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Nicole
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Q. Complete the body practice on pg. 125. In addition to imagining an arrest that you witnessed, examine the experiences you have witnessed of incarceration. (This is at the end of Chapter 8)

This topic was modified 11 months ago by Nicole

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David Westlake
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As I reflected I began to realize I have never really seen a black person arrested in real life, but I have observed numerous incidents where native Alaskans have been arrested. Also, I have observed numerous arrests of white folks. Let's be real when I first witnessed an arrest of a Native person there was a certain righteousness about it. "Yes, please make our neighborhood safe." There are too many...the reasons for feeling this way slid around in my head. Hard to realize and recognize I felt this way back then. Thinking about the white arrests I realized the folks were always poor looking, a certain stigma of appearance in their affect. Plus, the police were armed tooth and nail. So much firepower for such a refraction. Honestly it is very uncomfortable. 


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David Westlake
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Also, the article was very helpful. Growing up in upstate NY where the prison system is a huge employer I have family members and people I knew personally involved in the life of COs. It made me think too of when I taught in prisons how often COs would ask questions about their own problems in relationship to what I may offer. What do you suggest for lower back pain? What do you do for stress? I would listen to such questions as we made our way through concrete walls and through slamming iron doors. 


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Shawn
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The first time I witnessed a black person being arrested was just 6 years ago during the Ferguson protests over the killing of Mike Brown. I felt anger, rage, fear and helplessness. In my body I felt constriction, mostly in my face and heart space. I felt it was unjust. There were also white bodies being arrested at the same time as well. I had similar feelings watching the white people get arrested as the black, however, I didn't fear for the white people like I did the black. It felt much more terrifying seeing the police apprehend and arrest the black folx, knowing how easy it would be for them to justify shooting them. Living in St. Louis it happened all the time. The only other arrest I'd witnessed in my life was my brother's, who is white. Of course, it was emotionally charged and I felt much more at that time because it was so personal. But, I definitely know that I did not fear for his life. That thought never even crossed my mind, even though a team of officers raided our home and had guns. I never felt as if I had to be careful with my actions or words and I remember even screaming at the officers. It's interesting looking back now that the reactions of the officers were most likely coming from a different place than if they were searching a home where black or brown people lived. 

In my experience with incarceration, I haven't witnessed a lot of interaction between the COs and the inmates. The folx come into the yoga room and get organized on their own and there is little interaction with anybody outside of our class. I can speak to my dad's experience, however. While incarcerated, he was always treated with dignity and even joked with the COs. He was allowed to do the more desirable jobs while serving. My dad spent less time in jail than most of the men I teach for much greater crimes. He's been arrested and in prison four different times. I know that if he wasn't white, he would most likely have served a very long sentence and probably still be in today.


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Caroline
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Upon on reflection, I realized I have not witnessed the apprehension or arrest of a Black body.  I have wondered with some of these reflections, given the pandemic, my interactions and time in the community has dramatically changed and I have found it difficult to recall memories of socialization.  I do think it worth noting that I have not witnessed an apprehension or arrest of a Black body that I can recall.  There are certainly situations relative to where I was living and working that I may have seen a situation, but at this time these memories do not come to mind.

Regarding experiences with incarceration, the first time I visited a prison was to meet a new client who would be receiving services from the agency I worked for upon release.  As I went through the process of signing in, leaving my license, walking by individuals in orange suits, I noticed how heightened my senses were and how I took in every moment.  My body was on high alert, specifically because the individuals were men and I could feel their eyes on me.  I appreciate the reality of this situation, the opportunity of the experience, and recognition of my heightened awareness.

Meeting with the new client, I was accompanied by 2 staff from DMH, both white and male.  I can recall vividly now sitting there in the room, the door closed, at a table with the client who identified as Black and Native, myself (white and female), and the 2 white men.  I noticed where we were each sitting, I intentionally chose to sit closer to the client in an effort to create or offer some sense of support, trust, and openness.  The 2 white men sat furthest away from the client.  I remember thinking and wondering what is like for the client, a Black and Native man, to sit here with a bunch of white people.  I wanted to hear his story and I listened intently. 

When he was released and we started working together, his emotional state varied greatly.  We did sit together alone in my office for appointments, he opened up about his childhood trauma and life.  I witnessed firsthand how the system set him up to fail upon release; he diligently attempted to reactivate his benefits with great challenges, look for work, schedule and attend doctor appointments.  When he was upset, I offered him paper and markers to color; he wrote out Chinese symbols that he learned through his years.  He always answered my calls or returned them in time.  One Monday morning I turned on my work cell phone to find a voicemail for him from Friday night saying he wanted to kill himself.  My lizard brain went into immediate action mode, attempting to find him immediately. He was alive and with his sister going to a hospital to be evaluated for inpatient care. 

During the time knowing this client, I had active communication with his grandmother and sister.  Per the times of his parole, I had to communicate with his PO.  One time when he did not make their regularly scheduled meeting or answer her calls, I explained to her it was because he was inpatient for his mental health.  In spite of my communicating his whereabouts, she filed a warrant for his arrest due to missing their appointments.  I was furious. 

In the end, the client reoffended and he went back to prison.  I attempted to advocate for him to the forensic psychiatrist who evaluated the client that he needed mental health treatment NOT prison.  She barely let me speak; she had already made up her mind about who the client was and what she thought he needed: incarceration.  The last I learned of the client was that he had stopped eating and drinking while in prison and was being transferred to an inpatient forensic hospital.  I think of him often, wondering how he is doing and noticing the helplessness I feel at the system.  


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Nicole
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I am glad that you found the article on COs helpful. PYP is very much hoping to have more correctional officer classes when we are able to return inside. We currently offer four, 15-minute virtual mindfulness sessions to correctional officers at a prison in Alabama. This format seems to support their busy schedule- some time slots have 9 participants at a time! 

 


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Nicole
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@shawn-chereskin

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Shawn. I appreciate the nuance you provide to the situation. You say that it was emotionally charged when your brother was arrested, but also acknowledge the difference in that you did not fear for his life. I think this is an important distinction that often gets lost in the larger conversations about why we must give voice and attention to the experience of Black people. 

 

 

This post was modified 11 months ago by Nicole

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Nicole
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@carolinecl

The story of your client is heart-breaking. This makes me very curious about the experience of the parole officer and the forensic psychiatrist. What are they holding onto in their own body that impacts their decision-making?


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Carrie Hoffman
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I can't recall a time when I witnessed someone being arrested. This definitely shows the privilege I have experienced in life. I have been arrested myself once. While I did not fear for my life, the use of force definitely seemed excessive and unnecessary, i.e. handcuffs were put on me super tightly when I was fully and respectfully cooperating. 

What is the article about COs you are all referring to?

In the juvenile detention center where I teach most of the staff or "COs" are kind and supportive to the detained youth. When I teach yoga I can tell that most of the staff are also being exposed to yoga for the first time. They are usually curious and want to be involved and help encourage the kids to participate. I would like to find ways to provide more yoga to the staff because I suspect there are many barriers to them attending yoga classes on the outside. I see these barriers as low wages, long hours, and possibly the whitewashing of yoga in the studio environment. Many of the staff in the detention center are BIPOC and I wonder if they would feel comfortable walking into a yoga studio with a majority of white women in class.


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Nicole
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@carriehoffman

There is an article on Yoga and Correctional Officers provided in this section. Let me know if you can't access it and I will send you a copy!

 

 


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Shawn
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@nicole Absolutely. I agree it is a huge distinction in the experience of black bodies vs. white bodies when encountering police bodies. And a reason it's important to acknowledge why black parents feel genuine fear for their children's live when they leave the house. I've never had to have 'the talk' with my kids or worry about them driving, walking, running or even just occupying space while being white.


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Shawn
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@carriehoffman I've also been interested in offering yoga to the COs and staff of the prison where I teach. I think it may offer some support for all of the things you mentioned as well as less resentment towards the incarcerated that they receive 'special' programs like yoga and they don't. The staff at the front desk when I check are always curious and have questions about yoga. I believe that providing programs to the staff as well would be huge validation that we see them and acknowledge the challenges that they face while working in prisons.


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Joanna
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This was a difficult exercise for me and I think that discomfort stems from the past year being mostly isolated from the outside world. I feel like all my recent experiences are through the lenses of the television and computers, and it makes me feel out of touch with reality given the distance that has been created. My most recent in person observation with the police was very brief and happened in Chicago as I was driving to meet a friend in the Southside neighborhood. An unmarked police car calmly pulled over a car with two black males in it, I have no idea why. It was day time hours and on a main neighborhood street. The officers themselves were heavily armed and wearing protective body armour. All I really saw was the black male driver place his hands on the dashboard and I noticed immediately that they were shaking considerably. Seeing that made my heart beat faster, my palms sweat and I felt a sickening plt in my stomach at the fear this individual was feeling and wondering why. I know my own heart races whenever a highway patrol zooms up behind me with its lights flashing even if it is just to pass me. I feel scared. 


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Nicole
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I appreciate how you are acknowledging our current pandemic and how it impacts the way you feel these exercises in our body. I wonder how it will feel as we slowly go back to being around people more and more. 


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Marjorie
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Posted by: @nicole

Q. Complete the body practice on pg. 125. In addition to imagining an arrest that you witnessed, examine the experiences you have witnessed of incarceration. (This is at the end of Chapter 8)

To adapt it to my context, I will considerate all people from migration ( from countries "in development") as Black.
Earlier I have been politically engaged, and not really cops friendly so in general in the past I never felt calm when I saw cops to arrest someone, whatever the color of the skin. I also had (not controlled) strong empathy.
As I worked since my 25 years old with people from migration and refugees, I probably had a stronger reaction watching cops arresting people with dark skin knowing their difficult realities (before, the journey, arriving) as for exemple the discrimination that they had to face in Europe. The arrest of people with dark skin happen easily here (called "crime of face").  Sometimes, depending on the tensions, I could have stayed around, just to be surer than cops knew  witness were around.
I remember clearly than I was feeling sad and anxious (blood pressure faster), for them, and I felt anger concerning the cops. I was thinking that it was an unfair situation as I knew people from dark skin have the identity much more controlled than white. Even though maybe that person arrested was guilty of an aggression.
 
Indeed, I was myself feeling guilty of my privileges during that time, and I was necessary thinking than the person coming from Africa or Middle Est was the victim.

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