Living Yoga Classes in Prison

Living Yoga Classes in Prison

Living Yoga Classes in Prison

In the ear breaking noise of a women’s full custody prison unit, I noticed that the women inmates who went regularly to the Living Yoga Classes moved through the units tall and poised. I wanted in.

Living Yoga Classes in PrisonFinally, after six months in prison, I earned clear conduct and was eligible for the class. The teachers from Living Yoga went into the darkest places to teach: prisons, rehab centers, jails, and juvenile detention centers.  They wore colorful soft clothing and moved with ease as physical examples of good living. They greeted us with a smile and looked us in the eye without fear. Within that dark place, they radiated light from the inside out. I soaked up their presence like I was standing before the sun. 

At first, it was hard to be peaceful in my poses. With the teachers’ guidance, I began to concentrate on the breath and not the chatter in my head. I imitated the teacher sitting on the mat, eyes closed, her hands resting on her knees,

“Relax your shoulders and let the quiet come into your heart. Let go of where you came from today or where you would rather be. Let quiet settle over you.” Can I really let go? Will I be O.K.? In their safety, I opened the door.


Yogathon invites folk near and far to come together in support of Living Yoga’s trauma-informed yoga programs. Every year, for the entire month of April, hundreds of people come together to raise the crucial funds that support Living Yoga’s work. You can expect daily benefit classes held at partnering yoga studios, educational events, social gatherings, and individual fundraising to promote the many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits of yoga, while working to make these benefits equitably accessible to all.

To learn more and to participate, click here or on the photo below!

Living Yoga Classes in Prison

Living Yoga Classes in Prison


The Northwest Regional Re-entry Center

The Northwest Regional Re-entry Center

The Northwest Regional Re-entry Center

The Northwest Regional Re-entry Center (NWRRC) helps offenders make a safe and successful transition from prison to their communities. Working together with the Bureau of Prisons, United States Probation and Pretrial Services, and other community agencies, we serve up to 125 men and women in a transitional supervised environment. While in our program, these individuals are working to gain suitable employment, secure housing, and reunite with family.

Securing employment, an appropriate residence, and adequate mentoring support is essential to reducing recidivism and strengthening our communities.

History & Mission

In 1976, Walter Evans, Chief U.S. Probation Officer for the District of Oregon, located a residence in S.E. Portland that had been incorporated in 1964 by the Greater Portland Council of Churches for offenders but which later had been abandoned. In 1966 the Council obtained the current 501(c)3 private non-profit organizational status. Seeing the need for residential correctional services for federal offenders, he established a new Board of Directors to meet this need and found funding to purchase the residence. The original Bylaws of the Council established in January 1970 and amended in March 1976 allowing Chief Evans and the Board to appoint a Director to develop this new program called the “Oregon Halfway House” which then in June 1976 contracted with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  In 2005, the Board expanded its services from the original 15 bed program by relocating to a 150 bed capacity, 40,000 square foot facility located in Northeast Portland where we are currently located. The organization legally changed its name from “Oregon Halfway House” to Northwest Regional Re-entry Center (NWRRC) in January 2011.

NWRRC has balanced the needs of offenders and public safety concerns successfully since 1976. NWRRC has continued to expand its programming for offenders throughout the years and is proud of its successful heritage. While we are proud of our efforts to assist offenders, we are equally proud of our successful role in protecting the community through positive behavioral changes of residents, holding them accountable to our program rules and regulations, and an active role in collaborating with enforcement of law.

NWRRC’s mission is to support, educate and encourage our residents, while they do the work necessary, to develop and implement an Individualized Program Plan that guides them in the successful transition back into their communities/families including finding employment and housing, without reoffending. We are also committed to assuring constant supervision, providing structure for accountability and as a result protecting the community.

Northwest Regional Re-Entry Center is committed to assisting transitioning offenders by providing services and referrals. In partnership with community agencies, NWRRC provides services including, but not limited to:

  • Complete case management
  • Employment placement assistance and resources, including portfolio and skills development
  • Chemical dependency counseling, including drug and alcohol testing
  • In house mental health counseling, referrals, and medication monitoring
  • On-site AA/NA/Seeking Safety programs
  • Rent Well tenant education program
  • Release residence assistance
  • Community programming referrals for Anger Management, Domestic Violence classes, etc.
  • Electronic monitoring

All individuals placed at NWRRC will have a minimum 72 business hour orientation period upon arrival. This time allows for residents to familiarize themselves with the facility, thoroughly review the Resident Handbook, acclimate to the new environment and people, and participate in Security, Case Management, and Employment Orientations as well as other mandatory meetings with the Directors and the Mental Health Counselor.

 Volunteers

NWRRC is always in need of volunteers as both interns and program volunteers. We are also currently working on developing a new volunteer mentor program for our residents. NWRRC is committed to a professional and supportive relationship between the organization and its volunteer staff. NWRRC recruits and assigns volunteers on the basis of applicants’ relative knowledge, skills, and abilities as well as our current organizational needs. Past volunteer opportunities have included: Administrative Volunteer/Intern, Case Management Volunteer/Intern, Resource Room Intern, and NA and/or AA Group Facilitator. Future opportunities will include peer and faith based mentoring with our residents.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, including becoming a Mentor, please contact us at info@nw-rrc.org.

 

Types of Placement at NWRRC

NWRRC houses offenders serving different stages of their federal sentence. Offender status determines the type of programming they will participate in:

Pretrial residents are individuals considered to be a minimal risk to the community, but are pending trial and/or sentencing.

Pre-Release residents are individuals currently serving a federal sentence with the Bureau of Prisons. These offenders are releasing from prison to NWRRC with the purpose of establishing employment, housing, and other community necessities. Once gainfully employed, most Pre- Release residents advance through a level system that permits them to take weekend passes to approved residences and eventually participate in the Home Confinement program. Residents on Home Confinement live at home while being supervised by NWRRC via an electronic ankle monitor. Home Confinement is often the final level prior to release from custody and is achieved by successfully participating in the NWRRC program.

Public Law residents are individuals currently on Federal probation or parole. These offenders are at NWRRC typically as a punitive placement due to a supervision violation, or are placed at NWRRC for the purpose of stability due to a job loss or housing displacement. They are generally only approved for work-release and programming purposes.

Direct Court placements are an option used by the US Courts to sentence offenders directly to NWRRC.

Mural painted by a former resident

Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

From Mercy Corp Northwest

Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

In 2007, MCNW launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs (LIFE) at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Wilsonville, OR.  Mercy Corp Launched Lifelong Education for Entrepreneurs

The LIFE prison reentry program reduces recidivism up to 50%; building resiliency and establishing self-sufficiency and economic stability for incarcerated individuals and their families.

A Volunteer’s Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

LIFE Inside, Entrepreneurship Training for Incarcerated People

This 32 weeks of accredited training empowers participants to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and leverages the potential of self-employment promote resilience, and economic stability. Currently serving women at Oregon’s only women’s prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, with hopes of expansion to a men’s facility, the LIFE Inside class provides business planning and training that promotes:

  • Job creation and economic self-sufficiency
  • Reduces reliance on social welfare programs
  • Prevents further criminal activity
  • Most of all, it betters the lives of these individuals, their families and communities.

When women graduate from this program, they are equipped with an amended business plan, transition plan, certificate of achievement, two versions of their resume and three credits attributed to their college transcripts.

“This program encouraged me to reach my potential. The experience was of self discovery, accountability, and self discipline. I learned to set goals, use resources and hold myself to a standard that provided me with a sense of worth and accomplishment.”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

The classes are delivered by MCNW staff with help from community experts and volunteers. Students are taught small business development topics such as profit and loss projections, legal organization, break-even analysis and marketing as well life skills such as effective communication, conflict management, goal planning and time management.

“This program presents the inner workings of how to make a business plan. It’s a step-by-step guide that is comprehensive, objective and related specifically to each individual. I gratefully say that it  has changed and organized my life- the transition plan is a complete game changer. I have a concrete plan of how, when and where I’ll reach my goals and pave the way to start my business plan. I even know how to talk to an employer about the gap in my work history and my criminal record. This LIFE Program wins!”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

LIFE Outside, Support for a Successful Reentry Back into Society

In the very beginning of its life cycle, the LIFE Outside project hopes to pilot a social enterprise that creates change in our community generates sustaining revenue to the LIFE Program. We hope to create an innovative, groundbreaking, response to the needs of individuals who have been recently released from prison. This initiative is both a response to the loss of the Mercy Corps Northwest Reentry Transition Center and to the growing prison population in Oregon. The RTC served many who were recently released from prison via a peer led and supportive model. Our hope is to continue to offer services to recently released individuals. It is important to our team that our response to this growing crisis is innovative and creates lasting change in the lives of the people we serve, therefore creating change in the local community, families, and the region at large. The dream is this: a social enterprise that employs LIFE Inside graduates, offers supportive management, incentivises education, and is a launching pad to the greater employment market.

The LIFE program also incorporates bridging services to allow participants to meet 1:1 with a qualified professional both pre and post release. During these meetings staff and participants work together to create a realistic and practical transition plan.

  • Pre-Release – Identifies gaps and gives individualized feedback on the student’s transition plan, offers county-specific resource information and provides assistance in navigating and accessing primary medical care, mental health, and addictions treatment, and delivers practical support related to problem-solving, stress-management, action planning, and communication skills.
  • Post-release – Gives in-person or phone-based counseling and emotional support, as well as referrals to medical/mental health care, housing, A&D support, and other re-entry services.

Along with coursework and mentoring support of the LIFE Inside class, MCNW offers an innovative matched savings program that encourages both the fiscal discipline of saving toward a goal, and the development of resources for successful reentry. Students must demonstrate consistent attendance, complete homework, create and execute a savings plan based on their current earnings and needs, and complete both a transition plan and a business plan. Once they have filled these requirements, the students are eligible for a $500 grant for transition needs upon release.

“The LIFE Program gives us hope for a better life. Not only hope, but the tools and confidence to follow through with our dreams and goals. This program changes lives. It will break the cycle of incarceration and addiction for those of us that take it seriously. This program is helping me have a second chance at life.”

– LIFE Graduate, June 2018

LIFE has been recognized on a national level for its one-of-kind approach to weave together entrepreneurial, life skills, and reentry planning as a solution for reducing recidivism and ending mass incarceration. Specifically, in 2017, the LIFE program was highlighted in policy paper published by The Aspen Institute, an internationally recognized educational and policy studies organization, entitled Prison to Proprietorship.


A Volunteer's Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

A Volunteer's Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

From Prison Fellowship

A Volunteer's Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

Founded in 1976, Prison Fellowship® exists to serve all those affected by crime and incarceration, and to see lives and communities restored in and out of prison—one transformed life at a time.  A Volunteer’s Chance to Make a Difference Behind Bars

A single mom of two, Monica has a packed schedule. There are many other places she could be, besides a maximum-security men’s prison. But for her, this work is deeply personal.


All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

From Conservative Justice Reform

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

 

Alexandria, VA – Today we proudly commend the unanimous passage of HB 1648 – ‘Dignity for Incarcerated Women’ in the Senate, led by Delegates John McGuire, Nick Freitas, and Kaye Kory of the Virginia General Assembly.  All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

As a conservative organization that focuses on improving the criminal justice system, we support this positive step towards affording every woman in prison a degree of basic humanity, which is often lost in a system designed for men.

Women are the fastest growing population in the commonwealth’s prison system. Unfortunately, the unique needs and challenges of this growing population of incarcerated women are often left out of the conversations surrounding criminal justice reform. The bi-partisan sponsors of Dignity for Incarcerated Women have recognized the burgeoning crisis of women’s healthcare in our prisons. “Our Dignity bill is a pro-life, pro humane, and a pro woman bill that is plainly common sense. I am proud to chief co-patron this bipartisan legislation with ACU and others,” explained Delegate McGuire.

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While PregnantDignity for Incarcerated Women would provide guidance to address pregnancy-related needs of incarcerated women. In addition to providing access to prenatal and post-delivery care, and support to pregnant and postpartum inmates, training and technical assistance would be provided to correctional staff to ensure compliance. Without proper access and training, incarcerated women will continue to be body searched by corrections officers of the opposite gender, leading to further trauma, and children will have less opportunity to visit their mothers who are serving time to ensure a familial bond. This is incredibly important considering that in Virginia, 1 in 4 children will experience the incarceration of a parent before the age of 18.

Olivia McLarnan, a Policy Analyst at #cut50, notes “today the Virginia Senate took a huge step forward to improve the lives of the Virginia’s incarcerated women and their families. We are proud of the bipartisan support shown for HB 1648 and look forward to continuing to build on this momentum with our partners across the aisle.”

One key provision deals with the shocking practice of shackling pregnant women during pregnancy and delivery. Unbelievably, this heinous practice still happens far too often inside our prisons. The use of shackles can cause injuries to mothers and their babies, including physical trauma due to falls, increased pain during labor from bone separation and muscle tears, blocked circulation, and miscarriage.

Delegate Kory explains that, “the number of women inmates has skyrocketed since 1980 by 750%. Our criminal justice system cannot handle women’s needs–especially the needs of the 60% who are mothers. I am very proud to be the patron of HB 1648, this exciting first step towards healing and strengthening the families who are forced apart by incarceration.”

There is a growing trend on keeping babies with their mothers for a set period of time in order to bond with one another. Feeling the same heartbeat, hearing the same rhythm of breathing, assures the baby they’re safe and with their mother. Those of us who place a high value on families, keeping children with their mothers makes perfect sense. There is no stronger bond than that a mother’s love for her child. Kaitlin Owens, a Policy Analyst at ACUF’s Nolan Center for Justice, adds, “As conservatives, we believe every life has value. Dignity for Incarcerated Women ensures that expectant mothers are provided all the things necessary for a safe pregnancy and a healthy delivery even when they are behind bars. Nothing is more pro-life than that.”

As conservatives, we believe it is possible to be tough on crime, while recognizing that each person has inherent value. The underlying principles embodies in Dignity for Incarcerated Women will help to preserve the human dignity of the women and babies in our justice system, while achieving more positive results for families throughout the country.

Our mission at the American Conservative Union Foundation is to educate Americans about conservative solutions to the country’s most pressing problems. ACUF’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform promotes policies that improve public safety, reduce government cost, and protect human dignity. Criminal Justice Reform is a high priority for ACUF, and it has been highlighted at each of ACUF’s Conservative Political Action Conferences (CPAC) for over a decade. For more information, please got to: ConservativeJustiveReform.org.

 

Read original blog here
Kaitlin Owens
804-405-9559

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant

All Women Deserve to be Treated with Human Dignity – Especially While Pregnant


The Prison Library

The Prison Library

The Prison Library

 

The Prison Library

One thing that I knew would help me get through the days and years was a book. Now that I was off Intake, I could check out a book from the prison library and read myself to sleep. As a child, I had started with A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh, grew up with Ponyboy from the Outsiders, diversified as a curious young adult with Anais Nin, later I fell in love with David Sedaris and Garrison Keillor.

The Prison Library
Pooh in an illustration by E. H. Shepard

Waiting for the library call-out after dinner, I thought back to the rolling cart “library” in jail. It held about thirty books and looked as though the women had chewed on the pages during drug withdrawal. In Solitary, I read that damn toothpaste tube over and over, playing memory games to keep my brain from turning to mush. The prison library just had to be better. I walked the long shiny corridor toward the library door and turned the handle.

I entered a large room with of about 1,000 worn book spines on the shelves. I was flooded with relief. It smelled like a library. The women spoke in unexpected whispers. I’m gonna make it. Romance novels took up an entire wall, floor to ceiling. The second largest category was crime novels, no surprise. There was a fiction shelf above a dusty section of classics. I bent down to investigate the titles of all the books I was suppose to read and love. Moby Dick, War and Peace. I picked up Don Quixote. I certainly had the time.

A woman shuffled past, observing my search. “I know I am supposed to read that stuff, but I am locked up and miserable enough.”

Touché. I put back Don Quixote.

I turned the corner along the chest high shelves in the center of the room and saw the non-fiction area. First reference books: craft books, Martha Stewart—our home girl, with her Holiday entertainment books. There was a long low shelf of ancient encyclopedias. There was an ample supply of self-help books. Well here ya go, Karen. AA, NA, parenting, domestic violence and depression, all a reflection of incarcerated women.

I circled the room and ended up in the mystery/crime section. Smack dab at eye level was my friend Janet Evanovitch. I read her books while awaiting trial so I could run away into a book. I liked the sexual intrigue between her hunky boyfriend Morelli and the dark and brooding Ranger. There was a woman standing next to me, looking at the same section. She was talking to herself.

“Sandra Brown, score! Here’s a new one!” She looked over at me with a wild crooked grin. Her eyes were slightly off, one drifting to the side.  The Moe hair cut of the Three Stooges was just plain overkill. One of her eyes looked at the shelves, “None of these are about bank robbin’. That’s what I did.”

The Prison Library
“Female Bank Robber”

“Wow.” I thought of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. “Can I ask how you did it?”

“I used a note.” She was still looking at me that wild grin.

“A note!” I said. “What else? A gun? A knife?”

“No. Just a note.” She deflated.

“You just walked in with a note?” 

“Yeah.”

“Must’ve been a helluva note,” I offered.

She looked up, her roaming eyes more flat. “It just said, ‘This is a robbery. Give me your money.’” She paused a moment. “I must have really been high. I guess that’s why I’m here,”

“Well,” I said, “You’re in the right section—Crime novels. Maybe you could learn a trick or two?”

She grunted, took her book and made her way to the clerk’s table.

“Five minutes!” the library cop shouted.

I took just one of Janet Evanovitch’s books, saving the others for another day. On my way out, I looked around for Garrison Keillor or David Sedaris. No luck. I asked the inmate clerk how to get books from my family.

“Your family has to use an outside book source like Amazon,” said the inmate library clerk, Wise Owl. “They can’t send books in directly because DOC is afraid they would hide a hacksaw, drugs and cell phones in the pages.” She look at me with an expression that said, our life has come to this. What the hell happened?

I reluctantly left the library and walked as slow as I could without drawing the attention of the hallway Sargent or the over head cameras. Hacksaws indeed.