Claudia Goates has a philosophy about dealing with the gruesome murders of her mother and sister - she has a choice.

"I could scream and yell and get angry, or I could take that energy and put it into a positive mold where people can be helped."Goates has been volunteering her energies to help those who have become involved in the criminal justice system. She helps organize a program that teaches people, among other things, that they, too, have choices in how they deal with life.

On most arraignment days in West Valley and Murray circuit courts, Goates sits in the back of the room and listens as the defendants appear before the judge. When and if the judge feels Goates' program could help the person, the judge will ask her to take the defendant into a conference room and sign him up for help.

"You don't know how lucky you are," she tells a man who had just been sentenced for lewdness. "The judge has given you a chance not many people get."

When people lose their self trust and confidence, they turn to co-dependencies to fill that void, such as alcohol, drugs, sex, work or expensive cars, she said. "It helps handle the pain."

The International Association of Families, a non-profit foundation, provides tools for the participants to solve their own problems by giving them back self-confidence and personal power. When that occurs, the co-dependent characteristics are reversed and the addictive behavior is abandoned, she said.

Although the participants have been charged with a wide variety of crimes, the treatment is the same for all. The money the participants pay for the program is deducted from the fines the judges order them to pay. Dr. Edward Brown, a social worker, Dr. Victor Cline, a psychologist, and Goates' husband, Dr. Delbert Goates, a child psychiatrist, all volunteer their services and expertise to the program.

"Thus far, we have not had one case where the person has come back to the court," she said. And the success letters continue to arrive from participants who have been helped.

One man enrolled in the program after he was arrested for having a 0.25 percent blood-alcohol level. He wrote saying, "It scares me to look back and see where my life was going. My attitude has entirely changed. I realize that I have other choices," she said.

Goates said she knows the program is helping to break criminal cycles and is preventing people from becoming part of the prison system. She hopes her volunteer efforts are helping prevent people from reaching a point in their lives as Von Taylor and Edward Deli did when they shot and killed her mother and sister.

"I think about that very often," she said. "I know there's nothing we can do about the past. All we can do is help prevent something like this in the future. That's my hope."

The success stories keep her going. She continues to put a lot of her time and money into the program but hopes that others will help the program's efforts through volunteer work and donations. For more information, call 484-3428.