Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

A microphone in the foreground with seating in the background
Photo by mryounglek on Depositphotos

This article was first published by Here & Now, a newspaper at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California. Aside from the headline, it appears as it was published and has not been edited by PJP.

RJ Donovan’s Facility-E had a few special guests last month: Dr. Gail Reiner and Professor Doyle Young.

Dr. Gail Reiner, a professor from UC San Diego, delivered a lecture on neuroscience and mitochondrial medicine. This lecture marked the start of a series of monthly lectures sponsored by the Mental Health department’s Inmate Peer Health & Education Program (IPHEP), facilitated by John Marvin and Brad Menard. These lectures are hosted in the RJD-E chapel’s multi-faith room by Chaplain A. Campbell.

Some of Dr. Reiner’s topics included the connection between physical, social, psychological, and spiritual healing; the flexibility of intelligence, mothers and children mirroring each other’s actions, and how neuroscience can explain brain activities and action. The nearly 100 participants were completely engaged, going so far as to take notes with the dedication of a college class. As parting words on the subject of emotional intelligence, she explained, “Feelings aren’t good or bad, they’re just feelings. They’re not a safe guide to live by.”

Afterwards, she had this to add: “I was very impressed by how attentive the participants were, not to mention how willing everyone was to learn.”

The second lecture in the series was by Professor Doyle Young of the Urban Ministries Institute. Having worked with 8 universities as a teacher, math major, and a life-long learner, Professor Young learned from his father an important fact: “Get an education, they can’t take it away from you.” His lecture covered a variety of topics on various Christian lessons, interwoven with anecdotes and examples of living an emotionally and spiritually balanced lifestyle. He spoke of the dangers of spending your life working hard towards superficial and monetary gain without doing anything that is beneficial to humankind, being an altruistic rather than selfish individual, and the tumultuous world of the 1960s when he learned a number of life lessons.

“I watched my buddies depart to Vietnam, and come back in body bags. Things like that tend to make you evaluate your life very carefully.” After living a life without peace as a corporate consultant for Fortune 500 companies, Professor Young spoke about how he found peace every day as a man of Christ.

When asked afterwards why he wanted to give a lecture, Profesor Young said, “I love all the guys here on the yard. I want them to have what I’ve got, so I’m trying to give them as much of what I have as I can.”

These lectures are designed to make a positive mental and social impact on the inmate population and encourage them to think, learn, and grow as people on a path towards reentering the community as well-adjusted, socially-aware citizens. Rather than have to commit a multiweek or multimonth program, these lectures aim to give participants new information and concepts in novel “bite-sized” chunks. Future lectures include public speaking seminars, talks on yoga as a way to manage stress, lectures on music and the Underground Scholars Program, and more from various representatives of outside organizations.

If you would like to participate in future lectures or workshops, keep your eyes peeled for sign-up sheets in your unit!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Daniel X. Cohen is a comedy and drama writer and is currently working on screenplays and short stories. He serves as a facilitator for self-help groups. He is currently incarcerated in California.