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Transforming Lives: Inside Prison Mindfulness with John MacAdams

Updated: Mar 21

In this episode, John MacAdams speaks with cohost Garth Smelser on his experiences working with both incarcerated individuals as a chaplain, and as a mindfulness trainer for corrections professionals.

  • Stepping into the alien environment of custody

  • Relating to inmates, relating to security staff

  • What’s important about training corrections professionals

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John MacAdams, CMT-P, is an IMTA certified professional mindfulness teacher as well as a 35+ year mindfulness practitioner and certified mindfulness teacher for over 20 years.  He has more than 7 years experience working in corrections and public safety, and serves as a senior chaplain at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Correctional Facility, part of the USA’s largest jail system. MacAdams has trained law enforcement, custody, probation & parole, border patrol and correctional officers in Oregon, California and Ontario, Canada.

Prison Mindfulness Podcast Transcript

Garth Smelser: 

Hello and welcome to another session on the Prison Mindfulness Summit. My name is Garth Smelser, and I'll be your co-host for this session. I'm honored to be here today with John MacAdams. Welcome, John. 

John MacAdams: 

Thanks, Garth. Thanks for having me. 

Garth Smelser: 

Yeah, thank you so much for being a part of our summit. I've been looking forward to this conversation. I'm going to read from your bio to familiarize our audience with you and your work and then we'll jump right into the conversation if that sounds good. 

John MacAdams: 


Garth Smelser: 

John McAdams is a certified professional mindfulness teacher. He has over 40 years of experience in practicing mindfulness meditation as an authorized meditation teacher for 20 years with a global mindfulness organization. 

John served as a volunteer Senior Chaplain in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Men's Central Jail, and Twin Towers Correctional Facility, part of the United States largest jail system. He's a senior trainer and program manager for the Center for Mindfulness and Public Safety, where he has trained Mindfulness Based Wellness and Resilience programs with state corrections officers, probation and parole, law enforcement, jail custody staff, border patrol, social workers and clinical health care workers around the country, including Oregon, Indiana, New Mexico, California, and recently in Ontario, Canada. 

John has a 25-year career in the Los Angeles based film industry. At age 60, he dedicated himself to training and competing in short distance triathlons. And now happily married for nearly 30 years. He has two sons and seven grandchildren. He is pretty busy and has a pretty amazing bio sketch. John, thanks so much for joining us. 

John MacAdams: 

Yeah. Thanks, Garth. It's great to be here. 

Garth Smelser: 

Let's jump right in. We'd love to learn a little bit more. Start by the beginning telling us about your volunteer work in the Los Angeles County jail system. What kind of programming have you been able to run there? 

John MacAdams: 

Yeah, okay. So, LA County Jail. I had a friend or colleague from my brother's community who was going into Men's Central Jail. She had been working there for a couple of years and just told me a few stories. And for whatever reason, I was intrigued. I can't really tell you particularly what intrigued me, but she was able to help arrange with the sheriff's office for me to go in. 

On your first day you can get a waiver to go in for a day, an invitation. I think it's probably true for a number of folks. You sort of step through into that world and there's just something that kind of grabbed me there. I guess I can try to explain it. It's so foreign. I've never been incarcerated. One night when I was a kid, but no charges. So, I've decided to never be in prison. I've never been in jail. I've never been incarcerated. 

I kind of stepped through Sallyport and went through the whole process, the background check. And you know, there's a lot of security protocols that need to be in place. And through the gates, the two different gates and all of a sudden, I'm in this world with a whole lot of people in uniform and a whole lot of people in different colors of outfits. It's just some chunk grabs. It's like, what is this? So, there's that real foreignness. And then there were so many people. It's so densely populated. This is a jail that holds 5700 people. 

And yeah, so I started going. You spend a year in LA County Jails, you spend a year kind of mentoring with another chaplain, another established chaplain. So, I'm always with somebody. That's just kind of a security thing. It's a big jail, it's easy to get lost in there. You are kind of trailing around. I was able to be with this older Zen priest who was a lot of fun. He was quite a bit older, and the guys really loved him, and he always came up with stories. He was absolutely no bull guy and so he was a lot of fun to be around. 

If you have to get to the end of that year, you need to make a choice. That was an interesting year. I'm going to go off and live the rest of my life or you can choose to go through further background checks, and sort of get yourself on another list and be no escorts, no longer needing escort. So, I chose to do that. And then all of a sudden, I'm on my own there. 

Now certainly there are lots of other chaplains in there. And there were a few of the Buddhist chaplains in there. But pretty much, you know, you start trying to find your way on your own. So, a lot of that was just meeting people one on one, walking the rows, LA County Jail, this particular jail has a lot of single man cells. And this is the old style. It's designed in the 50s, built in the 60s. So, these are the vertical bars. And so, single man cells, two men cells. This is a men's jail. And then dormitories, large dormitories. 

We would get some requests from folks asking to meet with a Buddhist chaplain, then I got to handle a lot of books and a lot of books. Eventually, I was able to have some groups and work with some groups and be able to bring them together to do pretty straightforward mindfulness practice together. I would guide the practice and I'd handle a lot of books and we'd have conversations. I'd work with the counsel process and do check-ins with people with the whole group. 

I think one of the aspects that was appreciated by a lot of the men was the quiet. It's a very noisy jail. Obviously, a lot of concrete things. A lot of jails are probably very noisy. So, when we were able to sit in silence together, I think that was pretty profound for me and pretty impactful. And so, I was kind of doing these groups on my own and just sort of figuring my way on my own with that. 

At some point, I know we started to relate to this. I know the Mindfulness Institute, one of the co-sponsors of the summit. Well, Vita Pires was an old acquaintance of mine. She used to live and work in LA, way back for a couple of years in the early mid-80s. I ran into her at a retreat of some kind. She told me about the Path of Freedom. The Path of Freedom is an emotional intelligence Mindfulness-Based transformation program for incarcerated people. She kind of made me an offer I couldn't refuse with getting some online training, and I did that. And so, I started to bring the Path of Freedom into small groups. 

It's a challenging curriculum. For me, as I did the training to become a facilitator. I entered into that. I thought, "Oh, well, you're going to learn some good tips on how to facilitate. I learned a bit about the curriculum. All of a sudden, I got into it and said, "Wow, this is a transformational program. I'm going through that transformation." I really dug into the program. There's a lot. It's a pretty deep program. 

I felt good because I've gone through that process myself. I started to bring it in. I brought it into one of the floors where we have folks who are held in like the hospital wing. So, they're all housed in. They were like four- and six-man cells. And so, they will come into the day room. We would meet in a day room. I did that for a little while. 

There are actually two captains there in that jail. One of them actually stopped me in the hall and asked me if I would provide training for some of their highest security people because they get very little training. What had happened was in one of the day rooms for high security folks, the sheriff's had purchased and installed what they're calling treatment chairs or program chairs. These were steel chairs with a little bit of a desk. They're bolted down to the floor. This was a place where people could come in and be secured into these chairs, into these desks, and receive programming. So, it's kind of like, you know, the captain says, "John, would you like to kind of offer some?" It's like, "Yes, sir. I'll give it a try." You know, you're not going to turn him down. So, I gave it a try. 

We started to work out. It was actually quite a challenge on the custody side. I met with one of the deputies who was very familiar with these guys, these particular people were in protective custody. So, for whatever reason, they were in protective custody. They needed to be secured when they were transported from where they were housed to where we were going to do the programming and where we were doing the programming was a different area of custody within the jail. It was down a couple of floors. 

And so, when they transported these guys, there were six chairs, kind of in a little bit of an arc, and I would sit in the middle of the arc or stand, and we would do our thing. But to transport them, each individual needed one deputy. And then there was a deputy at the front and deputy at the back. And sometimes there was a deputy with a camera or a sergeant with a camera. And so, they transport these five or six, whoever, however many decide to come out of their cells, and they come down to this day room. And then they actually were transferring jurisdiction to this other group of deputies. 

They would all come into the same room. So, we would have like six guys. And we would have, let's say, 16 deputies. We can have as few as six incarcerated and 14 or 16 deputies in this room. The energy was always pretty jovial. Everybody was lighthearted. There were a lot of jokes, a lot of fist bumping going on. The inmates were generally pretty lighthearted about everything. They needed to get wands and patted down, and then they would walk them over while they were still in handcuffs. 

They put light chains on them. They'd sit down in the chair and there was a little bar where they could drop the leg chain in and lock the light chain, and then one of the cuffs would come off, one hand would go into another set of cuffs, and another one would be free. So, they had one hand free, one hand cuffed, and the legs chained in. And so, quite a bit of activity, right. 

And then all of a sudden, all the deputies would just kind of melt away and disappear. I'd be in this great big kind of cavernous room with these five or six guys in orange suits chained into their chairs. It was really pretty powerful. It would get very quiet. There was an observation booth and there's a mirrored observation booth and there's supposed to be a deputy in there watching what's going on. Whether they're not, I don't really know. I can't speak to that. 

It was like the safest room in the house because these guys couldn't really move from there. And so, we had some really great programming in there, really great programs. That was all going along well. Deputies would shift so the deputy who is in charge of helping me to arrange these programs, I actually would interview each one of the gentlemen before they would be accepted into the program to see if they had enough time, because that's jail. There could be a lot going on. 

It would often take me 12 to 14 weeks to complete the whole program for any number of reasons to be locked down. So, they wouldn't be able to show up or I would have to be away on work or whatever. So, we'd have to make sure if people were there for a long enough period of time that they wanted to be involved and actually engage because there were a number of people who wanted to be involved. There really was a waiting list. 

There was somebody who really helped me with this. There were some people's like, you know, that guy doesn't want to be in the room with that guy. So, let's not put them together, right, so maybe next time, the next cohort will push him in with some other people. But that deputy changed up a couple times. So, I got to know them and sort of learn their ways and learn how to relate with them. And then they would relate with the deputies who had to do the transport. 

So, there was a kind of a lot of relating going on with people who were there to provide security as well as all the relating that I was doing with the inmates. It was juicy and yeah, really gratifying. I kind of loved leaving. I'd be there for a full day. I loved getting there and being there. And then I just felt such gratitude to be able to walk out and be free. 

Garth Smelser: 

I noticed you used the word transformative a couple of times describing your own experience as well as theirs and almost ineffable trying to describe one just all the logistics and the reality of experiencing something so foreign to many of us. Can you share a little bit more about what that transformation was for you? You did a couple words of juicy and rich and powerful and impactful. What was transformative for you? Could you think about what was transformative for those inmates that were experiencing it? 

John MacAdams: 

Yeah. Well, Garth, for me, I can speak about how it was transformative for me. I would really be speculating about any individual's personal journey. I can say that there was a lot of appreciation. I saw people be able to sit quietly and do some amount of mindfulness. And so, I was assuming that they were working with their mind and becoming a little more settled, a little more at ease, and more at peace. 

For myself, well, as I mentioned, kind of this idea of being out and being grateful to be free and to have my freedom. It was actually around that time that I started training for triathlons, because I could be out riding my bike under the trees in the sunshine and swimming in the ocean and running around the streets. And it's like, this is great. There's a whole lot of people who can't do this. 

LA County Jails, in this particular jail, Central Jail, you know, designed in the 50s and built in the 60s, there are no windows. There are just no windows. So, there's no sunlight, there's no fresh air, there's no yard, and there is a mandate that they get three hours of outdoor time a week. So, the other roofs, they take them up to the roof. And depending on the level of security, they put inside the channeling cages, or they're left to a whole roof area. 

It's like, they're not seeing the grid. They will see a blade of grass or a tree. Sometimes they see birds fly over. Sometimes they go at night, they see some stars. It's like, "Not me. I'm out here." So just an incredible gratitude for the natural world for being able to really move about. So, there's that. As you can imagine, there's a great deal of sadness that you encounter when you're there. There are 5700 people. There's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. 

Well, there's thousands of people there. There were times when there would be a lot of escalators in there. Half of them work, and half of them don't work and they don't really get fixed up. But I would have to wait to access the escalator sometimes, and there would be rows of men. Just like for 10 minutes. I had seen hundreds of men moving and going to school, there's quite a robust education program in that jail. 

So, a lot of men at a certain security level were able to walk themselves, transport themselves, from the dorms to the Education Department. Just seeing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of managers, this kind of sense of all of this wasted energy, the potential with these men to probably engage in community and society in a more meaningful way than fumbling off to school. Thank goodness, it was cool for them to do it. 

I think kind of experiencing that, those kinds of swings of sadness, and connecting with people who really are in despair and having super big challenges in their lives, you know. People willing to share intimate details of their family of origin stories. Their community stories. And so, to me, that was very impactful, what is the transformation? 

I guess, again, just sort of a more appreciation for the richness of life, the diversity of life, and really sort of being humbled by getting all these different windows into all these different ways that people, you know, grow up, live, and forced into depending on their good fortune, or less than good fortune, where they're born. 

Garth Smelser: 

Doing it vicariously through you is how I kind of imagine how personally impactful it was. You talked about relation and relatedness to this group of inmates. I imagine relationships with the deputies and other jail staff was equally important and impactful. Can you describe a little bit about your relations with the jail staff themselves? 

John MacAdams: 

When I first came into jail, I don't think you can avoid the idea that there's a kind of a real sense of us and them, right? Or there's those guys and those guys, and there's this bifurcated kind of. And so, I sort of had my agenda. In the film business, one develops superficial social skills. One has the ability to just chat with people for short periods of time. I was kind of approaching deputies in that way, sort of, kind of befriend them, joke with them. 

Pretty quickly, I realized that was, first of all, it wasn't appropriate. Second of all, they weren't my buddies, and I certainly wasn't going to be their buddy because who knows what their perception is of volunteers coming into work constantly. But I started to see them much more on a human level. This is one of the things, of course, that happens with incarcerated people. Yes, there's definitely danger. And sometimes there's fights and sometimes there's attacks within the inmates. 

That's very real and very true but the potential for that to happen is extraordinary. It could be happening constantly. So, for me, I got this sense of, there's so much humanity here, these people actually are taking care of themselves really well. They are taking care of each other. It's not breaking down into utter chaos. 

And so, then you have the custody staff. And, of course, it's easy to just kind of start to apply labels, but they're all individuals, and they all have their own approaches and ways that they work. Mostly, what I can see is how they interact within it, how do they interact with inmates? And then I started to see, well, how are they interacting with me because I did need to have cooperation. 

When you're transporting people, that's a burden, that's a challenge, that's something additional to the other worker. That's part of what they do is to transport inmates from one place to another, whether it's where they receive their health care, where they get their pills, depending on how that works out. But some programming, you know, that's an extra piece of work. So how are they going to relate to me? How am I related to them on that level? 

And so, I started to develop relationships with some of the individuals. Sometimes I had to wait for quite a period of time, in a holding area or in a day room while we're waiting for transportation. I struck up some very good relationships with individuals, and I guess, you know, the answer is just started to see them as human beings. And started to, of course, realize this is not a nice place. There's nobody spending a whole large chunk of their life who's having a real great time with them. It's just not that kind of environment. It's a really tough environment. 

And so, this appreciation for their willingness to keep coming and showing up and doing this work, and that they're doing, basically the best they can to kind of have an okay life because they're not incarcerated. I met some people who said, I grew up with some of these guys who are now incarcerated. I chose a different path. They're doing their best to have a life that is more related to who has, you know, family and a home and a car and this and that. They're just kind of putting the pants on one leg at a time and coming into work and doing what they can and they're in a really tough situation. 

There is always a potential. There'll be some level of attack. There is some danger and staffing across the country from our work. We know that staffing is really a challenge, you know, that people are understaffed, and retention is hard. And recruitment is really challenging at this point. And so, in this particular jail, in this particular Sheriff's Department, mandatory overtime. It was at that point when I was spending a lot of time there, two shifts minimum a month of mandatory overtime, and then there was a maximum because there were some people who were like, "Okay, I'm going to make some bank on this. 

I'm really going to work as hard as I can. They were doing I think up to 12. Some of these were double shifts, a lot of them would come in, instead of taking a weekend they come in to do their shifts. So, there's a lot of exhaustion, right and not really time to recuperate. And having to make choices that affect other people's lives, constantly. They constantly have to be making those choices. And so I was, you know, developing personal relationships and observing relationships and just really getting a sense of their humanity. 

Garth Smelser: 

And with this eye opening of their humanity and compassion for the situation they're in, your professional landscape developed into helping them and their mindfulness. Or I should say, their Wellness and Resilience. How did that evolve to actually helping corrections officials? How did that outgrowth happen? 

John MacAdams: 

Well, I had known that Fleet Maull had spent time in prison. I had known just a little bit about the structure of Prison Mindfulness Institute with Vita as the executive director and Fleet as a founding director. As you had mentioned, I had a long career in the film business. And at some point, I kind of was, this is enough. Twenty-five years was enough. I aged out of some aspects of it. It's kind of a young man. You need to be pretty strong for the types of work that I was doing. I really was looking to pivot and find a different way to have a livelihood. 

And so, I wanted to see if there was some way that I could be in the world and generate some level of livelihood through sharing the practice of mindfulness. I started looking at a number of different opportunities to become trained as a mindfulness teacher. I found the Engaged Mindfulness Institute just as it was developing, getting itself off the ground. And so, I had met Fleet one time. He was coming to Los Angeles. I had known that he was coming to Los Angeles, and I invited him to meet with all of the Buddhist chaplains who are working throughout LA County Jails, if he would come and have dinner with us. We just kind of did a potluck. There were eight or so of us across the different jails. 

And so, that was very generous of him to come and give his time that evening. I did a weekend program with them. It was really pretty impactful for some of that program that we did, the radical responsibility program that I did over the weekend, a lot of processes. And so, and then, I started to hear about the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. And so, I was in the first cohort. I did the first cohort of the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. I did 300 hours. And then, I did the next year. That's a 500-hour. 

Fleet was doing work in Oregon. And so, I kind of just asked if I could tag along and see what was going on and see if there might be something I could help out with. So, I did that. I just kind of tagged along to Oregon for a while and started becoming more involved. And then, the Center of Mindfulness for Public Safety was invited by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, which is one of the provincial wings of government. 

The state governments in Canada, and the Ministry of the Solicitor General is a huge ministry, but within that ministry is the corrections services. And so, we were asked to provide programming up there. I became really kind of fully involved with organizing, programming, and doing some of that training. 

I feel I was really well trained because I spent a lot of time with Fleet as he was delivering training in Oregon and then helping to kind of do a lot of the behind-the-scenes kind of admin to get all of this underway in Ontario. 

Garth Smelser: 

You pointed a little bit at this in your story, but as this evolved into focusing on first responders and corrections officials, can you share a little bit more about why you think that is important? What is the impact on those individuals that this particular Mindfulness Based Wellness and Resilience Training brings to them? 

John MacAdams: 

I think that what I started to learn as I was helping deliver the program in Oregon with Fleet was the severity of the impact of working in a correctional institution, working in the field of corrections. It has really significant health impacts, psychological impacts, exposure to primary and secondary trauma and how that can impact life expectancy. 

Clearly, it affects so many areas of life. It drives people to self-medicate and create all kinds of physiological challenges with heart disease. So, what is it that's doing that is that level of stress is that constant level of stressors, this chronic level of stress. Working in that kind of position, it's a position where you're exposed to a lot of challenges, you're exposed to potential danger, you're exposed to primary and secondary trauma. That impacts you. That impacts your family. That impacts your community. That impacts the culture of the agency you work in. 

I have personally had so much sort of help and relief with my own. Not that it compares to that type of challenges, but my own challenges in my life, my work with mindfulness, and my further discovery of physiological self-regulation and the training that I do that I prescribed for myself in terms of triathlon training, I just really have been able to, I think, affect my life in a way that is very positive. 

What I'm finding with the work of people in corrections is the vast majority really have an understanding whether that's verbalized or not, because of the culture, you know, it very much can be a very much a culture of silence and kind of suck it up and move on. But everybody seems to know, this is pretty damaging. So, here's an opportunity for people who are really interested in gaining more agency in their lives, gaining the ability to regulate their level of stress. 

Now, when we're coming into a crisis, we need to be highly activated, right? We need to be ready to go. And that's completely fine. And then when that crisis passes, we need to be able to bring ourselves back down. We need to be able to regulate that. These are simple tools that we're training in mindfulness-based wellness and resilience. Some of them are very simple tools to work with that all of us can utilize. And all of us can, can benefit from. 

These folks particularly seem to have a great environment and great opportunity to work with them. And that's one of the three main aspects of this training that is reported again and again and again, year after year, has been really impactful in people's lives right from day one, right from the first training that we do. This simple ability to regulate our breathing and regulate our physiology, which helps to regulate our emotional state and our cognitive state. 

It puts us back in the driver's seat. So, I mean, of course, that's beneficial for an individual and that benefits whoever they're around, whoever they're working with. And so, if they're in a power over situation with incarcerated people the whole environment is going to be potentially on a more even keel, I guess. Yeah. 

Garth Smelser: 

You described it very succinctly, this simple practice of regulating your physiology and the benefits of it. That is very simply stated, but not easy necessarily to live out. Can you share more about that? Not just at the individual level, but maybe it's even at the complexity of the administrative level and the systemic level. So, what do you see as some obstacles or challenges for expanding this obviously really rich and profound service that we're providing to inmates and corrections officials? 

John MacAdams: 

I'm going to take it just from a little bit different angles and kind of tell you what is working, and kind of where we're hoping things go and what we're seeing. So, particularly within Ontario. We've been working there for a number of years. Four years maybe. Lots of people have gone through the program. And so, along with those simple self-care aspects that I just talked about, we also have a very workable, understandable, mindful communication aspect of this training and ways to recognize drama and toxic drama in our lives and be able to step away from it. Actually, disconnect from that. 

And within so many different bureaucratic situations that you know, hospitals, and then big businesses and government, there can be a lot of toxic drama. When we do some simple training around recognizing drama and seeing it in ourselves and seeing it in our colleagues and seeing those kinds of triangulations that happen that can be pretty destructive, and just having simple tools to kind of step away, first of all, recognize and then to step away, that's really powerful. And then, we're also providing sort of a flip of that. So how can we actually in an empowered way, engage in relationships and help to build more authentic kinds of relationships. 

People do relate within that sort of toxic drama triangulation. Certainly, there's plenty of relationships down there. We often talk about that sort of blame-based fear-based. There are some payoffs. It's kind of junk food of the emotional world, but there's payoff there. There are ways for us to engage with ourselves and with others to have relationships that are more authentic, that are based in trust and accountability. 

And so, as individuals start to build those and find the benefit of those kinds of relationships in themselves, that builds within the small areas of their particular agency. And this starts to move out into the agency and culture starts to shift. If you're walking down the hall and there's some people having a big old, toxic gossip session, and you just choose to turn the other way and walk a different hallway. Eventually, they're going to know that, you know, don't ask that guy to join it because he's no fun, right? But more and more people who kind of don't engage in that, the less of it happens, right. 

So, one aspect of it is that we are working to train individuals so that they can choose for themselves where they want to be within that real world relationship, how they want to relate to people individually. And then, we also work with management. So, we've been doing a lot of training on different levels of management all the way from the top executives. Some of us were working with them. Well, I can't get all the designation. I am a deputy minister now. I don't know if the deputy minister was appointed, or if this was a, I don't think it was an elected position, but potentially an appointed person or their second in command. 

We've worked with executives right through it, at different levels of management. This is another way as people get a buy-in around being able to regulate there because they're all under a lot of stress. Everybody in corrections, there's been some great research, right in Ontario. And within that research, all segments of people, particularly probation and parole, were actually marking the highest in terms of people who were marking within some level of emotional distress or psychological distress. 

And so, by getting the same simple tools of self-regulation, whether it's an email that comes across or somebody gives you a phone call, we can literally start to regulate ourselves in whatever situation we're in. So, if management, middle management, upper management is working in this way, as well, and then starting to see and gain buy-in into how line staff can work in this way, as well, you know, there really is a potential for a major shift. 

Along with that, in this particular instance with the Ministry of the Associate General in Ontario, we've started to introduce Path of Freedom. They knew about the Path of Freedom. They were from a different aspect of the solicitor general sort of mental health aspect. Other than the employee wellness unit, a health unit came to us and asked us to train facilitators of the Path of Freedom so they could bring that to their inmates. Right? 

With COVID. All of this has slowed way, way down. There's some Path of Freedom that's being delivered through one on one facilitator to client, but I think that's really like, ultimately, what we'd love to see is that in all these different levels, that people are kind of working in this way that allows them to regulate to be more authentic in their relationship and tend to have some sense of decent ease and calm in being inside their own skin. 

Garth Smelser: 

It's wonderful. They've talked a lot about, I mean, just the depth of impact in these institutions with inmates, corrections officials, probation and parole officers, and of course, the breadth of the content. Is there anything that I didn't ask that you'd like to share? Maybe about the future of this work. What's ahead? Would you like to share in closing? 

John MacAdams: 

For those of us who have embraced mindfulness in our lives and have felt the benefits of our own practice and seeing how that can provide, again, a sense of ease, a sense of being comfortable in our own skin, developing self-empathy, compassion, and having a more authentic relationship, decreasing the amount of toxic drama in our own lives. 

Personally, I can't see how this can be anything other than beneficial to society as a whole. So, within this particular work, we have done some work with judges, with prosecutors. We're hoping to expand that work so that we're looking at the entire criminal justice field. I mean, of course, there's all of that underneath. We know what's driving people into being involved with the justice world altogether. I mean, that's a whole other big challenge. 

But, you know, for those who are just involved, we have a colleague who's working on providing mindfulness to people who are involved in reentry, and he's doing wonderful work in Indiana. Because, you know, that's obviously really challenging when people come out of an incarcerated state, how do they land on their feet, get some level of establishment. I mean, one of the things that I would see coming to MCJ in the morning is when people's senses were complete, you know, it would complete it at midnight, right. 

So, within a couple hours, there would be guys on the sidewalk with a clear plastic bag with some other stuff in it and nothing else. They didn't receive any other support. If they hang around until eight o'clock, I think they can get some food stamps and a little bit for a bus ticket. But, you know, it's midnight to eight in the morning. And, you know, I got to hang around at the same place. I've just been incarcerated for three months or three years, or, like, how do people know, that's really such a vulnerable time, and you come out, so we have somebody who's working in that sphere, which I think is really promising. 

We just take our time and keep trying to kind of build this out. There's potentially work that we're going to be working with governmental agencies and people who are on the cutting edge of the climate crisis and climate catastrophe and what kind of levels of stress and really exposure to trauma. Whenever all of us go to the Weather Channel and see the devastation of these weather events on people's lives. You know, we're all going to expose that way. There's lots of work to be done. I think, you know, we'll just stick with it and keep expanding. 

Garth Smelser: 

Thank you so much. John McAdams, thank you for being part of the Prison Mindfulness Summit. How can people find more about this work, more about your work in this landscape? 

John MacAdams: 

Well, I just encourage folks to go to the website for the Center for Mindfulness and Public Safety. It's You can fish around there. You'll find a video documentary that was made by Huffington Post of one of our training days in Oregon. You can find a lot of information about the mindfulness-based wellness and resiliency training, pretty thorough explanation of the program. 

And then, resources. We have audio and video resources of recorded mindfulness practices and breath regulation skills. There's quite a bit to kind of find there. I would certainly encourage you to go to the Mindfulness Institute website as well and look at the Path of Freedom. 

Garth Smelser: 

Right. Thank you for those resources. And John, thank you for your service in this arena, and best wishes in the future. 

John MacAdams: 

Thank you, Garth, and thank you for all of your service in the work that you're doing in your workplace and the work you're doing with us. We just really appreciate your energy and willingness to kind of jump in both feet. 

Garth Smelser: 

It's an honor to be with you and Fleet and team. This is very rewarding, very inspiring. Thank you, John. 

John MacAdams: 

Thanks, Garth. Bye-bye. 

Garth Smelser: 

Be well. 


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