With the support and coordination of CIM staff, copies of the award-winning Louise Erdrich novel, LaRose, were distributed to our RJ students. Each week for 12 weeks, curriculum created by CP4I with help from Healing Hearts Restoring Hope was hand-carried into CIM’s Facility C by a staff member – and the next week, the students’ completed assignments were carried back out to us for review and follow-up correspondence.
Sixty-five percent (65%) of the 28 students completed the work across 18 weeks. In the midst of COVID, restricted exercise, no family/personal visits, and no other activities, many welcomed the opportunity to continue their healing journeys. Here are a few excerpts from their homework responses:
CP4I’s access to incarcerated Restorative Justice (RJ) students at California Institution for Men was interrupted indefinitely in early March 2019 due to COVID restrictions for everyone except staff members. In an instant, all of CP4I’s RJ circles were put on hold. Nonetheless, CP4I continued its Restorative Justice work with 28 existing RJ students incarcerated at California Institution for Men.
CP4I began a correspondence-course RJ Reading Group three months later.
“I chose ... Landreaux [a key character in the novel], it was the way without any thought he took and accepted responsibility for his actions. Which I envy greatly. ... The feelings that came up were guilt, regret and sorrow because of all the pain I caused to so many by refusing to accept my responsibility in my crime. Also the way things changed in an instant for LaRose [another key character] brought me great sadness and pain as I identified with how I felt when my family as I knew it fell apart.”
“Romeo Puyat [a key character] reminded me of my old greedy self, always wanting to take from someone else. ... And I couldn’t understand why people did not trust me after I stole from them.”
“I do so much want to keep reading ahead. I had to go find another book just to have something else in my hands to read.”
“I persisted because it keeps me connected to VOEG, my mentors, and my own personal recovery! It’s part of my lifestyle, but also a way to continue to make amends and be responsible. I would participate again.”
A new RJ Reading Group novel is being proposed for first half of 2021. Stay tuned!