Winter Feast for the Soul Prison In-Reach Program (www.winterfeastforthesoul.com) is dedicated to creating a global community through a shared 40-day commitment to a daily spiritual practice of meditation or prayer. The 40-day period runs from Jan. 15 – Feb 23.
2013 is the sixth year we have engaged in this practice.
The Prison In-Reach program began in 2009 and has grown to serve approximately 65 men, about 50 of whom are in Ad Seg. We support them via a correspondence program in which they are paired with someone who has an established meditation practice; about half of them have a mentor; we are always looking for more people to help with this project.
I support the men who participate in the Winter Feast by sending materials on meditation, yoga, kindness, gratitude, journal writing, and creative expression. I have been looking for ways to help them extend the 40-day period so they get support all year long. We have about 35 men who seem pretty dedicated to growing and transforming themselves.
The Path of Freedom course will be done entirely by correspondence. Each man will have the workbook, and I will send them a copy of the chapter on the Empowerment Triangle. I will send them worksheets to go along with each section, so they have a chance to engage in “conversation” with someone. I will ask them to send in their responses to one section before we send them the next set. I expect it will take about 6 months for us to do this course; our focus will be on helping them to slow down and really engage with one section at a time, having a chance to practice and integrate the material before going on to the next practice.
Tampa Bay prison meditation projects affiliated with the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (There is no BBF prison work, but the Tampa Bay BPF website does have a recently updated prison information page:
Prisons Served: Hardee Correctional Inst, Bowling Green FL – Sponsored by Southern Palm Zen Group, Boca Raton FL (http://floridazen.com/prison/). Three other volunteers also regularly visit with this group – usually one volunteer each week.
Avon Park Correctional Institution, Avon Park FL, Sponsored by Hokori Zen Center, Lakeland (http://www.hokorizencenter.org/). One other volunteer also visits. One or both of us visit monthly.
Since 1998 the Center has provided instruction in the practice of Zen meditation to inmates in federal, state and county facilities throughout North Central Florida. Currently, twelve prisons and jails participate in the prison outreach program, in which approximately 400 inmates are served annually. Through instruction and study of Zen meditation that emphasizes high personal standards, participants are given the tools to cultivate a strong, life-affirming self-image that looks beyond the stigma of “convict” to view themselves as individuals with much to offer others and the community as a whole.
Our programs can be divided into five areas:
Secular, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) groups and retreats.
Possible residency at the Gateless Gate Zen Center for individuals who have exhibited a strong commitment to the practice and to educational efforts.
The death row ministry, which consists of individual visits and counseling
Prisons Served: Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman
Operates three groups in maximum security prisons in Florida: Hardee C. I., Bowling Green; South Bay C.I., South Bay; and Glades C.I.; Belle Glade. Cushions and altar materials have been accepted by the chapels and are used to create a zendo when programs run. In one of the prisons the group’s relationship with the administration has allowed the men to meet daily. Visits every two weeks and full day programs every 2-3 months. Many sangha members correspond with inmates and assist those who have been released.
Yoga 4 Change has a mission of promoting healthy living and fostering self confidence in Veterans, inmates, at-risk youth and those suffering from substance abuse through the teachings and practices of Yoga.
We are a new group aiming to serve in the various jails, prisons and recovery centers we have here in sunny South Florida. Our volunteers are qualified in a variety of meditative, healing and movement disciplines. Our programs are secular and “interdisciplinary”.
Currently we go to Dade Correctional Institution and Metro West Detention Center.