In Prison Work Right Livelihood?

Updated: May 26, 2020

POF facilitator Sherrin Fitzer’s latest article explores the question of the concept of right livelihood in relation to working in prisons.  The following is an excerpt from “Working in a Prison: Right Livelihood or Quilt of Lies?” in The Tattooed Buddha:

As my spiritual beliefs moved further to the east I thought about my work in connection with right livelihood, one of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path. Is working in a prison an occupation that does not cause unnecessary harm to other living things? I would say that prison does cause unnecessary harm to the people incarcerated. Even if you believe that a person deserves to be incarcerated  in addition to the sentence imposed by the judge, additional harm often occurs. The officers may be rude and disrespectful. The medical care may not be adequate.  There may be little to no rehabilitation available. Women may not be able to see their children. So I ask myself do I/should I take the responsibility for that and I ask,  “Am I myself causing unnecessary harm to the women who I work with?” I hope that I do not cause harm to the women I work with. I try to ease pain and do good. If I did not work for a prison I would work toward prison abolition and/or prison reform (there is a compromise of my beliefs). If I no longer had my job because fewer women were being sentenced to prison, I would be happy. I could live with that.

Read the full article here.

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