Tag Archives: Jail

New Jail Curriculum

Collaborating with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell, this month I have been designing a new curriculum for studying faith and literature at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). In 1980, at the University of New Orleans (UNO), Canon Barnwell started developing a program which would eventually be called The Transforming Literature of the Bible (TLB). TLB is based on his original class in the “Bible as Literature” in the UNO English Department. From the mid-eighties, Canon Barnwell continued to work on TLB for both the university and at his churches: first at Trinity Episcopal in New Orleans, then at Trinity in Boston, and finally at the Washington National Cathedral where he served as Canon Missioner. TLB has been presented dozens of times in a variety of settings.  The TLB version we are updating now is dated 2008.

I had been looking for a shorter course to offer at Elmwood Jail where I have been leading seminars in Education for Ministry (EfM) since 2015. Unfortunately, EfM takes nine months per program year and many of the inmates are not at Elmwood that long. EfM continues to be the right program for some Elmwood dorms; however, I was glad to find TLB for faster-cycle dorms.  I think we can complete both Old and New Testament studies using TLB in about four months.

With Canon Barnwell’s enthusiastic support, I have edited the first six TLB sessions. I plan to edit the next 30 sessions starting next week. The first six sessions cover “The Hebrew Scriptures, Part One: The Great Stories of Genesis”. In addition to reading all of the Bible book of Genesis, students will also read:

I am grateful to have Diane Lovelace and my husband, John Plocher, as my Co-Mentors in this new venture.  I am giving the inmates Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, dictionaries, pencils and journals to support their studies.  Some books are in Spanish and some in English.  Ten inmates came last week to hear about the new program.  They are a varied group from many faith backgrounds: Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. We are looking forward to developing the TLB pilot program together.

This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.


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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Prayers from Jail

Collect for Elmwood Jail M4C Dorm 10 Jan 2018

In Week 16 of our Education for Ministry (EfM) 36 week seminar, the students write a Collect together. A collect is a prayer meant to gather the intentions of the people and the focus of worship into a succinct prayer. In the Week 16 exercise, EfM prompts us with the first few words of each line and the students fill in the rest. By writing their own Collect, students learn the difference between kinds of prayer: Petition, Intercession, Penitence, Thanksgiving, and Adoration.

I lead three EfM seminars a week, two at at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas and the third at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (all in the Silicon Valley). My Co-Mentors Joel and Diane and Karen and I are all Accredited Mentors.  After each group wrote their own Collect, I read them the prayers written by the others.

Here are the three Collects:

Collect from Elmwood M4C Dorm EfM Class

God is holy, love, protection, comfort, security, and shares our burdens.

The world is corrupt, burnt, an abomination, and beautiful.

We ask for guidance, strength, compassion, and PopTarts.

We ask for healing, health, guidance, protection, and peace.

We confess our sins, faults, shortcomings, news, fears, prejudices, and hope.

We come together in awe and wonder at His majesty, the love of others, guidance.

So that we can have peace, good will, and understanding.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Collect from Elmwood M2B Dorm EfM Class

God is wonderful, loving, father, strong, life.

The world is a mess, suffering, needing peace, capable.

We ask for peace, mercy, love, hope, freedom, safety, protection.

We ask for food for the hungry, a house for the homeless, peace for those in war-torn countries, and health for the unhealthy.

We confess sin, misgivings, our love, ignorance – lack of knowledge.

We give thanks for life, families, safety, health, our EfM Mentors, friendships, and Honey Bun pastry.

We come together in awe and wonder at new learning, every day, God’s presence at Elmwood Jail.

So that we can have love, understanding, faithfulness.

In the name of Jesus.
Amen.

Collect from St. Andrew’s EfM Class

God is love, healer, generous, compassionate.

The world is sick, poor, in need, progressive.

We ask for health, healing, open hearts and minds.

We ask for abundance for the poor, courage for leaders, wholeness for the sick.

We confess our prejudice, limitations, slowness.

We give thanks for those who came before us, healers, saints, new babies and parents, courageous leaders.

We come together in awe and wonder at a new year, God’s presence in our lives, grace.

So that we can be fearless, and the sick will be comforted.

In the name of our healing Father.
Amen.

This jail-based EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino RealSt. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California), and the University of the South – School of Theology.

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Postcast Interview

Katy Dickinson Sun Microsystems badge 398 in 2010

I very much enjoyed being interviewed by Akshay Birla for his “Life of the Mind” podcast last month. He just published the interview as “Episode 19 | Katy Dickinson on Technology, Mentoring, and Religion”.

Katy Dickinson has been around the tech-block. Hired by Eric Schmidt at Sun Microsystems, she literally wrote the book on the software development lifecycle that Sun used for release of almost 10,000 releases. She is a technologist, entrepreneur, mentor, and writer.

In our conversation Katy talks about her work as a technologist on creating processes:
A process has to not assume that you have world-class people working on it. A process assumes that that not everybody — while they are good-intentioned and competent — [is] perfect. You have to have a system that allows for lack of perfection but can work if you have the best that there is.

and the futility of only having excellent coders:
A good coder is a wonderful thing to have but you have to create something that the customer wants and feels comfortable with. Good coding and user experience are sometimes at odds.

But we spend the most of our conversation talking about mentoring programs that deliver high return-on-investment, and the intersection of religion and technology.

On the importance of example and networking provided by the Grace Hopper Celebration:
While they may be the only women in the room – which has certainly been my experience in 30+ years in the Silicon Valley – there are a lot of rooms.

Listening to your own recorded voice is always surprising – it sounds so different from the inside!

Happy New Year!

Sun Microsystems gate Menlo Park California in 2010

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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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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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CIC Article: Education for Ministry at Elmwood Jail

Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy CIC Ministries, Education for Ministry at Elmwood Jail Article, April 2017

It was an honor to be featured in an article by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC) called “Education for Ministry at Elmwood Jail”. The article tells the story of how CIC, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, the University of the South – School of Theology’s Education for Ministry program and I have worked together since late 2015 to create a new jail-based college-level theological education program.

We have almost completed two 9-month terms and are getting ready to expand the program into a second Elmwood jail dorm.  If you are interested in volunteering in a Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) jail, please contact the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy (CIC).

11 May 2017 update: Another article was recently published about our Elmwood Jail program in the alumni magazine “From the Mountain” – from the University of the South – School of Theology, Sewanee Tennessee, Spring 2017 edition. The article is called “Inmates Explore Faith, Life Through Education for Ministry” by Kevin Cummings. Links to these articles:

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What the Presiding Bishop Said

Tweet from RealEpiscopal 11 Jan 2017, Katy Dickinson and Presiding Bishop Panel on 7 Jan 2017, photo by Elrond Lawrence

“You are doing it.  Keep going.” is what Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in Salinas, California, on 7 January 2017. I was a member of the panel that asked questions after his keynote. From my notes, my opening question was:

“The Silicon Valley has a skewed population.  In the high tech world where I work, there are about 25% female, 4% Latino, and 2% Black in the computing professions.  In Elmwood Jail where I lead an Education for Ministry seminar each week, men and women are separate and there are 42% Latino and 29% Black. I feel like I live in two worlds. What can we do to reach out, to bring this divided community together?”

When Bishop Michael answered “You are doing it.  Keep going.”  I heard that the answer lay in outreach ministries like mine – and in telling people about that work. Individuals with a foot on both sides can connect a community.

It is a good but a little scary to have an experimental program succeed so well.  I have been thinking a great deal about what Bishop Michael said – and about what to do next.  The Episcopal Diocese of El Camino RealSaint Andrew’s Episcopal ChurchCIC, and EfM have strongly backed our jail-based seminar during the last year.  My first step was to talk with the CIC Chaplain for Elmwood, and then with the EfM program at the University of the South – School of Theology, about starting an additional class at Elmwood.  They support expanding the program.  Now to find more funding!

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

Canon Stephanie Spellers, Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Salinas, 7 Jan 2017

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and Elrond Lawrence

 

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