STONE CATCHERS (3rd meeting)

For those of you who pay attention to details, you’ll notice that the title says “3rd meeting” as opposed to “WEEK 3”.

That’s because we skip weeks from time to time. Therefore it makes more sense to keep track of the meetings.

Moving on…

Today we finished discussions on Folkseeds. However, we might re visit the discussions, if Paul responds. For more on that, please read A LETTER TO PAUL.

We turned in Seedfolks and got our new book.

During the WEEK 1 MEETING, we were all asked by the Superintendent to recommend books for future reading.

I recommended:
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Out of ALL the books that were recommended, the Superintendent chose The Four Agreements!

I’m super excited!

Our assignment is to :

*Read the first two agreements.

*And write down my definitions of Personal Freedom, Happiness, and Love.

Stay tuned…its coming.

 

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Steven D. Jennings

A LETTER TO PAUL

 

Dear Paul,

When the Stone Catchers literacy group finished reading Seedfolks, we had an incredibly deep, thought provoking discussion.

During the course of that discussion, a few questions came up.

As I thought about the questions, I also thought about how amazing it would be to present you with those questions, and then to get your response, in which I’d share with the group.

Just the simple fact that you would respond would be a powerful testimony in regards to the metaphorical idea of planting a seed and tending to it until it bears its crop.

I say that because some of the group members are skeptical about whether or not you’ll reply. The seed was planted when a guy said to me, “Why don’t you use your blog to ask Paul some of these questions we’ve been asking?” I’ll now tend to that seed by putting forth the effort to contact you. The result of this seed is yet to be determined.

I’m excited for your reply, as the simple act in itself will expose powerful life lessons and quite possibly expand the horizons of those who limit themselves.

Here are the questions regarding Seedfolks :

Who is the man in the rocking chair?
What happened with Curtis and Lateesha?
What happened to Maricela and her baby?
Who was the girl in the locket?
Do you have plans for a sequel?

I eagerly await your reply.

Sincerely,
Steven

THE BLOG FOLLOWING CONTEST

Hello, my name is Steven D. Jennings and I have a blog with approximately 23K followers. My goal is to get over 1 million followers. If you have any ideas on how I can accumulate more blog followers, please tell me.

If your idea is selected, I will give you the gift of blogging and post your writing for the world to see.

For more details, please feel free to contact me.

Good luck.

 

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Steven D. Jennings

STONE CATCHERS (WEEK 2)

The group session stared at 8am. I strolled in at 9. I was a hour late because G Unit was getting shook down. (I live in H-3. Not too long ago the SWAT team hit my unit. For more on the H-3 raid, please read The 6 AM Shakedown.)

The prison SWAT team raided G Unit unit at 5:30am. G Unit has two Freedom Tails dogs over there. So as all the inmates were herded into the gym, the dogs were put into their kennels.

I was asked to please go get the G Unit dogs and bring them to my unit (H-3) until the shake down was over. I did. By doing so, the dogs got to go potty, get exercise, eat, play, and get affection. Opposed to 8 hours locked in a kennel.

This is Bruiser. He spent the day with H-3 dog handlers while G Unit was under siege. steven (1)

As I strolled in a hour late, the Captain of the group welcomed me, then asked why was I late? I explained the situation. Everyone was understanding.

I then joined the conversation regarding the first 6 chapters of SEEDFOLK. Everyone seemed to be focused on the conflicts; explaining why they thought all the problems were occurring.

As the Reflector, I took notes on Focus, and on Direction. Then I raised my hand and addressed the group.

I said, “As your nominated Reflector its my job to keep track of the group’s process. Part of the process is for the Reflector to make comments regarding : focus, direction, organization, listening skills, and participation. At this time I’d like to address “Direction”.

As I spoke, I looked around the room and made eye contact with all those who were looking at me. It was about 80%. I felt confident and comfortable.

I continued, “I’ve been listening to everyone talk about the problems and why you think those problems exist. But now I’d like to propose a shift in direction. Can we talk about how these problems could’ve been prevented?”

The group took to it and the shift was on! I was surprised at how many people said that there was NO WAY to avoid the conflicts.

And to some degree, they’re right. Whenever you have a large diverse group of people, conflict is inevitable.

So for me, it boils down to how you deal with conflict and how will you let it affect you?

At the conclusion of class, we got some homework.

#1) Finish the book.
#2) Select one of the following writing activities:

A) Pair up with another person and write a script between two characters. Show what kind of conversation they might have.
B) Pick one character and write their extended and detailed biography.
C) Keep a journal and respond to each character as yourself.
D) Write a letter as yourself to one of the characters. Make it personal and meaningful.
E) Create sociological newspaper article on the conditions of living in Cleveland during the time of this book.
F) Write a poem about one of the characters.

At first I was going to do F and write a poem.

But I want to be efficient with my time and effort. I want to do something that will have real tangible effects on my life and goals.

That’s why I chose D. To write a letter to one of the characters. The character I’m writing to is Sam.

That letter will be my next post.

Have a nice day.

 

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Steven Jennings

STONE CATCHERS (WEEK 1)

Hello everyone and welcome to the Violence Prevention Literacy Group…aka: Stone Catchers.

The name Stone Catchers represents those who throw stones at others by way of verbal abuse, gossip, or other negative means. Wait! Those would be the stone throwers. We are the Stone Catchers. We catch those potentially destructive stones and lay them to rest in our beautiful stone garden that represents peace, love, and harmony.

The more stones we catch, the less they hurt. We are changing prison culture one stone at a time.

You might wonder how a literacy group can inspire peace and encourage violence prevention?

The answer lies within the participants. These men have committed a variety of crimes. Some of them have been in prison for 20, 30, 40 years! That makes them heavyweights amongst their peers.

When they talk, people listen. Their actions are closely observed. This wasn’t always used in a positive manner.

Times are changing. These men are realizing that they can be just as influential in a positive manner.

Stone Catchers is just one vehicle that allows us to drive positive messages to our peers and to each other as we all work towards a common goal : peace, love, and harmony within prison.

The book we are reading is called “Seedfolk” by Paul Fleischman.

Before I start to read, I must answer the following questions based solely on the book cover (The book cover shows 9 pictures. 5 of them are of people, all ages, all different races. The other 4 are : a picture of water, a zucini, binoculars, and a funnel.)

Q #1) What do you think the book is about?
A) I think its about a diverse group of people who face extreme challenges and find ways to overcome.

Q#2) What do you think will happen in the end?
A) The people will evolve and grow as their lives transition from chaotic to balanced and healthy. They’ll all live happily ever after.

Q#3) Who are the characters?
A) Everyday people. All ages. All races.

Q#4) What is the setting?
The setting is their environment. And that depends on their walk of life, poverty, middle class, upper class, etc.

* * *

I’ve read the first 6 chapters, as instructed. Now I will go back and answer those four questions again. (This book doesn’t have a Table of Contents. Chapters are arranged by each character. So instead of saying I just read 6 chapters, I could say I just read : Kim, Ana, Wendell, Gonzalo, Leona, and Sam.)

A#1) This book is about the domino effect of one little girl’s actions. It shows how everyone has similar desires, likes, passions, and dislikes. Regardless of age and race.

A little girl (Kim) plants three bean seeds in a vacant Cleveland lot that’s infested with rats and garbage.

An old lady (Ana) observes her, but can’t quite see exactly what she’s doing. The old lady assumes she’s hiding drugs.

So she tells a friend (Wendell) to go investigate. He does. He discovers the three beans.

This sequence of events leads to the entire community getting involved. Before long the lot is transformed into a beautiful garden in the midst of a poverty stricken, crime ridden, concrete jungle.

As more and more people get involved, more problems arise. People start to put up little fences, chicken wire, barbed wire, and “keep out” signs.

The garden becomes racially segregated. Vandalism and theft occures. Not everyone likes the garden.

A#2) In the end the paradise will be lost due to the selfish nature of mankind. The lot will come full circle as it travels a journey that sees love, compassion, possessiveness, hatred, and violence. It will come to rest completely ruined.

A#3) The characters are as described in my first answer.

A#4) The setting is in a lot full of trash that becomes a garden. The garden is in the heart of the characters neighborhood/community, which is located in Cleveland, Ohio.

MY THOUGHTS THIS FAR

This book shows how a casual act can blossom into something big.

No matter what you do, someone is always watching.

As more people watch, some will get involved.

As people get involved, they bring new visions and perspectives. This can be a slippery slope without strong leadership and firm rules to maintain order.

As you can see, this program promotes powerful food for thought. I’m excited to see what the rest of SEEDFOLK has to offer and how it’ll inspire and impact my life.

Stay tuned for week 2!

 

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Steven D. Jennings

THE VIOLENCE PREVENTION LITERACY GROUP : STONE CATCHERS

“Stone Catchers” is the name of the Literacy Group that I participate in.

This program is bran new. I’ll share the syllabus with you. As you read the syllabus, keep in mind that I am copying it EXACTLY how it reads. So the poor editing, typos and confusion is not my doing.

LITERACY GROUP

The literacy’s group goal is to encourage and support each other in learning. Participants will learn together inn small circles supporting each other and making a commitment to solve problems jointly through discussion and shared explanations.

*Groups will be flexible about which book is selected for reading.

*15-20 minutes per group is a substantial amount of time to discuss goals of the group.

*Once groups are selected one set of books per group will be assigned.

*Each offender will sign for the book and be held responsible to return the book upon the completion of the assignment.

*Each individual member has a responsibility to contribute to the group and do his “fair share.”

*A team Captain will be designated for each reading to keep the group on task and focused. The Captain will read assignments to the group, mediate conflicts and manage time.

*A Recorder will take minute4s and write down salient points then report back to the group.

*A Encourager gives the group feedback and is responsible for ensuring that all group mangers are heard.

Ok, here’s where it gets confusing. Even more so than the part that says,” A Recorder will take minute4s and write down salient points then report back to the group.” What? I thought they were in the group. What do you mean they report back to the group? Where do they go?

I’m in GROUP 2.
I was nominated and received the Reflector position.

I have no idea what a Reflector does. Here’s what the syllabus says:

“A reflector keeps track of dynamics of group process and makes comments (to be turned in with the reporters) focus, directions, organization, listening skill, participation of all members.”

After reading that, I STILL don’t know what a Reflector does. So I asked the Captain, Recorder, and Encourager. No one could give me a clear and concise description.

So I broke it down as I understood it. Until someone tells me otherwise, my job as a Reflector is to :

Keep track of group process.

Make comments that pertain to how guys are focusing within the group.

Make comments on the direction of the group, as I see it.

Make comments on the organization skills of the group.

Make comments regarding the listening skills of group members.

Make comments regarding the participation of all group members.

The syllabus goes on to say :

*The discussion will start with a walk through of the book based on the cover.

~What do you think the book is about?
~What do you think will happen in the end?
~Who are the characters?
~What is the setting?

*Discussions and predictions about the text will be weekly.

*At the conclusion of the storyline we will sequence events and do a flow map together.

That’s it. My next post will be called “STONE CATCHERS (WEEK 1), where I’ll dive into the book and answer the 4 questions. Stay tuned! And tell all your friends and family to tune in. Bye!

 

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Steven D. Jennings

REDEMPTION…NEW AND IMPROVED

Under the umbrella of Redemption there are many new programs. Each program falls under a specific category. The categories are :
Community Outreach
Education
Peer Support
Sustainability
Spirituality, Health/Wellness
Violence Reduction
Re-entry
Family support

It is my goal to participate in, and/or contribute to, all of the programs within these categories.

I’m currently participating in a program that falls under COMMUNITY OUTREACH. The program is called Freedom Tails. AKA : The dog program.

I’ve completed Roots to Success, which falls under the SUSTAINABILITY category.

One category I really want to get involved with is the VIOLENCE PREVENTION.

So last Friday I joined a Literacy Group called the Stone Catchers. This program is one of many that fall under VIOLENCE PREVENTION.

With the rise of our new Superintendent Margaret Gilbert, comes a plethora of new programs and categories.

Gilbert is extremely “hands on” when it comes to positive programming. She inner acts with the inmates and exudes an aura of genuine compassion. In short, she cares. Her attitude makes all the difference in the world, and will only inspire and encourage as time goes on.

Many of these programs are still being developed or are in their infant stages. As I learn more, I’ll continue to share. As these programs evolve I’ll continue to share. I’m excited about all the opportunities here at Stafford Creek.

A big “Thank you” to Margaret Gilbert for all the meaningful activities that she has brought to this facility. She will make a difference.

Steven Jennings

STONE CATCHERS : MY LETTER TO SAM

 

Dear Sam,

Please allow me to introduced myself. My name is Steven. I am the nations leading blogger from behind bars. I am also a published author, constantly looking for more exposure.

My eBook is called, Stone City: Life in the Penitentiary. It can be found in all major eBook stores.

I’m currently participating in a VIOLENCE PREVENTION LITERACY GROUP called STONE CATCHERS. link

We are reading SEEDFOLKS by Paul Fleischman. And that is how I met you.

I admire your optimistic attitude and your ability to solve problems. The way you polled the people, and came up with a water solution, was genius!

You have inspired me to employ the same tactic.

My goal is to get millions of blog followers. This is where your strategy comes in.

I’m going to conduct a contest to see who can come up with ideas to increase my blog following.

As the ideas stack up, I may use only one, or I might use several.

For those ideas I use, that person will win the gift of blogging. Meaning : I will post their writing on my blog, where tens of thousands of people (world wide) will read it.

This contest is open to anyone who wants to get involved.

All I need to do now is draw up the BLOG FOLLOWING CONTEST and get it into circulation.

Thank you for the inspiration.

Sincerely,
Steven

ROLO GRADUATES!

Its been an honor and a privilege working with Rolo over the past 10 weeks. He taught me just as much as I taught him.

The graduation ceremony takes place in the visiting room. The center of the room is cleared out, and all the tables and chairs are set up around the perimeter.

As we enter, half the dogs and trainers split off to left and the other half splits off to the right. The audience applauds.

We circle around the room like two trains heading for a head on collision.
Right before impact, we strategically shift and intersect one another like race cars on a figure 8 racetrack.

Before you know it, we’re all circling in the same direction.

The assistant trainer (he’s an inmate) stands in the center with a microphone and gives a series of commands, such as: sit, down, stay, come, circle, reverse circle.

All the dogs perform beautifully.

Then we circle off the floor in a single file line.

A crew of handlers quickly set up an obstacle course. Rolo and I are last in line.

As we wait our turn I kneel down by Rolo and talk to him. I point to all the other dogs who are running the course. I whisper the commands as the dogs perform them. Rolo watches and listens.

Before we know it, the assistant trainer announces, “Up next is Steven and Rolo”!

We’re off!

“Rolo, heel!” I say as I lead him to the slinky tunnel. He cruises through with ease.

I lead him to a make shift door. “Rolo, sit!” I say as I give the hand signal. He sits like a champ. The door opens. “Rolo, heel!” He follows me to three steps that leads up to a ten foot plank.

All the other dogs conquer it in one continuous motion. I have Rolo sit and wait. Then I say, “okay, let’s go!” He jumps up and trots across. Before he jumps down, I tell him to sit. Then I say, “Dance pretty” as I guide him up on his hind legs and make him shift back and forth before he does a 360.”

This is all extra. All the other dogs ran through the course non-stop.

Next is the cone weave. Before he starts I say, “Rolo sit.” He does. “Rolo, focus.” He looks me in the eye and holds the stare until I say, “Lets go!” He quickly weaves in and out of the cones.

“Rolo, sit.” He does. “You did good! Give me five.” He does. Then we trot over to our seat.

After the obstacle course, its time to give an oral presentation introducing ourselves and the dogs.

This is my 2nd oral presentation. The audience consist of my peers, high ranking DOC staff, sponcers, volunteers, and members from the community.

I get up in front of the audience and say:

“Hello, my name is Steven. This is Dicky. And This is Rolo. Rolo is a Jack Russel Rat Terrier Mix. He was a stray that came to us through PAWS. When we first got Rolo he didn’t know any of his commands. Today he knows all of his commands. For more on Rolo, here’s Dicky.”

That’s it. Nice and easy. In and out!

After all the speeches, Dicky, Rolo, and I went to a table and met with an elderly lady who adopted Rolo. We gave her all the info we had on Rolo, which included a ten week journal of his progress.

Then it was time to say goodbye. A sad time…but a happy time too. Rolo found a good home and will be well cared for.

Now I’m just waiting for my next dog. Stay tuned.

 

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Steven D. Jennings

 

True Love Never Gives Up

 

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Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

Every marriage faces choppy waters. Divorce is at an all time high. Just the other day I heard a guy in here talking about how he’s about to “fire his wife!” He’s tripping on her because she’s slow-walking his food package.

UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Actually, no it’s not. So many men in here play games with love and emotions. They are not sincere with their love. They are users and abusers. They continue to use until the money dries up, or till they get released. These type of relationships are scattered throughout prison visiting rooms all across America. It breaks my heart and it’s sad to see.

I sincerely love my wife with all my heart. All I wanna do is love this woman and make her happy. No drama, no stress, no arguing, no fighting.

Wouldn’t that be sweet?
Oh, it is!!!

Suzie and I enjoy a strong circle of harmony. But every now and then, we find ourselves in choppy waters. In those times, it is my duty as a husband, to take positive steps that will change the emotional climate and calm the choppy waters.

Smooth sailing in the sea of love is always possible when true love guides the heart.

I’m not perfect, and I still have a lot to learn. But one thing I know for sure is that I love my wife with all my heart and I will forever cherish her and the sweet love she gives me. My #1 priority in our marriage is to treat Suzie with nothing but love, understanding, compassion, and respect.

Our mantra: LOVE CONQUERS ALL!

There’s so much I can’t give this magnificent woman…at least not right now. But what I can give her, is the unconditional love she desires and longs for. I can always give her my very best! When it comes to our marriage and our love, I will always put forth effort, as I maintain faith and hope that our love will only grow stronger throughout our journey.

I love you my sweet Suzie. Thank you for blessing my life with your precious love.

 

 

Steven Jennings