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Outreach Letter

Updated: May 25, 2019

We write to share our vision for a pilot program, Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence, that will introduce transformational coaching skills to 26 men who have devoted their lives to providing leadership for change on Yard A at California State Prison in Lancaster, CA. Yard A houses 800 men who have given up gangs and prison politics and have committed themselves to community healing and personal transformation.  In 2003 Ken Hartman (recently commuted by Governor Brown and now working in Lancaster, CA), founded Yard A. It was created as an alternative to the maximum-security yards at CSP Lancaster where violence, “prison politics”, chaos and stress rule the way that men interact with each other. (Ken Hartman is registered for CFT LA 04 which starts in September 2018.)

The vision for the Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence project grew out of a two-day Coaching Essentials training led by Leadership that Works faculty members, Damon Azali-Rojas, who spent over a decade as a civil rights community organizer and five years in the anti-domestic violence field, and Amanda Berger, Program Director with Insight Garden Program, an innovative 48 week eco-literacy program operating in nine prisons in CA. The training was held in January 2018 and attended by 26 men, all deeply involved as leaders in the education, mentoring, rehabilitation and healing programs on the yard.

After the training, the men shared that they had never been exposed to a curriculum that so deeply focused on their assets, best thinking and wisdom as tools for motivation and change.

In their own words they felt that coach training was rich with possibilities including (1) conflict resolution; (2) getting folks engaged in finding solutions for themselves; (3) cultivating relationships, creating trust and fostering independence and self-reliance; (4) disarming machismo; (5) working with Veterans with PTSD; (6) helping the outside see that they have value and worth; (7) “bringing peace to ourselves by giving back to the communities that we tore down…now to rebuild”; (8) help to change prison culture, reduce violence; and (9) identify the root causes of trauma.

And they made a formal request for the coaching training program to be brought into the prison.

Our vision is to deliver a coach training program for these 26 leaders to help them continue to create a path toward healing for the 800 men incarcerated on Yard A.  Our goal is to train them in core coaching competencies so they can apply these skills in their work as peer educators, facilitators, and mentors with the prison population at this maximum security prison. Ultimately we hope to change the culture on Yard A and move toward a different way of working with people, facilitating groups and supporting transformation.

Of the 26 men that we hope to train, two-thirds are serving life sentences, many of which will be parole eligible in the next 3-10 years. Of the 26 men in our pilot group, a third are also serving sentences of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). All play an increasingly important role as mentors for younger men just beginning long-term sentences on Yard A. The guidance, support and informal coaching that these older men, many of who have already served decades in prison, play to younger men is critical to the way they will spend their time in prison. Yard A, with its commitment to programming led by the men inside, is an ideal place to pilot a coaching program. Through the Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence Project, we will explore the ways that coaching skills can continue to foster and expand their leadership.

The 26 men will receive a coaching training program from faculty members that facilitate other certification programs with Leadership that Works (LTW). LTW is an International Coaching Federation accredited coach training school. To our knowledge, this will be the first coaching training program of its kind facilitated in a U.S. prison.  Yard A offers us a unique place to launch this training that we hope will spread to other prisons throughout California and beyond.

Our Project Budget is $44,000.  The money raised will support the 80-hour Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence Training Program that will be led by certified coaches and coach trainers who are committed to working with prison leaders who are part of our larger community. The training will be delivered over four two-day workshops with weekly assignments, intermittent check-ins and correspondence with the participants in the program. We hope to start the training in early 2019. Additionally, one to two alumni that have been released home, will participate in the LTW Coaching for Transformation certification program from the outside.

Coaching skills, widely used in the corporate world, and increasingly with non-profit leaders, have rarely if ever been taught to people incarcerated in prisons and jails. Coaching is an asset-based approach that uses deep listening, empowering questions, visioning, accountability and somatic work to support people to break old habits, develop new practices and embrace change.

In the initial two-day Coaching Essentials training, the men created “coach’s stands” including these declarations from three of them:  

“I believe that human beings have the ability to come back from devastating circumstances and become their best selves”

“I believe that human beings have to ability to love deeply and care gently”

“Hate was too great a burden to bear so I chose love. “(MLK)

We believe this program is rich with possibilities. If successful, the 26 men trained will help cultivate the hope and inspiration needed for men serving life sentences to further transform their lives and to re-enter the community as whole and healed people. 

To make a tax deductible donation for this project please donate to Coaching for Non-Violence here. For more information about Coaching for Healing and Non-Violence please contact Damon at or (323)309-7988.

Thank you for your consideration.

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