Updated: May 22, 2020
from KC, who has run a very successful and wide reaching prison program in Florda:
Hope everyone is well. The email I sent out yesterday on the program that is proposed for Gadsden CI was short and as much as anything a test to see if the computer would work on the road. Also, it had been a long day with lots of road time. Did not want to say much till I had an opportunity to absorb the full impact of the entire conference and decisions coming out of it. up front and bottom line, this is a truly great opportunity to do good and we can set a train in motion that will reach far beyond Gadsden CI and the Gateless Gate.
As much as the effort is big, let us not forget that in the last 18 months we have held five prison retreats that have included in the neighborhood of 250 plus women at Lowell CI. Unlike most programs that offer gain time, special living accommodations or who knows what, we only offer the program. There has been precious little advertisement of the program if any at all. What has happened is that we have drawn from word of mouth from those that have attended the program. I can think of no better validation of a program.
So, now we are in another prison and this is a prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America CCA. A private for profit prison if you will. Don’t know if it is just this prison or something reflective of the company but I walked away after a conference and almost a complete tour of the facility looking to see what kind of space was available. Now, I have been in and given programs in state, federal and county jails. These programs have ranged from Death row and federal penitentiaries to female youthful offender programs. Never have I been in a prison where there is so much focus on rehabilitation and programs. they have programs that are wide in scope and depth. These are not knee jerk programs that go up and down with dollars available. They have creatively used a wide spectrum of state and private programs that are essentially free where people from other agencies come into to teach. They are the only prison I have seen that uses the State Ready to Work training certification program and that is free.
Because they are a private prison, everything they do is performance oriented. That means the programs are evaluated for effectiveness. Our program will start will two pilot groups. One is for the general population and one is for the addiction group. The addiction recovery program is the largest one I have seen. It includes two dorms that are totally self contained to include classrooms and I think 5 or 6 pods of 62 people each with lots of table space for inmates to write, do homework and etc. we will have a classroom and 30 inmate peer facilitator leaders who will be volunteers for the first group. This is an incredible maximization of effort. Then in the class for the open population, the wellness director who is has staff supervision will be taking the class as a participant. She wants to know not only the dynamics from a theoretical and intellectual point but also from an experiential point as well. I have been teaching in prisons for over ten years and never seen this happen.
Both groups will be of 30 inmates each for the first cycle. This will be a test run to see how space requirements, times and etc work out. then we will make adjustments and I fully expect to double the number of groups for the next cycle. My hope is that we will have a full time program each quarter for both recovery dorms as well as for the general population. Then in three or four cycles we come back to the conference and take a serious look at character dorms with MBSR as the core programming.
The start date for the first cycle is 22 April. Now, that is oh so very short fused considering we have a lot of prep work to do. Things like getting mats, cushions and books. However, on this we are moving on many fronts. The prison has asked for tentative costs of materials and the staff is looking to see if they can come up with funding and they have asked for a vendor which is something I have yet to see happen in any prison I have had a program in. we are talking of almost $4,000 in upfront investment by a private for profit institution. Horizon Communities in Prison is also looking to see what kind of funding they can come up with. we are also going to have to shake the bushes to see what we can come up with. in the end we are going to have to be creative in our solutions.
The total funding we need is about $20,000 for the next year. Anyone that has or knows of how to get any portion of it, please either send money or pass the email around. Please, no one feel badly about sending fifty or one hundred dollars. Everything will help and that we need.
Volunteers. One of the reason for the short cycle on the first time around is that we need to get a retreat in as soon as possible so that we can invite people from Tallahassee and where ever to sit the five day retreat. My hope is that once they sit a five day retreat in a women’s prison and in this one in particular, they will find that it is a most rewarding experience and be open to volunteering to teach MBSR. Because of the duel use of assets at both Lowell CI and Gadsden CI, we have to put the two cycles in sync. That means on the third month of each calendar quarter there will be three prison retreats sponsored by the Gateless Gate. The first full week will be a five day MBSR retreat at Lowell CI, the second full week will be a full five day MBSR retreat at Gadsden CI and on the third week-end will be a three day interfaith retreat at Lawtey CI. We are now talking 12 scheduled prison retreats in the next year. Lots of space for lots of volunteers.
Yes, we are a very small center for such an ambitious program. But this is what life is about and it is about helping others that might not have gotten to the starting blocks with a full deck of cards. However, for us to do this will require help and there are plenty of opportunities to help on many fronts. Think in terms of those we will be reaching, I am talking of over 150 inmates a week for the next couple of months and by the end of the year we should have that number doubled. Monies can be sent to the Gateless Gate Zen Center at the address below. please be free to send this to anyone or any organization that may be able to help in any way, shape or manner. Know I wish y’all well. Do good and take care.
Yours in the Dharma KC
Kinloch C. Walpole Gateless Gate Zen Center 1208 NW 4th Street Gainesville, Florida 32601 Phone: (352) 336-1517 Web Site: http://gatelessgate.org