This is an amazing documentary coming out by Leslie Neale (Juvies) about victims of violent crimes forgiving perpetrators. Please check it out!
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world with one out of 32 Americans under criminal justice supervision. The rest of the world is intrigued by the paradox that the leading democracy in the free world imprisons so many of its citizens, 25% of the total prisoners worldwide.
UNLIKELY FRIENDS documents victims of brutal crimes who, through forgiveness, unexpectedly become friends with their perpetrators.
Finding a criminal justice system that has left them empty and unsupported, these victims of unspeakable crimes forgive out of a deep need to heal themselves, which in turn motivates the perpetrator to fully account for their actions and thereby begin the process of true rehabilitation.
These relationships, so unfathomable for most of us, open our thinking to new possibilities of how to transform a system ensconced in punishment and retribution to one of restorative justice that is based in humanity.
"Unlikely Friends” includes a rare and unique look into Insight Prison Projects Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) surrogate dialogue panel held inside San Quentin State Prison. The VOEG program supports incarcerated individuals in the process of understanding and developing insight into the underlying circumstances of their lives and the choices that led them to come to prison. The process utilizes a Restorative Justice philosophy to help individuals to address memories and feelings connected to traumatic and unresolved events in their lives in an effort to integrate these experiences into their lives and experience a renewed sense of wholeness, authenticity, emotional well being and positive behavior. Click here for more information about the Victim Offender Education Group program.
Click here to see the "Unlikely Friends" trailer.
By RACHEL PURDY, Bay City News Service
June 14, 2011
In a portable classroom behind a set of bleachers lined with inmates cheering for the San Quentin Giants, James Fox speaks in a hushed, soothing voice to a group of 10 "lifers" in his weekly hatha yoga class.
"Close your eyes, and free your mind of thought," Fox tells his students amid the din of the prison baseball game outside.
Sitting cross-legged with the word "PRISONER" printed on the side of his denim pants, Keith Augustine starts to make his escape.
Click here to read "San Quentin Inmates Find Escape in Yoga Rehab Class"
Parents who forgave their daughter's killer: It 'frees us'
After Conor McBride admitted to killing his longtime girlfriend, Ann Margaret Grosmaire, Grosmaire's parents made a remarkable decision to try a concept called restorative justice in which both families, including Conor, sat face to face as part of a healing process. NBC's Mark Potter reports and both sets of parents talk about the meeting.
Click here to watch, Parents who forgave their daughter's killer: It 'frees us'
A concept called “restorative justice” considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends. And it allows victims, who often feel shut out of the prosecutorial process, a way to be heard and participate.
Click here to read the New York Times article, Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?
The ancient art of yoga, a physical, spiritual and mental practice whose benefits have been promoted as improving relaxation, has found an unlikely home: prisons.
When many states have cut their wellness and education programs for inmates, citing cost and political pressure, some wardens looking for a low-cost, low-risk way for inmates to reflect on their crimes, improve their fitness and cope with the stress of overcrowded prison life are turning toward yoga.
The number of yoga programs is not officially tracked, but many wardens said they were interested in pursuing them. Typically programs start informally, a hodgepodge of volunteer efforts by instructors and correctional facilities. At least 20 prisons now offer yoga through the Prison Yoga Project, a program that began in California 12 years ago when its founder, James Fox, began teaching yoga to at-risk youth. Mr. Fox holds trainings for yoga teachers and said he has sent more than 7,000 copies of his manual to inmates to practice yoga on their own.
A Series of Poses for Fitness, Inside and Out
Last month, Matthew Cate stepped down as the head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. We'll talk to him about what he learned while running -- and attempting to reform -- the state's overcrowded and beleaguered prison system.
Former CDCR Chief Matthew Cate’s recommendations to his successor: "Priority number one is we do have to get out of these court cases. But once that’s done, I think the focus needs to be on rehabilitation. We need to understand that it’s an issue of public safety. We need to focus our resources on things that will reduce future criminality, not just punish the people who are already in prison. We owe it to our kids and our future.”
Host: Dave Iverson
Guests: Matthew Cate, executive director of the California State Association of Counties and former secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Click here to hear "California's Troubled Prisons: Former Chief Reflects" on KQED Radio.
Warm greetings to all of you reading this, whether you are new to the Insight Prison Project website or you are a returning friend. Many thanks to Jennifer Thompson of the IPP Staff for her excellent work redesigning and upgrading our site. I have just completed my first three months as the new Executive Director of IPP, and I have found the process of getting to know this wonderful organizing at times exhilarating, at times challenging, but always gratifying.
I plan to visit every IPP facilitated group and as many of the special events, workshops, presentations and celebrations as I can. Some highlights in the past few weeks: visiting San Quentin Radio Project with IPP facilitator, Sonya Shah. and meeting Troy Williams and the talented crew of the newly broadcasting station; witnessing the graduation of a VOEG group; taking Barbara Cushing and Alan Zulch from Kalliopeia Foundation into San Quentin to participate in a VOEG Group facilitated by Karen Jandorf; and meeting with the members of our dedicated Learning Assessment Committee (LAC) which helps IPP to develop evaluations and assessments of our many programs.
One the one hand, we have suffered a great loss during this past few months with the death of our wonderful and dedicated Board Co-Chair, Nancy Blair. She was a pillar of strength for me, and we will all miss her terribly. On the other hand, we celebrate change and growth in our Board as we welcome three new Board members: Reginold (“Reggie”) Daniels, Jerard (“Jerry”) Elder and Karen Jandorf. We look forward to the months ahead as we continue to diversify and expand our Board, Staff and legions of volunteers, facilitators, the women and men inside and the families and supporters outside the walls. Please enjoy the many stories and items of interest on our wonderful website and come back again to see what we have added!
New California Statewide Poll Finds Strong Support for Alternatives to Jail for Non-Violent Offenders, Strong Opposition to Building More Jails
Tulchin Research recently conducted a statewide survey among likely California voters to assess public opinion toward budget priorities and criminal justice issues one year into the state’s “realignment” plan to shift certain public safety responsibilities and resources to the counties.
In general, voters believe our elected officials should invest much more into alternatives to incarceration than they are doing now and they do not want taxpayer dollars used to build more prisons and jails.Specifically, voters in California strongly support reforming pre-trial release policies to require supervised monitoring in the community instead of jail while awaiting trial and they are willing to hold elected officials accountable for not supporting this reform.
Click here to read the complete article, New CA Statewide Poll Results on Criminal Justice Issues
Responsibility, Rehabilitation & Restoration: A Symposium on Crime, Punishment and the Common Good in California
The purpose of this statewide event, sponsored by the California Catholic Conference, was to convene those affected by the criminal justice system, from victims to offenders to criminal justice professionals to Church and public leaders from various faith perspectives. Participants gathered from across the state to discuss how to transform society's response to crime from a paradigm of retribution and punishment toward one of rehabilitation, restoration and reconciliation. The organizers intentionally explored specific calls to actions for the members of the community.
Jaimee Karroll, IPP's Training, Education, Curriculum and Replication Director, and VOEG Facilitator, participated on the panel discussion titled, "Voices of Community Organizations Sharing Best Practices and Emerging Models". The panel addressed how communities can empower themselves and partner with government agencies to implement restorative justice practices.
About this series: Under pressure from the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce prison overcrowding and improve inmate healthcare, California Governor Jerry Brown started transferring authority for nearly 40,000 low-level convicts from state prisons to city and county systems. KQED and the Center for Investigative Reporting examined the impact of these unprecedented and far reaching efforts to overhaul California's prison system.
Click here to see the KQED Coverage of Realignment Implementation