R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility
R.J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) has followed the lead of other California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation institutions and introduced pickleball to the prison.
Pickleball National Championship participant Doug Hansen has generously volunteered his time to provide pickleball lessons to numerous incarcerated individuals who eagerly seized the opportunity to learn and participate in this sport.
Gearbox, a sports company, kindly donated all the necessary equipment, allowing the facility to retain it for future use.
Pickleball has become so popular at RJD that the prison has decided to hold another event in their new Level II Non-Designated Programming Facility to promote the sport further.
San Quentin State Prison
Meanwhile, over at San Quentin State Prison (SQ), inmates and staff embraced the spirit of camaraderie and enjoyment as it held its inaugural pickleball event, filling the hall with enthusiastic cheers and contagious laughter.
The event witnessed active participation from incarcerated individuals and various staff members, including:
- Warden (A) Oak Smith
- Former Warden Ron Broomfield
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rhonda Litt
- SQ office staff and correctional officers
Warden Smith and Broomfield took to the court alongside two residents, demonstrating an impressive level of intensity and focus. Their commitment to the game was evident as the crowd erupted with laughter as Warden Smith dived for a ball and inadvertently stumbled into the net.
“He is not playing any games,” called out one inmate from the audience.
Smith came up with the idea while organizing his desk one day. He stumbled upon a letter written by Roger BelAir, investor, and pickleball enthusiast, expressing his desire to offer pickleball lessons to the incarcerated population.
Why A 72-Year-Old Man Started Teaching Pickleball In Prisons | Only A Game. “One inmate screamed at another, ‘I’d beat the hell out of you, but if I did, I couldn’t play pickleball.’ ” https://t.co/B1Kpu5EL89— Pickleball OBSESSED (@PbObsessed) July 30, 2019
Mr. BelAir had previously held pickleball sessions at Cook County Penitentiary, Chicago, Rikers Island, and Washington State Penitentiary.
Intrigued by the idea, Warden Smith reached out to Mr. BelAir to gauge his continued interest. BelAir not only confirmed his offer but also offered to sponsor the event by donating the necessary equipment to the SQ athletics department.
The event held at SQ served as an exemplary model for Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement of the forthcoming San Quentin Rehabilitation Center. As the state plans to transform the criminal justice system, SQ is laying the groundwork, and this event showcased the progress being made.
The sight of staff engaging with SQ residents during a day of pickleball exemplified a genuine display of humanity and connection.
“We want the prison environment to reflect the environment of the outside as much as possible,” said Warden Smith.
California Medical Facility (CMF)
The “pickleball factor” has also reached California Medical Facility (CMF). BelAir has dedicated more of his time as a volunteer there, introducing pickleball to the staff and the incarcerated population.
BelAir’s selfless endeavors have caught the attention of television and film producer Daniel Ostroff, who has now started working on a documentary centered around BelAir’s unwavering passion for pickleball.
The production will highlight pickleball’s sportsmanship and physical activity and how it contributes to improved mental health and overall well-being. It will also show it has had a positive impact on the incarcerated population and aids in successful rehabilitation efforts.
CMF Recreation Supervisor Jeremiah Holland said, “Here in recreation, what we are trying to do is elevate physical, social, and mental well-being by connecting people to something larger than themselves. In this case, a pickleball community.”
The CMF Gym reverberated with laughter, words of encouragement, and a spirit of healthy competition as staff and the incarcerated population embraced the opportunity to learn the sport.
“For a moment there, when I was playing pickleball with the incarcerated population, we were just people. I wasn’t a Warden; they weren’t incarcerated folks. We were all just people in a gym playing pickleball, and we had a great time,” said acting Warden Daniel E. Cueva.
Pickleball is having a huge and positive impact on U.S. communities as these articles demonstrate.
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