What is Bad About Jail, What is Good About Jail

2017 Vanderbilt University Coursera Justice Mercy Mass Incarceration 1 Dec 2017

I recently finished a fascinating six week Vanderbilt University class called “Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration” presented through Coursera online.  The course goals were “to discover alternatives to the current systems of crime and punishment in order to imagine a more inclusive, just and moral society”.  It was taught by Graham Reside, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University Divinity School.  This is my second online class in the area of justice and criminology, the first being “Crime, Justice and Society” by The University of Sheffield, presented online by FutureLearn.  I am both interested in the topic and in the MOOC (massive open online course) method in which these classes are presented.

Since 2015, I have developed and led a seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California, in the Silicon Valley. Our seminar curriculum and books are from the Education for Ministry (EfM) program of the University of the South – School of Theology. EfM is a four year college-level certification program, started in 1975. So far as we know, ours is the only jail-based EfM program, although there are two dozen prison-based programs in the USA. In addition to covering the official EfM material, in the seminar we also work on listening, respectful group interactions, study skills, and basic leadership skills – like how to open and close a class with prayer.

This jail-based EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California), and the University of the South – School of Theology. I worked with a group of volunteers from St. Andrew’s to start our first weekly seminar in a medium security dorm, and we have recently added a second weekly seminar in a minimum security dorm. Two of the EfM students at Elmwood are in Year 3 (Church History), two are in Year 2 (New Testament), with the remaining students in Year 1 (Hebrew Bible). The EfM year is only nine months long but my Co-Mentors and I run the jail-based seminars back-to-back (since inmates do not get summer vacations).  About two thirds of the inmate students in our EfM seminar are men of color – mostly Latino – and the rest are white.  We conduct discussions in English (and Spanglish) but provide Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, and Dictionaries in both English and Spanish.

In leading this EfM seminar, I have observed many consequences of incarceration. One of my reasons for taking “Justice Mercy and Mass Incarceration” was to understand more of the context of what I am observing when I am teaching in jail. Last month, I told the seminar students about the “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” class and asked them to tell me one good thing and one bad thing about being in jail. Here is what six of them said:

What is Bad About Jail

  • I don’t see my family.
  • Some innocent people are punished (but not many).
  • I am not there for my kids.
  • I can’t be there to help my wife when she needs me.
  • Not being there for loved ones: I am frozen, unable to do anything.
  • Being a number – losing who you are.
  • I never get the time back.
  • I have no say. I am less of a citizen.
  • I am treated as low in the hierarchy.
  • There is no mercy, no leniency.
  • I can’t be there for my babies, my wife. I am hurting.
  • I am missing my family.
  • I lose my job, my apartment, my wife and kids, my paycheck, everything.

What is Good About Jail

  • Takes evil off the street.
  • Families are safe from bad people.
  • I have a clear mind. I am closer to God.
  • I have more belief, more faith, more spirituality. I am more close to God.
  • I have free time to spend on prayer, sobriety, like the worst-ever vacation. We can be with ourselves without a phone or Facebook.
  • If I stay clean, I have a clear mind, can reflect and prepare for becoming a better person out there.
  • I can clear my mind, rethink decisions on things I have done (and things I did not get caught for).
  • I can stay off drugs, not putting poison into my system.
  • It has made me think, be a better person. Reflection, closer to God. I am learning a lot.
  • There is free medication (health care).

There are connections and discrepancies between what “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” teaches and what the EfM student inmates say. They agree on the benefit of taking violent, evil, bad people off the street. They also agree that imprisonment has the potential for supporting personal reform – inmates rethinking who they have been and who they want to become. “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” does not spend a great deal of time on effective reform but in the recommended 1998 documentary film “The Farm: Angola Prison”, several of the long-term inmates had clearly over time become very different people, positive forces in the prison community.  My hope for my EfM students is whether they are inside or outside, they can make a positive difference in the world.

2017 FutureLearn University of Sheffield Crime Justice and Society certificate July 2017

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Honoring STEM Mentoring

ECR Simple Servant Award to Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017

At the 37th Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real annual convention last weekend, I was honored by Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves with a second Simple Servant Award for my work since 2010 with the TechWomen mentoring program of the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The award certificate reads:

Simple Servant Award
Presented on November 3, 2017 to
Katy Dickinson
The Diocese of El Camino Real honors you. May God bless you for your
faithful ministry mentoring women in Africa and the Middle East in STEM
professions, and for your contribution to the creation of a “virtuous cycle” of
knowledge and wisdom sharing in the world of technology.

It has been an honor and pleasure to work with TechWomen and my mentees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Watching this program thrive and touch so many lives is a great delight. Since I worked in 2010-2011 as the TechWomen Process Architect, I have been a volunteer with this life-changing program as a mentor, working with groups of STEM leaders who travel to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to be hosted by 122 science and technology companies and organizations for a month (and then continue a mentoring relationship once they have returned to their home country).

Beginning with the first cohort of 37 from 6 countries in 2011, there have been 518 TechWomen Fellows from 22 countries and 698 mentors. I have formally been assigned to mentor 14 women in Lebanon, Algeria, Gaza-Palestine, Jordan, and Tunisia – and have worked with many more who have asked me to be their mentor. I have also participated in nine formal TechWomen Delegations with the State Department, to: Jordan (twice), Kyrgyzstan, Morocco (twice), Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, as well as making informal trips with TechWomen mentors to visit our mentees in Lebanon, Gaza-Palestine, and Sierra Leone.  Learning from my sister mentors as well as from my mentees is part of the joy and value of this excellent program for Citizen Diplomats.

Want to make a different in STEM? Please consider joining TechWomen as a mentor yourself!

ECR Convention Simple Servant award Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017 by Elrond Lawrence

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Photo Copyright 2017 by the Diocese of El Camino Real, Elrond Lawrence.

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Creating a Pitch for Lebanon

TechWomen Team Lebanon October 2017 San Francisco

As a TechWomen Impact Coach for 2017 Team Lebanon, I am honored to serve for my seventh year in this remarkable mentoring program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  Our team includes five Emerging Leaders from Lebanon (Lara Chikhani, Layal Jebran, Maya Itani, Rana El Chemaitelly, and Rasha Sukkarieh), plus three experienced mentors from the Silicon Valley: Mercedes Soria (Knightscope), Fatema Kothari (Verizon, and the Internet Society) and me.  We have been working hard for weeks at three TechWomen workshops plus twice a week remote meetings to develop our pitch for presentation this Friday.  Team Lebanon’s project is called “Ask an Expert” – a social enterprise to benefit senior citizens and refugees.  Wish us luck!

TechWomen Team Lebanon October 2017 San Francisco

TechWomen Team Lebanon October 2017 San Francisco

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Honored Woman 2017

St Andrews Honored Women 2017 Certificate Katy Dickinson

Four years ago, I wrote about Honored Women’s Day, at which the Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of El Camino Real join each year with the parish churches to honor a woman for her notable service. I am touched to be the 2017 Honored Woman for St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California).  The text on the certificate prepared by ECW Chair Diane Lovelace based on the submission of our Rector, the Rev. Channing Smith reads:

    Katy is creative, knowledgeable, faithful, persistent, and swift to action. These are all qualities that are necessary for leadership, and Katy exudes them all. Katy is involved in many areas of the church. She has served in our vestry, chaired our Strategic Plan Personnel Committee, been an alternate to General Convention, and faithfully represented our community as a Diocesan convention delegate. However, her most recent ministry in EFM, Jail Ministry, and as the Diocesan EFM Coordinator is the reason for her nomination.
    Katy takes part in 3 EFM classes a week: one at Saint Andrew’s, and two at Elmwood Jail. She has been instumental to many parishioners continued faith formation as an EFM Mentor. She has leveraged her creativity to inspire and engage others, which has had a real world impact. Katy also leveraged her talents to set up an EFM jail program (1st one in the country) and took it a step further and got a second one approved. She needed to work with many agencies to make that happen, along with funding for the classes, co-mentors for each class, and negotiating with Sewanee to get a lower tuition rate so it would all be possible. This is a large ongoing time commitment (there are no class breaks in jail ministry). She is an inspiration and a rock for the guys there, and has even led some to join the Saint Andrew’s community. Katy also volunteered to take on the role of Diocesan EFM Coordinator. She arranged training locally, which was no small feat – normally the closest Mentors could go would be Auburn. This has expanded her outreach beyond El Camino Real, to all parts in California. Katy deserves to be recognized for the hard work and dedication that she has made to the Saint Andrew’s and broader community. She is a great example of faithful service to others and sharing the Good News of God’s love which she does so joyfully.

I am honored to be included in the ranks of the women leaders of our diocese. Special thanks to the Rev. Channing Smith for nominating me, and to the Rev. Peggy Bryan for asking my inmate students to write notes to present to me with the certificate.  You can read more about the University of the South – School of Theology Education for Ministry (EfM) program and our jail-based EfM seminars on the El Camino Real diocesan webpage.  If you are interested in supporting the incarcerated in Santa Clara County, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy.  Please contact me if you live on California’s Central Coast (Palo Alto to San Luis Obispo) and are interested in becoming an Accredited Mentor for EfM.

ECW 2017 Honored Women

Katy Dickinson Peggy Bryan 7 Oct 2017 presentation

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Images Copyright 2017 by John Plocher

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Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business

Katy Dickinson and John Plocher 2014 Church of St. George Lalibela Ethiopia

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation to my home congregation of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) about my nine trips to Africa since 2010. The talk is called “Africa: People, Food, Technology, Business”. I have linked the talk here so that my audience can access my pictures and stories after.  My bold intention in giving this talk is to present a small part of the wonderful complexity of the African continent, and to encourage them to visit and get involved in African enterprises.

“If you only visit two continents in your lifetime, visit Africa – twice.” – R.Elliot

TechWomen and TechGirls in Tunisia 2015

Katy Dickinson presenting to AIMS and TechWomen at in Cape Town by Rejoyce GaVhi Feb2015

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Images Copyright 2010-2017 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Impact Coach again – for Lebanon!

Sukaina Al Nasrawi, Katy Dickinson, Maison Ibrahim, Adla Chatila in Beirut Lebanon 2013

I am so glad to have been accepted as a TechWomen Impact Coach again – and to be working with the same great mentor team as last year! TechWomen is a mentoring program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  I was the 2010-2011 Process Architect for TechWomen and have been proud to support the program as a professional volunteer each year since then.

Mercedes Soria (Vice President, Software Engineering, Knightscope), Fatema Kothari (Technical Project Manager, Verizon) and I had a delightful experience as 2016 Impact Coaches, working with TechWomen’s inspiring Team Tunisia. We are looking forward to meeting our new Emerging Leader team from Lebanon when they arrive in San Francisco in September.

I am proud of my daughter Jessica who has herself been accepted as a TechWomen Impact Coach this year – for TechWomen Emerging Leaders from Palestine. I have just been looking over pictures from when Jessica and I visited TechWomen mentees in Lebanon in 2013. I am excited to further expand my knowledge of the people and culture of this ancient and fascinating country.

Maison Ibrahim, Sukaina Al Nasrawi, Katy Dickinson in Beirut Lebanon 2013

Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman in Beirut Lebanon 2013

Adla Chatila and Jessica Dickinson Goodman in Saida, Lebanon 2013

Adla Chatila, Katy Dickinson, Jessica Dickinson Goodman at Tyre, Lebanon 2013

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Images Copyright 2013 by Katy Dickinson

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Fabric Arts and Crafts in Sierra Leone

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

While visiting Sierra Leone in West Africa earlier this month, my daughter Jessica traveled with fellow TechWomen mentor, Terri Khonsari, and with Ibrahim Kalokoh and Joseph Ellie of Families Without Borders Tech Center (FWB). Some of our activities were arranged by Mrs. Thaimu (“Mrs. T”), an entrepreneur in Makeni who works with FWB.

In addition to giving presentations at FWB, the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown, we wanted to learn more about Sierra Leone. In particular, we wanted to purchase some of the elegant fabric and embroidery that we had seen Terri wearing in the Silicon Valley.

Our first day, Mrs. T brought us to her home to show us samples and discuss options for design.  Then, we went fabric shopping, followed by a trip to the tailor. Most of the fabric we purchased was cotton, often with local designs but mostly manufactured outside of the country.  One variegated brown cloth  was made locally from kola nuts. Our shirts, tunics, and dresses were completed in just a few days. We ended up fabric shopping several times during the whole trip: the vast design range and high quality of available materials are remarkable.  Jessica and I will be sewing with our new fabric for quite a while!

In addition to fabric, I purchased a batik panel at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary gift shop. It shows a woman in local costume against a map of Sierra Leone. I made it into a pillow for my office – to remember my first trip to West Africa.

Mrs. Thaimu, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Fabric shopping, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Tailor, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Embroiderer, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Kola nut fabric with embroidery, Sierra Leone, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik, July 2017

Sierra Leone woman batik pillow and embroidered clothes, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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