Graduation at WCCC

from Kat

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Yesterday afternoon I attended two graduation gatherings for two classes that Lorenn Walker and Dawn Slaten teach on solution focused forgiveness/restorative justice.  Judge Steve Alm and Judge Leslie Kobayashi are regular attendees of these ceremonies.

It is always so uplifting to be with the women who, despite their circumstances, find joy in the simplest things.  It is a great lesson in gratitude and attitude!

The first class was with the closed custody women who are locked down 23 hours a day. They don’t mix with the general population, the 5 or 6 closed custody women dine alone, and this is the only class they are offered.  To hear the women talk about the ‘abyss’ they are in and to listen to their stories is heartbreaking. They are so honest about themselves and what brought them to prison. Some have been in and out multiple times and said that this time, with this excellent class, they really ‘got it’. They understood that their trauma, led them to anger and disappointment, which eventually landed in prison and they now want to make amends to their families and the community for the harms they have caused. They have learned forgiveness and each woman read something she wrote about it. Very moving.

Then we sat in a circle where everyone introduced themselves and shared a few thoughts. The women were amazed when both judges said that the hardest thing for them about sentencing is to send someone to prison. Some of the women remarked that they thought judges loved incarcerating folks! Both Judge Alm and Judge Kobayashi are always encouraging and sincerely want the women to succeed.

I opened with this quote from Mother Teresa: “If we have no peace, it’s because we forgot we belong to each other.”  I reminded the women that they are still part of our community and we belong to each other.

The second class was medium security women. They opened the program with a skit about domestic violence, which many of the women have experienced. It was very poignant. Then they sang Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror while one of the women did an amazing dance. They spoke about forgiveness and restorative justice and ended with another woman playing the guitar and the women singing a beautiful song she wrote. Another incredibly moving experience for all of us. 

Again, we closed with a circle with each person introducing themselves and sharing thoughts. I am always amazed at the raw honesty of the women. This is what occurs when a safe environment is assured.  Some of the guests had never been in a prison and they were amazed by the candor of the women.

None of this would happen without Lorenn and Dawn’s perseverance and the incredible help of Larsen Medina, the Recreation Specialist at WCCC who clears the path to allow this healing to occur.  We are so lucky to have such dedicated professional community members like Lorenn and Dawn (both attorneys) who give their time and themselves so willingly and with so much love to our incarcerated sisters.


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