Correctional Recreators are always looking for recreational activities that attract large scale participation, discipline, and enjoyment. The sport of powerlifting has always been respected and admired by a large percentage of the population. People enjoy pushing themselves to their limit: powerlifting enables you to push yourself to your physical and mental limit safely. In order to excel in the sport, you must work hard; gains come slowly. It takes much discipline and dedication in order to be a champion. Many times the lifter becomes obsessed with this sport. Thus, when barriers are broken, goals are met, and competition builds to a head, powerlifting becomes a pure and enjoyable experience.
The NCRA has favored the sport of powerlifting, and we are proud to receive information on four powerlifting events taking place across the country involving prisoners. The first meet was sponsored by a prison physical fitness club - "The Power Connection." The club sent eight lifters to the Southern Powerlifting Extravaganza held in Enterprise Alabama on February 7, 1987. The second meet took place at the Federal Correctional Institution in Talladega, Alabama on December 6, 1986. The third meet was also held at Talladega on January 10, 1987. It involved an Inside/Outside Bench Press Contest. The fourth meet was the 3rd Annual Powerlifting Championship held on February 7, 1987 at the Federal Correctional Institution, El Reno, Oklahoma.
Kilby Correctional Facility powerlifters lived up to their club's name in Enterprise in February, "connecting" for four trophies at the Southern Powerlifting Extravaganza."
Eight inmates representing the Kilby "Power Connection" took part in the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association-sponsored meet at the Enterprise YMCA".
"We're real proud of the results of the meet." Parker said, "but perhaps more than the trophies, we're proud of the way our people conducted themselves."
The Extravaganza marked the fourth time lifters from Kilby have taken part in meets outside the facility over the last four years. There have also been four state wide meets involving all Department of Corrections Facilities.
Weights have been available for permanent party inmates at Kilby for several years, but Parker formed the organization just four months ago. Parker, who has been involved in various areas of weight training for over 25 years says he saw a need for organization and direction among the weightlifters and began helping them to organize themselves five years ago.
"The inmates have been allowed to lift for some time," he says, "but most of their work was aimless and without organization. We started to organize the state meets back in 1982 and have had five at Kilby since then."
"Powerlifting here is a form of rehabilitation. When a man gets incarcerated he generally goes one way or another. He either gets sloppy mentally and physically or he stays active. Its one way of helping inmates to stay in "good shape" both mentally and physically and ready to get back into the mainstream of everyday living when they get out."
"There are two things that are keys to powerlifting" Thomas said, "those are concentration and discipline. Learning those two things really help someone do time. A good routine relieves stress and allows one to relax, something that isn't all that easy to do in prison.
"Being able to go to the outside meets is a very satisfying thing for me, too. We have the chance to change the public's image of the inmate as someone who shouldn't be allowed around others, something less than human."
"And I plan to keep lifting when I get out. Besides the health aspect, there is a lot of self-satisfaction involved. Accomplishment and goals to strive for are things people need wherever they are of whatever situation they're in."
Moore, who has been lifting just over a year , has seen at least one other physical advantage. "I feel that powerlifting is really the only inmate recreation that helps both mentally and physically. The physical aspects are obvious, but having something to work toward - like the outside meets - is something special. And it's something I will take with me when I leave."
Mullins, the Department of Corrections Activities Director, says that support for the program has been tremendous.
"We try to use our sports programs as something more than just sporting events" He said. "We try to use them as a means of teaching cooperation and teamwork, ideals that everyone can use."
"One of the objectives of this program is to bring people in from the outside to participate and assist in the meets. We also allow inmates who meet disciplinary and custody requirements to go outside and participate. We have had tremendous support from all the officials at the institutions and have basically no problems from the start.
We hope to be able to continue to get the support of those officials as long as things go smoothly and so long as DOC allows us to run the program.
The Federal Correctional Institute at Talladega, Alabama held their Annual Inside Powerlifting Meet on December 6, 1986. The meet was sponsored by the Recreation Department: ... Competition was keen this year and three inside records were set. ... The rivalry and dedicated competition led to an especially exciting contest in both the Light Weight Division and the Masters Division. Lifters from the two classes drew loud cheers and jeers from enthusiastic spectators. The enthusiasm of the large crowd evidenced the success of the event."
Once again the Federal Correctional Institution at Talladega, Alabama held their Annual "Never Surrender" Inside/Outside Bench press Contest on January 10, 1987. Unlike the previous powerlifting meet , this "Never Surrender" contest included only one of the three powerlifts; the bench press. This was the first contest of the new year. It was again sponsored by the F.C.I. Talladega Barbell Club in conjunction with the institution recreation department.
Competition was extremely sharp with seventeen powerful competitors vying to reach new records. As a large and very enthusiastic crowd roared their encouragement the walls of the institution's newly completed weight room virtually shook as previous bench press records fell to the wayside. This was a truly remarkable contest with four new F.C.I. Talladega bench press records being set.
The Federal Correctional Institution's (El Reno, Oklahoma) Recreation Department promoted their 3rd Annual Powerlifting Championship, on February 7th, 1987. This meet was solely sponsored by the Association on Latin and Mexican American's (A.L.M.A.). The competition was a combination Powerlifting and Open Bench Press event, which inmate weight lifters competed against outside competition.
Judging this meet was four (4) time world champion Walter Thomas; Class I International Judge, Jake Lowery; and Owner of Strength Tech, Inc. (Stillwater, Oklahoma), Gary Polson.
The inmate population had something else to cheer about when inmate Hernandez , 275 lb. class, totaled 1660 lbs. This is an outstanding accomplishment for Hernandez who has only been competing for 2 1/2 years. El Reno's Recreation Department looks forward to seeing greater achievements from inmate Hernandez and the rest of it's well developed Powerlifting Team.
Comments from Gary Polson, Strength Tech: As stated in this article I was one of the referees at this meet. It was conducted on a stage and hundreds of inmates were in attendance. I have lifted in and attended dozens of meets. I found this crowd the most enthusiastic I had ever seen. The crowd really helped the lifters reach their ultimate potential. I personally lifted in this meet the next year.
The Kilby Correctional Facility recently held their 6th Annual Powerlifting Meet August 8, 1987. Eleven Institutions were represented and several state records were recorded in each weight class....
Parker not only is Director of each year's event , but also leader of the Kilby Power Connection Club. Greater emphasis is placed not only in weightlifting, but also in mind and character building. Mr. Parker is directly responsible for getting our weights, purchasing suits, obtaining the tent and other equipment for the meet.
Special congratulations go out to each of the winners and to Kilby for the win. "Thanks and Good Luck next year" go out to the other lifters, who did their best, but just couldn't quite get what was needed to receive a medal.
On February 13, 1988, the Recreation Department of the Federal Correctional Institution at El Reno, Oklahoma, co-sponsored the fifth annual Winter Powerlifting Championship. Four (4) inmate Organizations (Black Cultural Awareness Group, Association of Latin and Mexican Americans, Vietnam Era Veterans Association, and Native American Culture Group) were also sponsors of the championship.
Among the many people thanked for helping with the meet was Dick Burke, Class I International Powerlifting Federation Judge.
During my nine (9) years as a Correctional Recreator, I have been asked many questions, in regards to my concepts to Correctional Recreation. However, the most frequent is why do I have such a strong enthusiasm in the sport of weightlifting.
Weight training is a universal event all races can relate to and do participate. Weight training is not season, softball players participate in weight training during winter months, basketball players participate during the summer months.
There is also the aspect of down time. If a basketball player receives fourteen days disciplinary segregation and once he returns to competition, he may lose a small percent of his skills, but after a few games his level of competence will be regained. In reference with comparing fourteen days disciplinary segregation time to an avid weightlifter, there is no comparison. The primary goal for any weightlifter is to make gains in the weights he is training with, simply if you are getting strong, your muscle mass must be getting larger. Fourteen days in disciplinary segregation could and in most cases result in the loss of one month, i.e. fourteen days of disciplinary segregation plus fourteen days of training to regain what you have lost equals twenty-eight days.
There are other aspects to be considered, after an inmate completes and hour and a half to a two hour work out , the chances of that individual committing a prohibited act have been obviously reduced. In my opinion, if a 10% reduction in prohibited acts occur, you are providing a positive invaluable service to custodial staff.
Since my employment at the Federal Correctional Institution at EL Reno, Oklahoma (1984 to present), the Recreation Department sponsors two Invitational Weight Meets per year. During the mentioned competitions, I have never witnessed any of the competitive inmate lifters missing a competition due to disciplinary segregation time.
The last aspect in regards to weight training I would like to talk about is self-pride. How many inmates who will leave the confines of an institution, and upon setting into society, will seek out a structured city league Basketball, Softball or even a Soccer program? Some will, but I believe it will be on a small percentage basis. However, if an individual is released to the streets with a good knowledge of weight training and a good physique to match, he or she might just remember what kept them out of segregation to prepare for those two weight meets each year.
In conclusion, weightlifting programs provide a catalyst for intramural programs, however, a well rounded Recreation Department must do more. I must attract the Musicians, the Arts, the elderly and in some cases, the handicapped. My experience has shown me that once my weight programs were in full operation, the expansion to my overall goals came much sooner.
The record book was rewritten during the Sixth Annual Powerlifting Championships, held at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma. Not one, not two, but nineteen institutional records were broken. Some thirty five competitors combined their skills to produce the finest power meet in the history of El Reno.
Of the eight inmates who set the record book spinning , three were competing for the first time.
The article mentions "some 400 plus spectators."
This article was originally published in the El Reno (Okla.) Daily Tribune Sunday, November 13, 1988.
Walking from the administration building past the dorms and to the recreation area the buildings seem little different than those rising above any college campus.
Only when gazing out across the track and the athletic fields does it come into focus that this is not a university. College campuses don't have high fences, razor wire and guard towers.
This is the view from inside the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution's recreation program.
The program is considered one of if not the best recreation program in either the state or federal prison system.
The FCI was included in a recent Sports Illustrated article detailing sports behind prison walls. It is also scheduled to be featured on the TV show "USA Today" this week.
"While sports is a big part of our recreation program, there are other activities available for those not interested in sports," FCI recreation director Rick McIntosh said. "Our inmate organizations are a big part of our program.
"These are the groups that raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, ($1,600); cans for kids, (over $8,000 to date); and sponsor five orphans."
But sports is what has earned El Reno FCI its lofty reputation in the U.S. prison system.
"This is the best recreation department in the United States," inmate Wilson said. "I have served time in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Virginia, Georgia, Kansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma and no place compares with what is available here. It is just a a great prison recreation program."
An estimated 700 of the more than 1,200 inmates at the FCI take part in the program. Sports include basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, flag football, weight lifting, tennis and a host of others.
The prison has varsity programs in the major sports. In order to make these teams an inmate has to make the cut. The varsity teams play "home" games against outside community teams. Currently an estimated 65 teams make up the intramural program.
Special events include holiday programs which feature four days of events in more than 20 different sports. Last week the inmates observed Veterans day with competition.
"These athletes represent so much untapped talent, which many have developed here," McIntosh said. "Our goal is to reduce idle time and keep the inmates constructively occupied." He said this helps reduce stress and tension and increases physical fitness and a more positive lifestyle.
It's not all fun and games, however.
Inmates are required to work and the sports programs are available only during leisure time.
The most popular sport in weight lifting, according to McIntosh. He estimates as many as 400 inmates take part in the program, begun just over three years ago.
There are three weight lifting areas, including one indoor facility. Inmates at the welding shop constructed many of the benches used by the lifters.
Several lifters are top U.S. competitors.
The article went on to talk of one of the super-heavy weight lifters I got to know during my judging and participating in meets there. He is a very fine dedicated lifter and my friend. He provided a lot of leadership to the other lifters and a good example to follow.
"The September meet is geared more for inmate competition," McIntosh said. "February is when lifters from outside the prison come in to compete against the inmates."
"They have a lot of good weights here, but it is the guys like Mr. McIntosh that make this program great." an inmate said. "He came in and started the program and even lifted with us to get the program started. There are a lot of guys in here that are really moving up (in powerlifting) and that's because of hard work and good equipment."
First for those who may be unfamiliar with postal meets, the correctional institutions hold meets (sometimes on the same day) and mail the results to a central headquarters and placings are determined. This allows inmates to compete with lifters in other institutions without actually traveling.
The article says the original placing which were mailed out earlier had several errors in them. A complete relisting of the placings is in this article. It includes the top lifters in the Novice (Beginners) Meet, the top lifters in the Masters (over 40) Meet, and the top several placings in each weight class. About 175 lifters are listed from correctional institutions in 23 states.
The article posts the results of a meet between the various Arizona institutions. The winning lifters represented: Tucson, Douglas, Perryville, Florence, Winslow, Yuma, and Fort Grant. A very close team competition was won by Douglas (19 points) vrs. Florence (18 points).
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