Updated: May 26, 2020
What happens when someone who has learned to meditate in prison gets out? Many people who take our classes inside find it tremendously helpful, even life-changing; but do these changes continue after their release? Or do the hard realities of finding a job, looking for housing, reconnecting with family and friends, and fulfilling various parole requirements push mindfulness so far to the fringe of someone’s mind that they lose touch with it altogether?
I believe that even if someone stops practicing regularly, the basic skills taught in the Path of Freedom – especially the ability to connect with breath – will remain, and can have a positive impact in a person’s life. But if an individual were able to continue mindfulness practice upon their release, especially if they have a supportive community to do it with, I imagine that the results could be profound.
Some people getting out of prison may be comfortable with the idea of going to a Buddhist center or Yoga studio to continue their journey with mindfulness, but many may not. Cost, as well as physical distance and cultural unfamiliarity can keep recently released people from attending programs at these centers. We have tried to start our own post-release meditation groups for graduates of our prison programs, but we have had trouble getting people to come to them, as we basically lose track of folks when they get out of prison.
Fortunately, in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we seem to have come upon a winning formula for post-release classes. By partnering with organizations already serving populations struggling with homelessness, addiction, and criminal records, we are able to build mindfulness programs into existing educational and job training initiatives. These wonderful partner organisations – the Haley House, Saint Francis House, and Pine st. Inn in Boston, and the Amos House Providence – see the value in mindfulness and emotional intelligence training, and are happy to incorporate our programs with their services. In this way we are reaching the same populations, and in some cases the same individuals, that we are working with in the prisons.
Our Massachusetts team has been doing this great work for over a year now, and our Rhode Island team just started with week one of the first 12 week Path of Freedom Class at the Amos house, in Providence. We are so grateful for all the volunteer effort that is going into these programs, and delighted to see the Path of Freedom being of benefit outside the walls of prison as well as in!
Has anyone else out there found ways of offering post-release classes? Or are you hoping to? Please comment below: