In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, CDCR recognizes the educators, teachers, principals, librarians, recreation supervisors and support staff that go above and beyond for their students, especially during a pandemic.
When Jeremiah Holland started his career as a teacher and coach at an urban public high school serving low-income students, he encountered daily obstacles trying to reach his pupils. Twenty years later, creating an inclusive recreation/sports program at California Medical Facility has posed even larger challenges.
“The people we work with have seriously complex health needs,” Holland said. “They are in poor physical health, they often have substance abuse issues and some have mental health issues. We know that people with disabilities in the community participate less in recreation. We know that these sporting inequalities follow individuals to our facilities. So, I had to ask myself, are we replicating the same barriers or are we minimizing them?”
Recreation Supervisor creates classes for people with special needs
Recreation Supervisor Holland wasn’t daunted by the task. He created several targeted classes for incarcerated people with special needs, including those with diabetes, mobility or vision impairments. Instruction included information on living healthy life-styles, as well as low-impact activities. People who had never before felt comfortable participating in recreation gained confidence and participation significantly increased. Tournaments for shuffleboard and boccia, and a precision ball sport for people with severely impaired motor skills further energized the program.
“Sports have a big role to play in both physical and mental health,” Holland said. “They connect people to something larger than themselves, it’s a community of people who are there to support you.”
In the last year, Holland’s successful programs have been dealt two mighty blows – CMF’s gym was closed for renovations and the COVID-19 pandemic response required cancellation of normal activities and limited movement. “It’s been hard,” Holland said. “But there was no point thinking about what we couldn’t do.”
Holland devised a new program that was enthusiastically supported by CMF’s administration – support that he said has been instrumental from Day 1. He filmed meditation instruction for inmates to view in their housing units. He devised socially-distanced games such as paddle ball and Giant Tower Jenga. An oversized chess set was set up and a quarterback target contest was recently held on the yard.
Acting Warden Daniel Cueva and the institution are proud of Holland’s abundant recreation program and focus on healthy life styles.
“Coach Holland’s creative ingenuity never stops,” Cueva said. “He has been a major asset to CMF.”
Story by Terri Hardy, Public Information Officer II, Office of Public and Employee Communications.
Learn more about CDCR’s rehabilitative efforts.