Branching out to T-Town

Today, we started classes at David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa. This facility is also known as Tulsa County Jail, which means both men and women are housed at the facility. The volunteer coordinator said I could pick which group I wanted to teach, so I said both. I teach a men’s class followed by a women’s class every Tuesday morning. My first impression of the facility was how efficiently run everything is. I know all county jails have their issues, but this one has more programs and classes available for inmates than anywhere else I’ve seen. Extremely polite sheriff’s deputies move inmates around perfectly timed, escorting them to and from classes and meetings. From an outsider’s view, I was impressed. We are given a private room for classes, so there are not many distractions, and unlike other facilities, you’re not hearing expletive-laden screaming matches outside (at least not yet).

I’ve long taught men in regular classes, but this was the first time I taught male prisoners. I knew I had to get past my own prejudices…men tend to commit more violent crimes and more sexual crimes. It’s not that I am concerned about these men doing anything to me, it’s just practicing what I preach and being there fully to provide healing for the individual without judgment, no matter what brought them there. I never have, and never will, ask an inmate why they are there…if only some would also quit offering up this info to me. Whew. Add that to the list of things that does not need to be in my overactive brain.

We had small classes for both groups. DLM is fairly progressive in that they’ve already been offering yoga classes, so they now have three yoga instructors that come every week. However, the waiting list for men’s yoga is still over 100 names long since they only have one other men’s class.

The men could not have been more polite and appreciative, especially when they discovered I was not a contractor through the sheriff’s department, but a volunteer. One man took to heart the breath connection and focused on that with some intention that made me envious. A younger man with intricate, beautiful tattoos looked like he was maybe a little bored, but went out of his way to shake my hand and express thanks at the end of class. And yet another man was so nervous he was asking me questions through savasana, until I finally kindly had to say, “and now we’re quiet, so please shutup,” which they all cracked up over, including him.

The women were, as usual in prison classes, intense and focused. They breathed in unison, smiled, and asked about classes they could take when they get out. It made me so happy to be working at a donation-based yoga studio on the outside, Cherry Street Yoga, where they could actually potentially afford to take those classes.

Big thanks to Sarah Rachel Hancock Thomas and Deputy Holloway for getting me into this new facility so seamlessly.

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