Char-Koosta News: Presentation explores affects of stress with law enforcement, arrests

PABLO — In 2011 the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Defense office received an award from the Center for Holistic Defense sponsored by the Bronx Public Defenders office in New York for technical assistance that uses a holistic approach that allows the tribal defense team to be client-centered with limited financial resources.

The award is funded through a grant with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Affairs.

The CSKT Defender’s Office is the first tribal program to receive the award so far, according to Ann Sherwood, CSKT Defender’s Managing Attorney.

The “holistic defense” approach that was developed from the Bronx Defenders, a non-profit launched in 1997, is proved to reduce recidivism and can help reduce costs in the criminal justice system by stopping repeat criminals.

Sherwood says the framework of the holistic defense program fits with traditional remedies and has proven to be part of the solution to reducing recidivism within the CSKT defenders clientele.

The four pillars that hold up the approach originate from the Center of Holistic Defense are: seamless access to services that meet clients’ legal and social needs; dynamic, interdisciplinary communication; advocates with interdisciplinary skill set; and robust understanding of, and connection to, the community served.

In the two-year period of the award timetable, nearly 80 clients have been helped on the program and approximately 50 percent have not reoffended, said Sherwood.

Although the grant expired last year, an expansion grant has been filed for next year, stated Sherwood. Temporary funding for a skeleton crew has been established through CSKT Tribal Health for this year, she added.

The two case managers are University of Montana psychology doctoral students. CSKT tribal member Desiree Fox, and Meghan Gill from Colorado are working with the program part-time to serve clients with mentoring, mediation, and guidance in social and mental health issues.

Since the holistic defense approach began the CSKT Defenders office has held workshops each summer for their clients and for interested community members to attend.

The latest workshop, “How to Avoid Being Arrested: Reducing Your Stress in Legal Situations” was held last Thursday and presented by CSKT Tribal Defense Attorney Jim Gabriels and Meghan Gill, MA.

The team offered tools on how to recognize and understand stress when a person encounters an approach or arrest with law enforcement. Both Gabriels and Meghan agreed that no matter who you are it is an alarming situation to get pulled over and encounter an arrest.

“It’s stressful and can be frustrating and intimidating,” Gabriels said.

A few simple tips: first off, do not lie, Gabriels said. “Don’t slouch, speak politely and keep hands down to the side,” he said. “Do not put hands in pockets, because they can think you have a weapon,” he added.

Gabriels also encouraged participants not to beg and plead to the law enforcement officials, “Keep your pride, even if you are going down. It’s healthy for you.”

Gill said to use self-reassuring thoughts to make a situation better. “This is very important. Research shows that there are big differences in outcomes when people are self-critical versus self-reassuring in hard times. Be as kind toward yourself as possible and if you are aren’t sure what this would look like for your, meet with a counselor to figure it out.”

Examples of self-assuring statements are: “I’ll get through this,” or “This is difficult, hang in there,” or “This is disappointing, and yet maybe some lesson or benefit will come of it.”

Staying in the present was another mindful tool to make a situation better, according to Gill. “Most of the thoughts you have about the past or future will be troubling under stress so it is best if you can work to stay out of your wandering mind and in the present. Some people train in this using meditation; which is really just a way to practice coming back to the present moment. Even if you’ve never practiced this way you can still work to notice when you are lost in the ought and bring your attention back to your surroundings, your physical sensations and the events unfolding around you.”

Gill suggested to also to work on broadening awareness.

“Given that the physical responses of stress shut down normal thinking and functioning, you can turn those around by engaging with the opposite responses. You can do this largely with your attention by shifting from a reactionary mindset to a curious one. Start with your physical surroundings and try to attend to the details of color, shape and texture of what you see. Work on awakening your hearing by really listening for all the little sounds. Notice what physical sensations you are experiencing starting with your feet working up. Don’t try to change these just observe them with interest,” Gill stated.

She said exercise and time outside on a regular basis also aids in reducing stress.

Gill shared a few things that will make a situation worse: conflict with others; high caffeine and sugar intake or substance use; not eating or sleeping well; and isolating.

Self-critical thoughts is another guaranteed way to feel worse she said.

“Berating or shaming yourself when experiencing disappointment, fear or hardship will potentially drive your stress symptoms into a more extreme reaction.

Gill said when critical thoughts come at a person, the physical body reacts as if it is being attacked as well.

When a person has a self-critical thought, the impression that person receives is as if someone is saying it them,” she said.

“One strategy that can help is to think of what you would say in a similar situation to a friend or loved one. Ask yourself, ‘Would I be this way to someone I care about?’”

Gill said there are lots of reasons why legal trouble may trigger bad memories or stories of loss, abuse, shame, trauma or injustice. “These events are, in and of themselves, not necessarily bad to recall in some situations. However, when we recall them and we are in current distress, we overwhelm our systems.”

Participant Lois Friedlander said she thought the seminar was informative and should be offered to schools and youth groups. “It should be presented to our youth, like at Two Eagle. It would be so beneficial to them.”

CSKT DHRD Mentoring Instructor, Cindy Friedlander, suggested the information be made into a pamphlet.

Other workshops in the past were: Know Your Rights; Consumer Protection Presentation; and Smart Money Management.

By Lailani Upham

See original article here.