Nature, Recreation, and Leisure in Prisoner Reentry

10 02 2012

As naturalist and author John Muir once said, “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”.

Nature, whether it be a rugged and remote wilderness terrain or a place to sit under a tree in an urban area, can evoke humbleness, clarity, time for reflection, and call to mind a sense of purpose.  Spending leisure time in these wild places can help relieve stress, facilitate independence and growth, allow time for self discovery, influence positive perception of oneself, and replace old and negative labels.  Time in nature, whether spent in solidarity or with a group, is essential for the overall spiritual, emotional, and physical health and wellness of every human being.

But when focusing on the recently incarcerated population, why even discuss concepts of leisure and recreation when the first priority of a person in reentry is to get a job, find stable housing, reunite with family, and pay off fines?

The Mentorship Program is designed to give these individuals time to step away from the reentry process, even if for a short time each week,  to reflect on their progress, evaluate their goals, and identify outlets to relieve stress.  In connecting with a mentor, each match can spend time focusing on recreation and leisure, whether in nature or in an urban setting, as a tool to create what is often a more holistic approach to reentry.

For the past year, the Sponsors Mentorship Program, in partnership with the City of Eugene River House Outdoor Program, have offered monthly excursions to various wilderness and recreational areas for matches to explore snowshoeing, kayaking, sailing, white water rafting, hiking, and crabbing.  Exposure to these activities, even if in small doses, can boost one’s self esteem, feeling of self worth, confidence, and trust in others; thus making the overall transition from prison to community more successful.

We are thankful for the City of Eugene  partnership, and hope to continue offering mentors and recreational activities as one of the many reentry service offered at Sponsors, Inc.

Written by Jen Jackson, Mentorship Program Director

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One response

16 02 2012

Jen, thanks for writing and contributing to the blog. It’s a great thing you’re doing. I look forward to the continuation of the River House and Sponsors partnership!

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