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True North: Travis JAG bolsters preventative law program

An inmate from the California Medical Facility shares a personal story about his incarceration and shows a photograph of his children during the time he was imprisoned at CMF, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

An inmate from the California Medical Facility shares a personal story about his incarceration and shows a photograph of his children during the time he was imprisoned at CMF, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Inmates at the California Medical Facility provide a tour to Airmen participating in the True North program of the prision at the CMF, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Inmates at the California Medical Facility provide a tour to Airmen participating in the True North program of the prision at the CMF, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Inmates at the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, California, introduce themselves to Airmen participating in the True North program Sept. 15, 2016. Participants meet with inmates, hear their stories and tour nearly every aspect of prison life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Inmates at the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, California, introduce themselves to Airmen participating in the True North program Sept. 15, 2016. Participants meet with inmates, hear their stories and tour nearly every aspect of prison life. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

An Airman and inmate sit next to each other and listen to presentations being given by other inmates during the True North program at the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

An Airman and inmate sit next to each other and listen to presentations being given by other inmates during the True North program at the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Airman basic Kendall Covell, 60th Communications Squadron, left, shares his personal story of being recently court-martialed to Airmen participating in the True North program at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. The True North program showcases the full spectrum of the military judicial process including incarceration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Airman basic Kendall Covell, 60th Communications Squadron, left, shares his personal story of being recently court-martialed to Airmen participating in the True North program at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. The True North program showcases the full spectrum of the military judicial process including incarceration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Capt. Joseph Cachuela, 60th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office attorney, left, shows Airman 1st Class Jonathan Rocca, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron electrician, right, what it's like to be on the stand during a court-marital proceeding at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Capt. Joseph Cachuela, 60th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office attorney, left, shows Airman 1st Class Jonathan Rocca, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron electrician, right, what it's like to be on the stand during a court-marital proceeding at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Capt. Joseph Cachuela, 60th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office attorney, front, discusses the different elements involved in a court-martial proceeding with Airmen participating in the True North program at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. The True North program showcases the full spectrum of the military judicial process including incarceration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Capt. Joseph Cachuela, 60th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office attorney, front, discusses the different elements involved in a court-martial proceeding with Airmen participating in the True North program at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 15, 2016. The True North program showcases the full spectrum of the military judicial process including incarceration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Airmen participating in the True North program await the beginning of their visit to the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, California, Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

Airmen participating in the True North program await the beginning of their visit to the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, California, Sept. 15, 2016. As part of the program, Airmen meet with inmates at CMF and hear their personal stories as well as tour the facility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – As part of an effort to bolster the 60th Air Mobility Wing Legal Office’s preventative law program and curb Travis Air Force Base’s recent trend of elevated nonjudicial punishment and courts-martial proceedings in recent years, Travis officials developed a new program to confront Airmen in a more unorthodox approach.

“Our traditional preventative law programs are just a few briefings showing slides with metrics on them,” said Capt. Joseph Cachuela, 60th AMW Legal Office attorney. “But that doesn’t hit home for anyone. Nobody is going to remember or care about that.”

Dubbed True North, the program focuses on immersing Airmen in an environment that shows them the direct consequences of a bad decision or action. Partnering with the California Medical Facility, in Vacaville, California, True North showcases the full spectrum of the judicial process including incarceration.

Those participating in the program begin the day within the Travis courtroom, learning about each step involved in the judicial process of a court martial. During this time, they also meet and hear the firsthand account of an Airman who has previously undergone a court martial proceeding.

“The bread and butter of the courtroom portion of the program is to have an Airman who has been convicted in a court martial share their story,” said Cachuela. “There is some humanity to it. They see someone just like them. They see how easy it is to make a mistake that can lead you down a bad path.”

Master Sgt. Stephen Dugan, 60th Medical Surgical Operations Squadron first sergeant, said it can change lives.

“It shows them the big picture of what a court martial does to a person, how it can break you down and how isolated you become,” said Dugan. “It’s powerful.”

From the courtroom, Airmen are then taken a few miles down the road to CMF, a male-only state prison medical facility.

During the infant stages of the program, coordinators used the “scared straight” approach when visiting the prison facility, but have since determined that it wasn’t an effective way to generate positive change.

“The program has greatly evolved from where we first started,” said Dugan. “We determined that that’s not the model we needed. We concluded that taking people who are influential within their social groups was far more effective.”

Dugan said that the theory behind the program is similar to the model used within the Air Force-wide Green Dot program -- relying on individuals to influence their peers to make better decisions during day-to-day life.

“Peer influence is way stronger than me telling somebody what’s going to happen when they go to a court martial or me reading off an AFI (Air Force Instruction) saying you can’t do this,” said Dugan. “I think that is the strongest tool we have to slow some of the trends we have on this base.”

The most impactful portion of the program is the visit to the prison itself. Participants meet with inmates, hear their stories and tour nearly every aspect of prison life.

“It has kind of formed into more of a mentorship program. There are some uncomfortable situations during this trip. But they are put there for cause,” said Dugan. “It’s a real look into how life really works. It opens people’s eyes of what consequence to poor choices can be.”

Dugan added that his involvement in the program has left a lasting impact on his own life.

“It makes me look back on things I’ve done in my life and how close I could have been in the same situation,” he said.  “You look at things differently.”

Since True North’s inception earlier this year approximately 50 Airmen have participated in the program.

“We are hoping that the message taken from this program is that you can recognize when you’re in a bad situation and get yourself or your friends out of it,” Dugan said. “We are talking to people who maybe stayed later than they should have, who may have had one more drink and decided to drive home or let that moment of anger get the better of them.

“If we can change the life of just one person, than the entire program was a success."

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