is, I was even less stressed.  There’s some incidental stress in the course of the day with your family and friends, people you work with, or your job.  And even though it never really bothered me that much, it still had its effect and The TSM program greatly mitigated that.

You really should do it twice a day for optimal effect.  And I’m a believer, too, that if you do it even once a day for 20 minutes, you’re still a thousand miles ahead of everyone else who is not doing it at all!

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TSM’s Effect on the Lives and Work of Probation and Parole Officers

Judge Autrey then went on to elaborate on how the TSM program would affect the life and work of the Probation Officers who were doing the program.

“What does this all mean for you guys [probation officers]?  The bottom line is this:  It will assist you in having greater clarity of thought which is a key for me too.  As clear as I thought I was, I am a lot clearer now.  I get a lot of things accomplished in a short amount of time.  On the days that I’m the most exhausted, I’m still extremely energetic compared to everybody else who is doing the same stuff that I’m doing.  And I can only say it’s not from working out in the gym because I haven’t worked out in a gym in a long time.  That’s not the source of my energy.  The source of my energy is having less stress and having less stress is a function of practicing TSM.

 

Clearer Thinking and More Energy

It also translates for you guys into the work that you do that’s high stress because you deal with some really difficult people that come to you. You can do your jobs more effectively because you can think clearer, you have more energy.  I think you’ll probably do less.  Things that bothered me before I started practicing TSM I really don’t worry about now.  I know this sounds kind of like a testimonial.  It wasn’t my intention to make it that way.  But when you talk about it, that’s really the only way it can come out because it’s very personal.  You can read a thousand studies and you can look at 500 video tapes.  But the impact of that isn’t going to be nearly as great as a person who experiences it.”

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More Effective Supervision of Clients

Judge Autrey continued:

“Which means the impact of this whole concept as a stress management tool is going to be much more effective for the people that you’ll be supervising because you will be doing TSM yourself  and that makes it much more real for them.   

I think it made it much more real for my probationers that I was referring people to The Enlightened Sentencing Project because they knew that I practiced the technique myself as opposed to: ‘you really should do this because it’s good for you.’  Like a parent who tells their kid they should do things and it never really becomes real to the kid or makes sense to the kid.    You can tell the kid: ‘you know I really do understand it because I have been there and done that.  I’ve experienced it myself.  The kid says,” so you screwed up like I did?’

‘Yeah. And I also know that the way to resolve this is to do it this way.  And that’s why I’m telling you that.’  It makes it much more credible bottom line. 

                                

Thinking "Outside the Box”

Judge Autrey concluded his talk by praising Chief U.S. Probation Officer Douglas Burris for his pioneering spirit and his willingness to try something new:

“After being over here for some time, I concluded that Doug’s a visionary.  He truly is.  He thinks "outside the box."  And that’s the key to being successful in what we do, whether it’s as a probation or parole person or a judge, you’ve got to think "out of the box" of the traditional and conventional tools, and consider and evaluate the possibilities that there’s something else that could work, at least just as well, if not better.  So I talked to Doug concerning my experience…which brings us to today”.

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