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.
In 2009 a small Buddhist Sangha in Boise, Idaho brought Winter Feast brochures to the local men‘s incarceration center, where they were teaching meditation. 10 prisoners signed up for the Winter Feast that year. This started us thinking about how we could support incarcerated individuals with finding inner peace by developing a spiritual practice. Since then, we have expanded our outreach through a journal for prisoners known as Freedom Inside and individual coaching. Our outreach program now includes about 50 volunteer spiritual practitioners or coaches who correspond regularly with prisoners who would like support with their spiritual practices during the Feast and year-round.
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.
Since 1998 the Center has provided instruction in the practice of Zen meditation to inmates in federal, state and county facilities throughout North Central Florida. Currently, twelve prisons and jails participate in the prison outreach program, in which approximately 400 inmates are served annually. Through instruction and study of Zen meditation that emphasizes high personal standards, participants are given the tools to cultivate a strong, life-affirming self-image that looks beyond the stigma of “convict” to view themselves as individuals with much to offer others and the community as a whole.
Our programs can be divided into five areas:
Secular, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) groups and retreats.
Possible residency at the Gateless Gate Zen Center for individuals who have exhibited a strong commitment to the practice and to educational efforts.
The death row ministry, which consists of individual visits and counseling
Prisons Served: Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman
Operates three groups in maximum security prisons in Florida: Hardee C. I., Bowling Green; South Bay C.I., South Bay; and Glades C.I.; Belle Glade. Cushions and altar materials have been accepted by the chapels and are used to create a zendo when programs run. In one of the prisons the group’s relationship with the administration has allowed the men to meet daily. Visits every two weeks and full day programs every 2-3 months. Many sangha members correspond with inmates and assist those who have been released.
Yoga 4 Change has a mission of promoting healthy living and fostering self confidence in Veterans, inmates, at-risk youth and those suffering from substance abuse through the teachings and practices of Yoga.
We are a network of volunteers giving classes to prisoners and other
populations in need. Men and women of all ages and all physical and
mental conditions participate.