An inmate group at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility celebrated the accomplishments of its members Thursday evening at a banquet held at the prison.
The Young Man's Awareness Program, which has been at the FDCF for the past three years, was brought to the prison by inmate Arthur Williams.
Williams started YMAP in 1997 when he was serving time at North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City.
-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Jeff Whalen, a Fort Dodge Correctional Facility inmate, talks about how the Young Man’s Awareness Program has helped him while inside the prison. Whalen said the program helped him learn skills he hopes to use once he gets out of the prison.
He spoke about the successes the program has had over the years to the banquet's audience.
"I'm truly honored," he said. "I must say, what we have this evening speaks volumes about how far this institution has come."
Williams said the program wouldn't be possible without the prison's leadership, which he said has allowed for not only YMAP to grow, but other inmate groups as well.
"Where else in the DOC (Department of Corrections) can you go and see this many groups together?" he asked. "Those groups make this institution what it is."
Williams presented several awards to inmates for their completion of the program and for all their hard work as members. He also presented plaques to YMAP members as well as prison volunteers.
He commended the volunteers for "sacrificing" their time to come to the prison and work with the inmates.
Jeff Whalen was one of the YMAP members who received an award at the banquet. He spoke about how the program has changed him.
"Like most other guys will tell you, I joined just because I wanted to get out of my cell," he said. "But I ended up learning so much. I made so many new friends, and learned important leadership skills."
Whalen said YMAP meets once a week with an occasional special meeting where they hold open discussions which include ice-breaker questions and talking about how to live better lives.
"YMAP is dedicated to finding the potential of everybody," he said. "They give you the tools to be successful in life."
He also talked about another upcoming inmate group that will focus on teaching financial responsibility to inmates. That group, which will begin on Jan. 1, will offer inmates the chance to donate to local charities.
Whalen said inmates can learn many skills from the groups.
"You only get out of it what you put in," he said. "They can give you what you need to excel."