Our prison outreach is at the Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility. Our program consists of two components:
Buddhist Services every Sunday for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
We have a group of four leaders from our Temple who rotate doing the services. About eight women prisoners participate regularly. Two have taken the precepts and another is scheduled to take them this summer. Our services consist of meditation, chanting, and walking meditation followed by a half hour discussion of a dharma subject. These discussions are consistently enriching and thoughtful for all involved. In 2011 and 2012 we had one day meditation retreats that were attended by about 20 women.
Two facilitators also teach meditation classes. These are held weekly for 1 1/2 hours.
Around 75 to 100 different women have taken the classes over the last three years.
The class is presented as a secular practice although Buddhism does get a mention quite often. We teach many basic meditation techniques including breath counting, sound, relaxation, focus on emotions and thoughts; loving kindness. We lead guided meditations, give didactic instructions, and discuss meditation topics. Many women have reported that they are able to cope better with some of the stresses of prison with the help of these techniques.
Prison: Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility
Prisoners served: 75-100 women
In 2004, we were contacted by a inmate from the Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota, TX, seeking a teacher for the growing number of Buddhist practitioners at the unit. Then Shami Myokei Caine-Barrett and other sangha members began to serve the men in Navasota, TX with monthly meetings, creating the first Nichiren Shu sangha behind bars. Within one year, five members had taken refuge and received a small honzon (object of veneration) to continue and develop their Buddhist practice. Over the years, other sangha members have undergone the training to become volunteers and regularly participate in activities at the unit.
The purpose of this sangha is to provide a foundation for individuals seeking to change their lives. We also provide support for understanding the cause of their circumstances and developing a means of taking responsibility for their actions and their lives. Through sharing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren Shonin, we endeavor to enable the realization within these individuals that they are of value and can create meaningful and productive lives.
We have been very fortunate at Navasota because the chaplain has been very supportive and accommodating of our needs to conduct services. Because of his support, we were able to hold the first all day practice retreat behind bars in the State of Texas. The men were able to participate in intensive chanting practice, repentence service, shakyo and shabutsu and shodaigyo. We have held several retreats so far and have been able to bring in vegetarian meals, allowing us to approximate the monastery experience.