Pivoting for Connection in Prison
[Please note: The views and opinions expressed in each post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BayNVC as a whole.]
Meeting the needs of NVC Students in Prison
I really like how needs for purpose and meaning are deeply met by my work with BayNVC’s social justice project, Safer Communities. The project brings NVC skills and consciousness to people whose lives have diverted into incarceration.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, every person in prison and every prison program has been deeply affected; Safer Communities and our students are no exception.
Typically the project teaches weekly onsite classes so students are better able to cope with the real-life challenges of prison life, foster compassionate relationships with their families and other incarcerated people, and prison staff, as well as to prepare for a life outside of prison that is free of violence.
Since the pandemic began in early March, our teaching team of 13 has not been allowed inside the prison for fear of spreading the virus to this vulnerable population living in close quarters.
We had to think creatively about how to respond to the complete isolation for our students during this difficult situation. Loneliness is even worse for people living in prisons and jails whose programming (classes) has been halted. They may have fewer inner coping skills, and are facing all the uncertainties the rest of us are living with right now.
After many hours of visioning and thoughtful planning, our team is working together to pivot to correspondence learning for people living “inside.” Our first letter to our students attending our San Quentin NVC classes will be sent out this month. I’m excited to see the energy, compassion and commitment of team members, some of whom have dedicated themselves to teaching classes every week for over 18 years.
Right now, as we walk into the unknown, I think it’s important to remind one another of the beauty of life, the kindness of human actions, and to remember that conversations, even “difficult” conversations, can pave the way to deeper understanding and connection when we enter with curiosity at our side.
We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, or when we’ll be able to teach inside the prison face-to-face again, but with your support we know that we’ll be there for our students in the way we can, through letters and lessons sent through the mail.
Safer Communities is volunteer-driven, but we need funds to cover materials like paper and photo copies (A LOT!), postage, project administration costs, and educational skill-building for our teachers. Please contribute today to ensure that the Safer Communities Project can continue to make Nonviolent Communication classes and learning accessible to the hundreds of motivated and eager students in San Quentin and beyond.
Your participation of any degree contributes to forwarding our vision of living in a safer world and community.
Note: If you would prefer to make a donation through the mail, or smaller than $10, please send a check made out to “BayNVC – Safer Communities Project” addressed to BayNVC, PO Box 22872, Oakland, CA 94609.
Wishing you many moments of peace of mind throughout turbulent times,
P.S. To receive occasional updates on Safer Communities work in prisons, and mentoring other people to grow similar programs around the world, please join our email notification list.
Meganwind Eoyang came to the study of Nonviolent Communication from a very different world. She grew up street fighting on the south side of Chicago. She studied and taught martial arts, and took full-force fighting training. She was excited to discover that Nonviolent Communication offers clear steps for practicing the compassion, self-love, and love for others which most spiritual traditions invite us to live. Meganwind has been a trainer with Bay Area Nonviolent Communication since 2001. She also managed BayNVC’s Safer Communities Project for 14 years, with 13 volunteers bringing NVC classes to inmates in San Quentin state prison and Bay Area Sheriff’s Department county jails. She loves sharing NVC skills and principles with individuals, couples, classes and organizations.
You may enjoy watching:
• A 10-minute video interview of Meganwind speaking about empathy.
• A 4-minute video interview of Meganwind speaking about examples of empathy with inmates at San Quentin and in her coaching sessions with couples