SALINAS — It’s commonplace for highschool college students to learn Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” What’s extra uncommon is to do it with inmates serving life sentences in jail.
However that’s precisely what college students from Palma College in Salinas have been doing with inmates on the Correctional Coaching Facility, a state jail in Soledad that’s dwelling to extra individuals serving life sentences than every other jail in California. Palma is a personal school preparatory college for boys in grades seven by means of 12, owned and operated by the Christian Brothers Institute of California.
The college’s program, known as “Workouts in Empathy,” connects college students, dad and mom and inmates within the research of a selected work of fiction. College students and inmates have studied a number of John Steinbeck novels and this most up-to-date session discovered college students and inmates discussing the metaphors and meanings Shakespeare offered in “Hamlet.”
Through the common go to, about 25 college students, employees members and fogeys meet with about 80 inmates. Breaking into teams of eight to 10 often known as “households,” they discover their private connections to the assigned literature.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest session was performed through Zoom, the primary time the state has allowed inmates to speak by means of the assembly platform.
In December, the Palma program, which now in its seventh yr, caught the eye of Lisa Ling, whose CNN present “That is Life with Lisa Ling,” will air a function section on the varsity’s program at 9 p.m. Sunday on CNN. The episode can even be out there on CNNgo. The filming occurred simply previous to the onset of the pandemic.
The six-part sequence follows Ling as she travels throughout America exploring communities which can be typically unknown or misunderstood. Palma’s “Empathy” program was chosen to run because the season opener for Ling’s present.
“We thought that the studying program was going to be extra useful for the inmates as they’d an opportunity to work together with so many shiny younger males who would share their ideas on the good works with them,” Ling stated. “What we discovered was that this system was transformative for the scholars and opened up a world to them that many knew little to nothing about.”
Earlier student-inmate readings included Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Males,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “The Pearl.” The chosen literature offers with themes that many inmates can determine with, oftentimes with the darker aspect of human nature.
“The inmates come to grasp how the literature applies to themselves,” stated Roger Rybkowski, director of promoting and communications for Palma. “Steinbeck’s tales typically handled marginalized individuals.”
Jim Micheletti, Palma’s director of campus ministry, together with Mia Mirassou, created this system with a deal with compassion, empathy and restorative justice, Rybkowski stated. Teaming males who’ve been given life sentences with personal college college students to debate themes present in literature has led to uncooked feelings, frank discussions and various surprises.
Rybkowski described the consequences on inmates as a catharsis. A lot of the “Brothers in Blue” have by no means been handled with the dignity of being requested what their opinion is on something, notably literature. Now, listed here are college students with 9 toes in universities like Stanford or Harvard who’re asking the inmates for his or her opinions on works like “Hamlet.”
“From beginning they had been made to really feel that they didn’t matter,” he stated. “Many sought households by means of gangs, however as quickly as they had been in jail the household deserted them. With this program, they really feel like they’re a part of a worthwhile neighborhood.”
Actually, it’s understood that the inmates embody these serving life sentences for crimes similar to murder, so sturdy safety measures are in place. Nevertheless, solely inmates who’ve confirmed themselves with their habits are chosen to take part in this system.
The worth of this system for inmates grew to become obvious when, regardless of the little an inmate earns whereas working behind jail partitions, they frequently move the hat and have raised greater than $30,000 to fund a Palma pupil.
The crew spent three weeks in Salinas, creating the story of the distinctive relationship between Palma and the jail. Syon Newson-Inexperienced, who was the scholarship recipient, and Hudson Wooden, Palma’s 2020 valedictorian, had been each featured college students within the episode, together with a handful of their classmates.
“To me, it was profound to witness two teams, who on the floor appear completely completely different, discover frequent floor,” stated Francis Poon, one of many present’s producers. “In immediately’s divisive and vitriolic world, I believe this program speaks to the facility of listening with an open thoughts, and the profound risk for all of us to empathize.”