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CrossFit Program Helping Inmates At Shelby County Jail

MEMPHIS, Tenn (localmemphis.com) - One Memphian is working to help change the mindset of prison inmates waiting for trial.


For nearly two years James Lancaster has volunteered his time to coach and mentor men at the Shelby County Jail.


When you drive past the Shelby County Jail your first thought might not be of a gym. But behind the barbed wires and prison cells there is a workout regimen going on.


"Planks, those are rough," said one inmate. "You have to be on your elbows and toes."


The 23-year-old from Whitehaven, who Local 24 is not naming, takes part in CrossFit at the Shelby County Jail. He said working out helps him focus and at times zone out.


"I just go with it," he said. "When I get started I'm going."


"That burn is what gets you going," said another inmate. "When you're doing it you know you're doing better and improving yourself." 


Both men are part of a larger group of inmates, ages 18 to 25 who meet every Thursday around 3 p.m. to work out.


Assistant Chief Kirk R. Fields told Local 24 there are requirements for the participants.


"It's predicated on good behavior," he said. "But this program was designed for our youthful offenders. 


Fields said the program has multiple facets.


"This allows us to house them in the unit with their peers, give them education, give them programming and give them time to developer and mature," said Fields.


The inmate who spoke with Local 24 said they've learned a lot through their workouts, including teamwork.


"There are some guys who are not as fit as others. We help them."


The volunteer encouraging the inmates is James Lancaster.


"I don't come here and try to fix them. I'm here to offer them another option. We don't have to continue to do things the way we've been doing it," said Lancaster. "We learn a lot from each other."


For the men taking part in the program, they're grateful for his training, time and guidance.


"He's like a mentor, a coach, and more," said one inmate.


"There's not too many people who will pick you up in your worst situation and be there for you."


The CrossFit program is part of James Lancaster’s non-profit, Kings of Grit. He can be found on instagram at @kingsofgrit. 


Programming with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office is funded in part by grant money and relies on individual volunteers.

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