Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Supporting Inmates' Transitions, Faith in Action

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John Schumann brought tools and mulch for outdoor spring clean-up as the birds sang. We worked indoors too, enjoying good company with grateful hearts. See the giant Sycamore on Robinson Street? -- photo by Sunny Miller

John Schumann is known locally for his landscaping & construction business. On Thursdays he's a Friend who visits the local jail. Schumann began volunteering 2016 after a familial introduction to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He connected with a group of interfaith 'Navigators' who help inmates prepare for a better life on the outside.*

     "People in jail might be diagnosed with mental health conditions or label themselves." Schumann accepts that any of us can be tempted to bury (ignore) a chronic problem in favor of enjoyable distractions. "So much of popular culture offers short-term fixes that emphasize consumption, whether that's alcohol or drugs, TV, phones or video games.
     "Sometimes it takes being incarcerated two or three times before people are really (looking/ready) to change their lives, and willing to put in some serious work fro it. My role is to listen to their situations, and any mental health challenges," says John. "Sometimes I hear about the hard lives these guys had they had when they were growing up. I tell them it's not surprising they looked for an easy way out. I can empathize, and help them get some clarity; I don't have to judge them when we talk about patterns in their lives." 
    When I interviewed John on a beautiful day in April his next task was to work on an assignment for Sociology class. "I'm working towards a Sociology degree because we need more support structures at every level, starting with pre-school." Schumann adds, "We hope to have a group that will organize more volunteers, called Trusted Mentors." 
     John's work and this day remind me of the April I went to a prison in Massachusetts to learn ways to peace offered in an Alternatives to Violence* week-end workshop. On my drive to the prison an hour away, on that first warm week-end after winter, I lamented the cement walls and small windows awaiting me. I never imagined the beauty of revelations inside, and the wonderful co-leadership by both Quaker elders and noble prisoners.  All the trees were budding, and so were we.  
-- by Sunny Miller, April 2017, honoring Ann and George Levinger's fine works, among wonderful Quaker elders.

(This is a link to a Care and Counsel Procedures Manual.)
Coming soon, John's list of best RESOURCES for life on the outside.