Purpose

Our purpose in these pages is to offer information, support, and an opportunity for networking for people who share the practice of Centering Prayer in particular and contemplative practices in general with prisoners, prison staff and prisoners' families. 

We welcome any meditator sharing other practices with prisoners to these pages.  We intend to forge friendly and cooperative links between Centering Prayer teachers and teachers of other meditative practices. 

Announcement of tapes available from the  Conference "Imprisonment and Transformation"

From Thursday, April 25 through Sunday April 28, at Mercy Center, Burlingame, there will be an international inter-faith conference on contemplative prison ministry. The conference will focus on sharing contemplative practices especially Centering Prayer with prisoners, their families and prison staff.  Experienced teachers of other meditative practices will be present to share their experience and to generate the energy needed to further a movement of service to prisoners. 

 

Bringing Centering Prayer to Prison

On 10 April 1999, Sr. Marguerite Buchanan of Mercy Center hosted a workshop for those involved in Centering Prayer who are interested in taking this practice to prisons. About twenty-two gathered in a circle of flickering, candle light as Paul Moriarty of St. Vincent de Paul Society read the Prisoner Psalm. He then spoke of his years in prison work and the remarkable response of convicts to Centering Prayer.

Mike Kelly, who started Centering Prayer in prisons four year ago, told of two hundred inmates practicing Centering Prayer at Folsom. His dark eyes flashing, sitting on the edge of his seat, Mike relayed remarkable stories of angry men made humbled in the compassion of silence. "There is something sacred in the little kindness they do for one another." He brought a friend, Jerry recently released from Folsom. Jerry explained, "You don't close your eyes in prison." But Jerry wanted to know who he was. It could only be found in honesty and acceptance of what he had done. Prisoners survive on blame and anger filling the pods with curses, pounding, yelling. The silence has to come from within. "Silence made the connection," Jerry stated with a calm resignation. He took a 5-1/2 month course on Centering Prayer in prison with tapes and books, then started leading a group of other Hispanics. "Rumors were in the prison. ‘Men wondering what you guys are doin'? Sitting down? It isn't easy. No quick fix. Lots of questions. We weren't teaching religion. So Muslim, Hindu, Christian, anyone can come." Paul Moriarty explained that prisoners are locked in an 8'x14' cell, sometimes 22 hours per day. 50% of them are under 25 years old. They aren't getting good lawyers and are given long sentences for non-violence offences.

John had been out of prison for almost a year. "In prison, ya gotta stay in control ‘ hanging on, pushing away’. Those who want the truth or a virtuous life have to be in despair ‘People who go to Chapel are weak, ridiculed’. The mind rationalizes, makes excuses to stop the terror ‘Just be silent and find out who you are’. Lots of my past had to be broken for an open heart ‘but in the silence’ all of it stopped."

There was a video at the workshop, "Doing Time/Doing Vipassana." Vipassana is an ancient Buddhist, silent meditation. The prison was in India. The intent of incarceration was punishment, not rehabilitation. The inmates were angry, hostile, and returning criminals. In November 1993, Vipassana was taught for ten days on a volunteer basis and a strict moral code was given. A thousand prisoners attended. After ten days inmates of all backgrounds come forth in tears, some hugging their captors. "I have done a wrong thing," one said and another, "What happened to me is what I have done to myself."

It was a terrific workshop, a lesson on rehabilitation, and the carnage of inhumane punishment. In the midst of our gathering was: "I was in prison and you came to Me." The "Me" may awaken wherever "Me" is, but someone needs to light the candle in the darkness.

Valerie Keife

Links to prison meditation groups

Criminals and Gangs Anonymous

Our addictions and problems are primarily rooted to a warped way of thinking. We also felt that the opinions and advice of others who cared were wrong. We talked a lot; but said nothing of what we truly felt. Our only true relationships were primarily with a chemical substance or an addictive behaviour to violence and illegal activity. We even thought that going to school was not important. We rejected the basic principles to success; to learn how to live.

Readers can offer support by emailing them.

 

A very fine Web site introducing the reader to a new 12 step program for people in recovery from multiple addictions to substance abuse and illegal activities. Some members of this group practice Centering Prayer as their 11th step within the 12 step traditions which recommends prayer and meditation to a Higher Power, however one think of that.

 

The Upaya Prison Project

The Upaya Prison Project, under the supervision and direction of Joan Halifax, Roshi, and with the support of Dr. Sandra Penn, Medical Director for Correctional Medical Services at the New Mexico State Penitentiary and Laurel Carraher, mental health worker for the Maximum Security facility, offers Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction programs to prisoners and staff in the New Mexico Prison system. Roshi Halifax is also consulting with Dr. Penn on the establishment of a hospice program for the New Mexico Prison system, to serve inmates with terminal illness who are dying within the confines of prison.  You may email them easily .

The Upaya Prison Project has already brought together leaders within contemplative prison service of several faith traditions and meditative practices for mutual support and encouragement.
The Prison-Ashram Project of The Human Kindness Foundation

 

Bo and Sita Lozoff have visited well over 500 prisons since beginning this service in 1973.  The provide spiritual support to prisoners throughout the world in person and through Bo's book We're All Doing Time. They have both dedicated a significant portion of their lives to helping prisoners spiritually.
The Prison Dharma Network.

You may contact them easily.

Prison Dharma Network (PDN), is an international nonsectarian contemplative support network for prisoners, prison volunteers, and correctional workers. It was founded in 1989 by Fleet Maull, a then federal prisoner.  PDN is an affiliate of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and a village of the Peacemaker Community.

Our mission is to support prisoners in the practice of contemplative disciplines, with emphasis on meditation practice. PDN also supports prisoners in the practice and study of Buddhist teachings and promotes the path of wakefulness and non-aggression as an ideal means of self-rehabilitation and transformation.

 
National Prison Hospice Association

You may email them easily.

The National Prison Hospice Association promotes hospice care for terminally ill prisoners. Our purpose is to assist corrections and hospice professionals in their continuing efforts to develop high quality patient care procedures and management programs. We provide a network for the exchange of information between corrections facilities, community hospices, and other concerned agencies about existing programs, best practices, and new developments in the prison hospice field.
The National Emotional Literacy Project for Prisoners
 Email them
The National Emotional Literacy Project for Prisoners
• Puts tools for emotional (re)habilitation directly into the hands of prisoners, prison staff, and prison volunteers across the country

• Provides professional training for corrections staff on a statewide level

• Offers public education
 

 
   Goals & Objectives

To provide an integrated delivery network aimed at reducing the high rate of recidivism of former offenders by offering:

  • Substance abuse treatment and family counseling
  • GED education and academic enhancement
  • Training in conflict resolution and communication/relationship skills
  • Job training and placement assistance
 
Enlightened Sentencing Project The mission statement of The Enlightened Sentencing Project is to bring light to the field of rehabilitation by teaching offenders high-quality and holistic self-development, health-promoting and stress-reducing techniques, including and especially the Transcendental Meditation technique.  Every human being can be liberated from within and every offender should be given the tools to become fully enlightened, empowering him/her to make maximum contribution to society in the most positive way.