Report from KC Walpole: Greetings!
it has been a while since I speak and that is not my way. Had a series of calamities highlighted by a crashing of my email program in the middle of our quarterly five day MBSR retreat a Lowell CI. There was a lot of new aspects in this cycle and my sense is that they will serve the general knowledge base of PDN. It is the Christmas Holiday and I will try to keep this short and to the point. Will be glad to flush out what ever anyone wants to know on a one to one basis.
On the first day of the retreat, we started with over a hundred women and we only had 105 sets of mats and cushions. a problem but a good problem. some sat in chairs till the natural attrition put every one on a cushion. As you can see from the photo, we have a healthy mix of women in race, age and sentence length that range from a year and a day to sequential life sentences. The ones in yellow are youthful offenders.
This is the first time we have had correction officers attend the retreat. Not for sitting but for control. Had lots of doubts about it at first but in the end it was a very good thing. They greatly facilitated the collection and movement of women from the Main Unit to the annex. Also, they were there to get the women to early chow. we could not have bag lunches because of the cost and prep on the kitchen. also with the completion of the new high security dorm there were not enough trays to bring in hot meals as they had in the past. the next best thing was to put them in the front of the chow line and that we were able to do. also, having dedicated correction officers on hand facilitated and simplified the count. their presence was unnoticed from day two to five because they set up an office in the anti room between the retreat room and yard. Also, they were very supportive of the program. Also, having them in the background modulated any potential disruptive behavior from those inmates that were not totally dedicated to the program. We have never had an incident that we could not control but at about 100 participants and new dynamics start to set in. Don’t know that we could have asked for and gotten better support from the correction officers.
Got to say that support for the program from the wardens and staff of both the Main and Annex was as good as it gets. Bear in mind we are talking of two compounds with over 2,400 inmates as well as a work camp and forest camp with who knows how many and a second annex under construction that will house over 1,000 more inmates. we had no problem with administrative support be it duplicating rosters on the warden’s Xerox machine or getting people back and forth to and from call outs. The movement of inmates in and out of dorms and between the main and annex was almost graceful.
The single biggest problem we are facing is the shortage of volunteers with training at the Center for Mindfulness. we are down to two for the next cycle that will be supplement by yoga teachers and some other volunteers. we do need some funds to get some people trained and qualified. the projection for the next cycle is five MBSR classes over two days of 35 limit to each class and one class called the Inward Journey which is built on the MBSR base of some 25 inmates that have taken MBSR. much more than 35 and the quality of instruction starts to deteriorate.
This marks three full years for the program and it has grown with every class. In the final analysis, I think this is the single biggest testimony to the program. It has been a long road since we first started three years ago with a retreat of 27 inmates. The Department of Corrections has started to run the numbers on some basic stuff and now that we are at the three year mark, they will start doing it on recidivism as well. Participation remains voluntary and bear in mind, they get no special food, quarters or gain time.
The last point is that it looks as if the core program for the re-entry dorm of some 144 inmates will have an MBSR base. there is a lot of room for changes there but that is the way it stands for now. if you had asked me three years ago if we would ever get to this stage or even still be doing MBSR three years out, would never have believed it possible. Bear in mind we are now on our third prison administration and the support only gets better. That is the way it is for today. Know I do wish you well. do good and take care.
Yours in the Dharma K. C. Walpole
Gateless Gate Zen Center 1208 NW 4th Street Gainesville, Florida 32601 Phone: (352) 222-0006 Web: http://Gatelessgate.org