Candace was just awarded Sierra Conservation Center’s “Volunteer of the Year” award!
Candace McGahan was the rebel child who left home at age 17 without graduating high school. “Maybe that’s why I felt comfortable, almost at home, the first time I entered a prison,” Candace says. Ultimately Candace graduated from college, and almost 13 years ago retired from the City of Sacramento where she was supervising engineer for capital improvements of the City’s potable water system. She has also been clean and sober for the last 26 years. Upon retirement, she focused on deepening her practice of the historic Buddha’s teachings through study, extensive retreat time and completion of the Sati Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. “On that first visit to Old Folsom more than 6 years ago,” Candace says, “I connected with something much deeper in myself; I knew that this was a way I could give back. I have volunteered in a soup kitchen and given money, but this was different. I felt a very strong connection to the men.”
Candace kept going back. In the beginning she was a support to lead volunteers and making prison visits 3 or more times a week. In addition to that, Candace was serving on 3 different Sangha boards, including the Founding Board of BP3 as Treasurer. “My lesson was learning to modulate,” explains Candace. With guidance from her spiritual adviser, Ayya Anandabodhi, she limited her volunteer activity to three times a month at two yards in the Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) in Jamestown, CA, and once a month at Deuel Vocational Institution. “On the day I go to these distant prisons,” explains Candace, “everything I do supports that end – making sure I get enough sleep, planning the sangha’s program, eating right and preparing for the drive, 2 hours and 15 minutes each way.” She does still occasionally fill in at the Folsom prisons if needed.
Candace does not use the same material in the different yards. “Each Sangha is different,” she explains. The lower security yards, for example, seem to have a higher turnover, but the higher security yards are more stable and practice has the potential to become intimate and profound. I’ve seen one man, who was known for his jokes, realize that his sharp humor was alienating. As he became more mindful, his humor softened.
“After 6 years, I’m still amazed that doing prison work has turned out to be such a great fit for me,” explains Candace. “The protocols in working with prisoners create distance, but that has nothing to do with the great affinity I feel for these men. I’ve had the honor of seeing them change over time. When people ask me why I do this, I like to say, ‘Cause you meet some of the nicest guys in prison.’”
Candace was recently told by Sierra Conservation Center that she is being awarded “Volunteer of the Year”! Congratulations to a job well done!
by Kit Kirkpatrick, BP3 editor
Our First Federal Prison Sangha
How is a Federal prison different?
USP Atwater is located near the larger towns of Turlock, Merced and Modesto. Sacramento volunteers Diane Wilde, Rollin Ives and Hyokeun Sunim are creating a prison Sangha there, holding the space until local, qualified volunteers can be recruited
“After our service,” said Rollin, “each of the 18-20 men present shook our hands and thanked us for coming. We were also served tea at the end of our service. It’s a different culture.” It’s also a different facility and the difference was “striking” said Rollin. “Atwater is air conditioned and spacious, clean and quiet compared to Old Folsom where I volunteer. Plus, Atwater is a high security penitentiary,” Rollin said, noting that the prisoners reminded him of the men at Old Folsom in regards to age, racial diversity and practice experience.
Federal prisons require training of volunteers after their fourth visit and the government provides the training which is still being planned. We hope that training will take place before the end of 2015.
If you are interested in volunteering at Atwater, email email@example.com
. It’s definitely a different experience from California prisons!
Meet BP3’s first ever employee… Eric Aquino!
As BP3 continues to expand its services to more and more prisons, it became apparent to the board that Diane Wilde could not continue juggling the many tasks necessary to keep the organization going. Last June a committee interviewed a few potential candidates for an Executive Assistant position. Eric Aquino was an easy choice.
Eric is a graduate of Sierra College with an Associates of Science degree in Multimedia Art and Design. What Eric is doing to support Volunteers and their prison Sanghas is facilitating communication through an upgraded website. Eric has a degree in graphic design from Sierra College and with his wife, software engineer Jennifer Aquino, run Jeneric Designs. Eric works 20 hours a week for BP3: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
“The new website,” Eric explains, “will have an event calendar which will show the scheduled classes for sangha groups in each prison as well as upcoming retreats and meetings. It will also have a volunteer master list for members, and a beautiful collection of quotes from participating inmates.” The new website will feature interactive forms and easy accessibility to BP3 locations, and a password protected list of all volunteers and their contact information.
Upon being hired, Eric immediately educated himself on the California prison culture and BP3’s role in bringing mindfulness and meditation to inmates. He plans to take prison training at Folsom, and will go in with volunteers to see what a service in prison is like!
Eric’s responsibilities are wide-ranging and include, but are not limited to: co-creating and maintaining the new website, surveying the various sangha leaders on what supplies are needed, creating flyers as needed, keeping inventory on supplies, a spreadsheet of current volunteers, keeping track of training dates along with reminders, responding to inmate requests and creating the BP3 newsletter… to name just a few of his duties.
Along with hiring Eric, BP3 leased a small amount of “desk” space in downtown Sacramento. It is in a progressive co-operative where Eric has a desk and the board has access to a meeting room as well as other facilities. If you would like to visit and meet Eric, our office is at 2572 21st Street, Sacramento CA 95818. You can contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org
Post Release Program in Placer
The Re-Entry Program designed by Placer County is a creative and thoughtful effort by county leaders in education, probation, Sheriff/law enforcement, courts and other offices. Its aim is to prepare inmates and probationers for a successful re-entry into society.
Participants of this program are screened and qualified by the Probation Department. Once approved and admitted to the program they receive 3 hours of training each day. Some of the training may include: Courage to Change; Anger Management; Parenting Skills; Healthy Me; Money Management; GED completion.
Participants are carefully assessed and evaluated by the Probation Department for commitment to change and compliance with probation requirements. They each receive training directed toward the development of job skills. Each participant is also required to complete 20 hours of some type of community service.
The program has already partnered with local businesses for job training and potential placement. They are actively recruiting new partners in the business community toward that end.
I congratulate our county leaders on this creative and effective means of addressing the seemingly chronic problem of recidivism. Similar programs in other counties have proven effective at both improving lives and enhancing public safety. I am actively working with County officials to add these important practices to the program: meditation, yoga, 12 Step, Day-long Retreats, Small Groups, Mentors and the books, publications and study aids BP3 can provide.
by Dave Judd, BP3 Member
In Other News..
BP3 now has office space at 2572 21st St, Sacramento, CA 95818 and a dedicated phone line. (916) 747-4294. Please contact Eric Aquino with news items, concerns or any issues that may need BP3 involvement.
Volunteers going into SAC have increased visits from 2 times a month to weekly visits since June 2015. For more information please contact Michael Paddy @ email@example.com
Solano volunteers held a daylong on November 7, 2015. Another is scheduled for December 5, 2016 from 8:30am - 4pm.
Soledad volunteers plan on holding their first daylong retreat in February 23, 2016.
Folsom held two daylong retreats this year. The last one was held on October 27, 2015.
Volunteers going into Deuel have increased services from twice monthly to weekly.
Walt Opie has volunteered to facilitate the 2016 BP3 retreat. Please contact Walt if you would like to help.
Welcome to new volunteers: Eric, Jonathan, Ari and Eliza who trained at Deuel with Diane and Candace in October.
BP3 has launched its new website with many interactive features to make it easier for volunteers as well as potential volunteers. Check it out at buddhistpathways.org