The last day of summer: Prison and the pond
The heat has broken and what was an uncomfortable wave is now glorious conditions here. And in my radical calendar this marks the end of summer.
i’d never been in a maximum security prison facility before. Orange County where i did jail time most recently was a more modest level and political prisoners are generally not considered a flight risks, so this level of hardware and observation was new. Before Sara and Kassia and i made it to the incarcerated women, we had to go inside and outside 4 times, often walking in guarded cages. We were searched on entry and had to apply a month before our arrival to make sure we were approved in time. We walked passed 3 different airlocks which had prison guards monitoring passes from within elevated guard houses. And then we finally made it to the women we were meeting with.
“i start most of my workshops by asking people why they should listen to me? Usually, there is some content or expertise i bring to the to the table. I come to you as a privileged white male, not especially useful to your situation. Today what i hope to offer is a useful exploration conversation. Sara and i dont think we have the answer for you, but we think we can help you find useful questions. These if you ask yourselves these questions your answers can help reduce the chances of coming back to prison. “
We spent 90 minutes starting conversations with 5 to 7 inmates. At first there was some talk of god and turning to the church after release. In some cases it was clear that addicted friends or lovers had brought them either towards ab/use or at least arrest. One gal was there because of stuff which her boyfriends was doing, much of which she did not discover until the trial.
They were all in a ReEntry program. Most and just a few months left on their sentences. Interestingly, employment was not the principle issue for most of the women, in fact re-integrating with estranged kids was the most common worry.
Darcy (NRN) has an open tear tattoo beneath her left eye. Which i think means that she has killed someone outside of prison. Kassia tells us that she spoke more during our questions and suggestions than she had over the rest of the program. And her situation was impossible. She was soon likely to lose custody of her 9 month old daughter who she has never lived with because of her prison time. She feels she needs to defend her mother from her alcoholic boyfriend who is actively abusive to her and her mom. She has also had addiction problems and was in her forth sentence in prison. And somehow as the circumstance became more impossible, the more useful the dialog was. I dont know if any of the many suggestions Sara and i and the other inmates offered will be directly helpful. But what i do believe is that she felt heard and respected in the conversation in a way unusual to her experience, and for this i am happy to have gone.
Then i rushed back to Twin Oaks to facilitate a Heroes home schooling game. A game that game fell apart for lack of a play, so Kaya and Willow went to the pond. We were jumping around having a wild time. After a year of wearing bathing suits, Willow has decided (for now at least) that he does not need them, which is the general culture in the pond.
The water is perfect, the company charming and my mind wanders to doing prison couching work, which i had never considered before today.