Last week we kicked off our year-end fundraising campaign by introducing you to Mark Phelps, a participant in one of our programs at RJ Donovan State Prison in San Diego, CA.
Mark has made a remarkable transformation in the two and a half years we’ve known him. If you haven’t read that piece already you can find it here. And for those of you who’ve already given…thank you for answering the call.
This week I want to share with you a story about Mark that feels right in line with the spirit of Giving Tuesday.
One consequence of long prison sentences is that there are a lot of people in prison getting on in years. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “Between 2000 and 2017, the share of prisoners age 50 or older more than quintupled, from 4% to 23%.”
As some of you may have experienced, aging brings with it a host of physical, mental, and emotional trials and typically associated increases in healthcare costs. Fortunately, as some of you may also have noticed, yoga helps mitigate the impacts of aging. So if you prefer a simple, rational argument for why we need yoga in our prisons and jails, it reduces healthcare costs.
Mark was incarcerated at 28 and spent 29 years in prison before he found his way into our yoga program, which he calls, “…better than any anger management class I’ve ever taken….” Two and a half years later, at 60-ish, Mark is no spring chicken, though he is in pretty good shape.
Most importantly, however, Mark has a generous heart. So I was only a little surprised when one day he came to me saying, “I’d like to do something for these old guys we have in here.”
Thanks to the temperate climate of San Diego and its proximity to hospitals capable of handling severe medical emergencies and conditions, RJ Donovan is a designated ‘medical facility.’ So, we have more than our share of “old guys” at the institution and in our programs.
It can be challenging to facilitate a class with a handful of people with canes and walkers, and others who can do a handstand without a wall. (We take ‘all-levels’ classes to an extreme.) Mark was keen to help the “mobility impaired” folks in the classes find appropriate modifications. So we welcomed the assistance.
Ultimately, Mark desires to start a program just for these folks, and we would love to support him in that. (Generous donors wishing to underwrite a Yoga Leadership training – aka a yoga teacher training – at RJ Donovan, please contact us.)
I’d like to also thank one anonymous donor from a partner organization who visited our program one day. When she got the chance to talk to Mark and heard all about his desire to do something to help out the “old guys” at RJ Donovan, she was moved. Soon after she sent us a few books to bring in to him to help with his mission.
What could you give to support our mission today? We couldn’t do this without your support. All donations before December 31, up to $20,000, will be matched, doubling your impact.
Prison Yoga Project
Help us help our aging prison population. Donate today!