Avenal Ten Toes

Ten Toes In held its first graduation at Avenal State Prison. Warden Rosemary Ndoh is sixth from left.

By Ten Toes Staff

Ten Toes In hosted its first Intimate Relationships 101 class graduation at Avenal State Prison this month.

This organization serves as a mentorship and domestic violence prevention program that supports, educates and empowers couples during and after incarceration.

It also educates society about the dynamics of a prison relationship. Ten Toes In was founded by its Executive Director, Darlene Burke in February 2014. In June 2015, Ten Toes In became a 501 © (3) non-profit organization.

Ten Toes In was created because Burke said she was intimately involved with her best friend of 30 years, who is currently serving a 25 to Life sentence in prison.  She searched for a support group of women who was on the same Journey as her.

However, she could not find one, so she created Ten Toes In.  She started meeting with the women once a month to discuss the JOYS and challenges of being in a relationship with an incarcerated man.

The support group continues to meet on a monthly basis at Church One in Long Beach.  The women are known as the Ten Toes In Sisters.

This organization hosts its Signature event, Evening of Empowerment, every three months at the Holiday Inn in Long Beach. The Evening of Empowerment gives a platform to formerly incarcerated men and their partners to share their testimony.  It also educates society about the dynamics of a prison relationship and life for the couple after incarceration.

Ten Toes In also has a Mentorship Program that is comprised of 10 formerly incarcerated men who are known as the Ten Toes In brothers.

Cumulatively, they have served 245 years “behind the wall.”  Out of the 10, eight are ex-lifers, eight are off of parole. They are all married or in committed relationships. Eight are gainfully employed or own their own businesses and none of them have returned to jail or prison.

They were successful in their reentry and now they are giving back by helping recently released men in healthy relationships assimilate back into society by serving as a support system and accountability partner.

In December 2016, Ten Toes In began facilitating its Relationship Building workshops at Avenal State Prison.  In August 2017, Ten Toes In’s Intimate Relationships 101 Curriculum was approved by CDCR.

The organization realized that it was imperative to educate the men about healthy romantic relationships and how to be better men to their partners.   Ten Toes In taught the men how to become better men by loving themselves first before being in a committed relationship.

This program emphasized that a couple should be committed to each other based on their belief and value systems, Burke said. Ten Toes In discourages the men to choose a woman based on making his prison time easier with visits, phone calls, packages and money.

The men learned how to appreciate and respect the sacrifices and compromises that their partners make on a daily basis to be in a relationship with them, she said.  The women typically suffer a great deal of judgment and ostracism from family, friends and even church members because of their decision to love a man “behind the wall,” Burke said.

Earlier this month, Ten Toes In graduated 25 men who were instilled with these principles.

Ten Toes In is grateful to Warden Rosemary Ndoh and her staff for giving this organization an opportunity to change the mindset and behavior of the men of Avenal State Prison.

For more information about Ten Toes In, you can contact 310 612 3977, email: tentoesin@yahoo.com, visit the website: tentoesin.org and like the Facebook page:  Ten Toes In.