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.
The Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team
For almost ten years, Ananda Marga volunteer Steven Landau has run a weekly yoga program at Wake Correctional Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. This voluntary two hour class includes Ananda Marga instruction on yoga postures, philosophy, kirtan, and meditation. Once a month, the prisoners are even treated to a vegetarian meal. Many participants have responded positively to the classes, reporting less aggression and higher levels of relaxation and physical well being.
In 2008, Landau reported findings in a study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy correlating regular attendance of prison yoga classes with a much lower rate of re-incarceration. 190 inmates of varying race and religious beliefs attended at least one class, and 54 of those returned several times, attending at least four classes. Of the released men who frequented classes, only four (8%) were subsequently re-incarcerated, compared to the 28 men (25%) of the non-frequenting group who found themselves back in prison within 2-3 years.
Joined a growing number of volunteers, the program has expanded to six jails and prisons for both men and women across the state of North Carolina, with plans to expand even further and reach inmates at every correctional facility in the state.
These findings suggest that yoga can be taught safely in correctional facilities, and that offenders can use these classes to better themselves physically and seek out a more peaceful and relaxed life. Those who utilize this program lessen their chances of falling victim to what is often a cycle of repeat offending and multiple visits to prison.
A small group of volunteers who serve as Buddhist Chaplains in the Los Angeles County Jails and the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
Our group at Attica is a non-sectarian meditation group, meeting every Thursday night for about 2 hours of meditation and a little period for Questions & Discussion afterward. The group was originally started years ago, then languished after a few years. Recently there had been much interest in some of the inmates to re-establish the group, and the Attica Chaplains were considering doing so and leading it themselves, even though they were untrained in meditation (to show how powerful inmates’ were becoming!). Just at that juncture, I was given a contact to the former leader, who then directed me to the Chaplain been the original Volunteer Advisor for him. I called her immediately, and was joyously received! The inmates, the Advisor, and of course, I too, were all overjoyed to have found one another just at the right moment!
I have been a member of the Rochester Zen Center for some 40 years, and sitting with the inmates has challenged and deepened my own practice, as well as giving me an opportunity to give something back to the Dharma after so many years of receiving the teaching freely given.
Weekly meditation classes are taught by volunteers at the Suffolk County House of Corrections (the Boston county jail). Drawing from the meditation traditions of Buddhism, mindfulness, yoga, and the martial arts, the program has been successful. Richard Geller has taught since 1996, and Janine Marra since 2010.
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.
Buddhist Pathways is a California nonprofit corporation whose mission is to bring the core teachings of the historical Buddha of non-harming, meditation, and wisdom into prisons and jails as well as federal penal institutions.
Through mindful awareness, incarcerated sangha members gain the wisdom that fosters durable self-transformation and insight into the inner conditions that led to incarceration.
California Prison Mindfulness Network (CPMN) is a new initiative that organizes and supports mindfulness-based meditation and yoga groups in California’s prisons and jails. “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally (~John Kabat-Zinn).” Mindfulness is taught as a secular tool to help shift practitioners from having a blind reaction to cultivating a skillful response. Our goal is to make it available to people from religious or non-religious persuasions in support of each persons unique spiritual development.
The purpose of this network is to…
Support and make mindfulness-based teachings available to a multi-ethnic, undeserved population.
Provide advocacy and facilitate greater and easier access for volunteers to enter prisons and jails.
Offer training and support around instruction and facilitation of classes.
Facilitate access to prisons and jails by well-known meditation teachers.
Assist in providing easier access to the needed materials (zafus, malas, yoga mats, spiritual literature).
Support your efforts to organize daylong and multi-day retreats in prisons and jails.
Raise funds to support the network.
Organize a state-wide conference and prison mindfulness publication.
Part of Insight-Out.
Comienzos is an educational, therapeutic program serving men and women who are incarcerated at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. We teach the skills and cultivate the awareness that is needed for men and women to live in freedom.
Our classes include:
* Learning and Practice in Nonviolent Communication, as developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg;
* Meditative practices, including seated meditation, T’ai Chi Chih, and yoga; and,
* 12 Step Recovery
For the past ten years, Heart Mountain Prison Project (HMPP), a qualified 501(c)(3), has provided non-denominational meditation and yoga classes at six prisons and juvenile facilities throughout New Mexico.
Meditation and awareness classes at 5 adult prisons in NM. Classes at the Santa Fe juvenile detention facility include yoga, Native American drumming, and theater games. Weekly meditation classes and weekend workshops at adult prisons.
Prisons Served: currently at 2 facilities: medium security in Santa Rose, NM and the Santa Fe Youth Authority. Plans to expand to more facilities.