On Sunday, June 19th at the Denver women’s correctional facility (DWCF), we walked into the gym and into a wall of tension from one of the inmates Michelle; Michelle has danced with us from day one and just completed the teacher-training. Her face was stone cold and her energy was LOW as she let us know how disappointed she was that we had postponed our second teacher-training at DWCF.

I did not want to fall into apologizing or blaming the lieutenant for not responding to my multiple emails about postponing the teacher- training until we had more women signed up. Lt Ross has been nothing but helpful and I did not want to bury her over this lack of communication but it was hard to feel disrespected by an inmate.

Michelle has been at almost every class since we started a year ago. During our winter teacher-training she said things like, “God brought you to me because he knew I was ready.” The honeymoon is over!  I could feel myself attaching to our time in Pueblo more – saying things like, “Medium-security is maybe where we need to go from now on,” or “The inmates are more grateful in remote prisons like
Sunday, July 3rd proved to be even heavier at DWCF. We had our smallest turn out, two of our teachers-in-training were absent and the inmates who did show up talked most of the class. Talking amongst the prisoners during my classes has been the biggest challenge D2BF has had to deal with since 7/1/15. I feel disrespected, unsure of my role as a teacher/disciplinarian, discouraged and resentful. I opened Sunday’s class with, “Please be aware that when you enter the gym, you are here to dance. I ask that you don’t chat and rather drop into your body and the choreography – this is very important to me.”
They proceeded to talk during the majority of the class.
I started to question our weekly schedule and thought maybe we need to give our time more to the women in Pueblo? DWCF is a well supported, maximum prison, filled with a huge amount of volunteers and programs. We are among AA, GED programs, God Behind Bars, Spanish lessons, music school etc. The fact is DWCF is near Denver with easy access to people who care and want to help. The more remote a prison, the less programming – hence, the inmates in Pueblo and York, Nebraska are hungry for our time since they are not given as much attention.
Whew! Conflict, tension, misunderstandings, disrespect and falling from grace! What a lesson! I know we will grow from this but I sure started to feel some resentment about the lack of gratitude!
As we embark on our first out-of-state teacher-training in NE, our hearts and minds are being asked to dive deeper into the layers of working with the prison population. Although this journey is worth the hard times, some days are simply discouraging. I’m left wondering how we can dance through the difficulty and frustration… Stay tuned as we experience our third women’s prison!