“Mindfulness” – it has become a bit of a buzzword in the mental health field as of late and yet it is actually a practice that dates back to Ancient Eastern traditions.
Quite simply, it is an awareness that arises when one pays attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. This was the conceptualization that we (Brianne Murphy and myself) introduced to the “It’s T.I.M.E.” class at MCCF in January, as we rounded out the thirteen module sequence that makes up that group’s class schedule.
The eight men who attended this session had already learned about proceeding through the legal system, resources, and agencies through the legal system and then more individually challenging areas of self-knowledge, distorted thinking, anger-management and problem-solving.
Since bringing a heightened sense of awareness is a feature of all of these areas the progression to mindfulness and its development seemed like a natural way to “wrap up” the class experience. And it certainly felt like the group was ready and open to pulling it all together with both discussion and practice.
Teaching this class was truly an enjoyable experience. The facility staff had assembled our class so that we were able to make full use of the hour and a half to discuss mindfulness as a way of approaching one’s life, no matter where you are currently residing, and intersperse the discussion with yoga and breathing practices led by Brianne. Everyone acknowledged the challenges of practicing in a setting of confinement and were still able to offer ideas, experience the benefits of mindful breathing, and join in purposeful stretching and controlled movement while sitting around the table in the room. Therefore the opportunity to have the benefits of these practices in small spaces, without any yoga mats or special equipment, was demonstrated. All it takes is the openness and willingness to try on a new way of paying attention and thinking, which the group of men certainly has been showing in these weeks of class participation. We hope that they get as much from this participation as we, the facilitators, did and that “seeds” of mindfulness were planted that will contribute to a wholesome approach to their lives in the present and future.
By: Dr. Gail Vant Zelfde
While in It’s T.I.M.E. class, each individual prepares a Re-entry Plan.
We discuss the steps to be taken for the beginning of successful re-entry into the community upon release from jail. The re-entering inmates are given a check list. We try to teach and instill in each person the drive to self-advocate, which Matt (not his real name) demonstrated.
Matt was released from Montgomery County Correctional Facility one year ago on time served, without medicine or a prescription. As suggested, he went to the probation office and checked in although he was nervous and anxious. His probation officer thought that he was using, so he administered a urine test which he passed.
At this point, Matt still had no access to medicines. He went to Central MH/MR in Montgomery County, (where the waiting time to see a psychiatrist was 6 weeks) and Northwestern Human services. Advocates advised that he should go to the emergency unit at Einstein Hospital, where Matt fortunately got his meds.
While living at home with family, Matt was able to get some balance in his life. Additionally, he was able to secure employment. Then he got hurt on the job. He was prescribed Percocet. He was unable to pass a test from his probation officer due to the medication, and was sent back to Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF).
While at MCCF, he self-advocated for Behavioral Health Court (BHC); after months of sitting at MCCF, he was accepted into BHC. The judge ordered 10 days of medicine and a 30 day prescription. BHC and Matt have developed a recovery team which includes an empathetic probation officer, a case worker through Justice Related Services, and a therapist and psychiatrist through North Western Human Services. He now knows he can always call the advocates for peer support, to review skills of self-advocacy and to review tips about how to change himself which can lead to a successful recovery in the community.
Matt said his future plans consist of taking acting classes. He also plans on applying for the Certified Peer Specialist training so that he can give back to the community. Matt reports that BHC is awesome and recommends BHC to anyone in the jail who qualifies. Now that he is out in the community, he plans on focusing on his recovery.
Advocates helped Matt advocate for BHC by listening to what Matt had to say and being in touch with coordinator of specialty courts/BHC.
Great advocacy, Matt!
By: Jomel Silverio, Advocate and JB Brooks, Forensic Advocate
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your hard work, support, and personalized help during the time I have spent in your class and specifically, your contact with my attorney. You have aided in our communication many times and I would like to acknowledge you for your numerous commitments to my mental health, and I thank you for being such a powerful advocate. Your class members are lucky to have you.
Peace onto you brother,
Participant of the It’s T.I.M.E. Class
I am about to finish a mental health class called It’s T.I.M.E. which I have really enjoyed. Not only have I turned my life in a complete 180 degrees, but it has also taught me how to share my feelings around other people. It has showed me how to solve my problems that have to do with my distorted thinking, problems, cognitive traps, triggers, and anger.
The way I feel when I walk out of each class every week is great. I also teach people about the new stuff I have learned. This program has taught me how to solve all the problems that got me in and out of this jail, and in trouble with family members. Now I highly recommend taking this class if you want to better yourself as an individual. I have a better understanding of peers like me and can approach life’s situation at a different angles, so thank you all for
changing me into a better man.
A participant of the It’s T.I.M.E. Class