I had the honor of working at the Santa Barbara County Jail from 2007 to 2009 as a culinary arts instructor and a Servsafe Instructor through SBCC Adult Ed.
During this time I was able to observe closely a very challenged population, struggling to overcome addictions, unhealthy behavioral patterns, and a yearning to experience relief and change. I viewed this environment as a rich opportunity to promote reflection, connection, and more important a sense of responsibility in how they affect their internal and external environment through the choices and actions they take.
Through a simple act such as chopping, I was able to observe how most of the population was challenged with attention deficit disorder and lack of basic awareness skills, often making it hard for them to follow instructions. It was after an inmate chopped his finger with a prepping machine due to his lack of focus that I marched to Sheriff Bill Brown’s office for advice on how to solve this problem.
Not being politically savvy, I did not know who I would meet and even wondered if such a busy man would have time to talk to me.
To my surprise, I was informed that the sheriff was busy, but that he would take a few minutes to see me. Immediately, I felt comfortable in his presence due to his openness, his genuine interest in my observations, and his willingness to do something about the issue. He explained that he understood the presenting issue, which was one of the causes for the inmates to keep rotating back to life behind the cells. We discussed the project of Vipassana that strives to teach self awareness skills through meditation in jail systems. Sheriff Bill Brown came across as very solution oriented from the moment I met him. We were soon discussing how to incorporate these tools, observe results, and then possibly consider integrating these into the jail reformation program.
I offered to volunteer to run these meditation classes until we saw results. For a year, every Sunday, my church became to sit in silence with the female inmates from Honor Farm while guiding them on how to work with self control, self compassion, and compassion for others.
I have also witnessed how thanks to the culinary program at the jail as well as the Servsafe program, many inmates have created for themselves an opportunity to reintegrate into society with skills that they feel empowered with. It is in such moments that I feel proud to belong to our community. I feel protected by authorities that are willing to listen, allow active participation, and strive for healthy changes in our disciplinarian systems. These qualities are hard to find in leaders who truly care for our system and its improvement.
Currently I am a proud board member for the Prison Yoga Project that is already working on providing self-regulating skills to the inmates, as well as an opportunity to connect with healthy awareness of their body. Sheriff Bill Brown’s commitment to reform and to offering life skills of re-integration into society is visible throughout the years he has been in service to us through the different programs the jail offers. At the same time his priority of safety for us is also balanced in making sure that inmates returning to society have the right resources available to become committed and safe citizens in our community.
I thank Sheriff Bill Brown for being an inspiring model, delivering me to true respect for the authorities in whose hands our community we entrust. Without his approval, none of these positive changes could have taken place.
During the unfortunate disaster period with fires and floods heavily affecting our community, Sheriff Bill Brown never failed to reassure our community that safety would be restored and again showed his commitment through the diligent work he conducted during our challenging times with natural disasters. At that time, I happened to be in Spain visiting family, and his presence was visible on international TV. I couldn’t feel safer while my heart bled for our community from afar.
Reelecting Sheriff Bill Brown would be a continuation of great work and ongoing positive service rendered to our community. We are truly fortunate to have such a great leader.