[Source: “Vote ‘yes’ then volunteer at jail,” Press Citizen, 6 May 2013, by Patricia Knox]
For four years I have been a volunteer at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in the Oakdale Prison Community Choir. In the winter of 2009, I took the basic workshop offered by the Alternatives to Violence Project that was being facilitated at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility.
In 2010, an Alternatives to Violence Project was started at the IMCC in Coralville. There are more than a dozen inside facilitators at IMCC now and long waiting lists of incarcerated men wanting to participate in workshops.
I and other facilitators toured the Johnson County jail recently.
During our tour of the jail, we sensed a philosophical difference between the two institutions, particularly in the treatment of inmates. The difference we perceived is not just a matter of the additional space at IMCC available for volunteer programs, a garden, exercise yard as well as more job opportunities for inmates at IMCC; it is the spirit of the volunteer programs filled with inmates as well as community volunteers.
Among the programs currently active at IMCC are the Oakdale Community Choir, Alternatives to Violence Project, Hubbub Job Club, Writers’ Workshop, Song Writers Workshop, Incarcerated Vets, AA, New Directions, GED tutoring, to name a few. The philosophy behind these programs is social rehabilitation, an important contrast to the punitive motivation for incarceration.
Volunteers can drive change if they are given the opportunity go into the jail and start programs similar to those that have been available at IMCC. It should not be left to chance just how much of the huge addition on the courthouse will be allotted to volunteers and the healthy treatment of people who are incarcerated.
For years volunteers have asked to offer friendship, religious and spiritual choice and opportunities for change to the people who are incarcerated at the jail.
Vote yes, and then go and volunteer for transformation.
Patricia L. Knox