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Are compassion and prison compatible ?

Today’s good news Monday, through the Compassion prison project, will focus on human development, the importance of education and the faith we have in humanity. The project was created by Fritzi Horstman in the United States in order to bring compassion, childhood trauma awareness and creative inspiration to the men living behind bars.

Indeed, Fritzi was a juvenile delinquent and her story is close to those men behind bars. She has never been to prison why ? She attributes this to the fact she is a white woman. She values the importance of education and believes that human nature is not bad or good but that education definitely has an ineluctable role in deciding the direction our lives take. In fact, 98% of the incarcerated men they surveyed experienced at leats one Adverse Childhood experience.

On the line with what Dr Gabor Mate said “If you study prison populations, you see a common preponderance of childhood trauma and mental illness. The two go together. So a lot of the people are being punished for being mentally ill and they are mentally ill because they were traumatized as kids. what we have in prisons are the most traumatized people in our society.”

With such an initiative, the project aims to heal society and it begins with taking care of people behind bars. Where humanity normally ends the project helps remembering that we belong to each other.

Through compassion, child trauma awareness, creative and educational programs the project aims at engendering prison reform and ending recidivism.

They don’t see compassion as “ a relationship between the healer and the wounded.”rather, “It’s a relationship between equals.” They use Compassion relationships at the heart of their action in prison. Compassion enables shared testimony which frees prisoners frustrations and mental illness. As Puma Chodron said “only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity”.

When society has rejected those men and placed them behind bars, dehumanising them by putting them into worst condition possible, the compassion prison project aims at rebuilding humanity through visits and actions they organise in prison. As stated on their website “now let’s change how we treat our most traumatised members of our community and begin to heal our society”.

For instance, what they call ‘the compassion trauma circle” is seen as a day of healing for humanity. They form a circle and each adverse child they have experienced they take one step. When the circle is complete, they realise that they all form this community, that their pain is shared and almost all of them have been victims of inhumanity and violence.

They also created trauma art class, where prisoners can find the childhood they never has the chance to have. Celebrating birthdays is also part of their actions in order to celebrate and value each member of the community.

They also created the giving back project, a cooperative effort focused on giving back to the communities that have been harmed. Indeed, every man and woman behind bars they have spoken to desperately want to give back to communities they have harmed.

They are also focusing on awareness, by making sure that every facility has a trauma informed, social-emotional and spiritual library of books to encourage self inquiry, self empowerment, forgiveness and healing.

This week’s #Widsgoodnewsmonday has taken the approach, looking at the justice system and how it unfairly pins people behind bars.Through their actions, compassion project prison, reminds us how important it is to have faith in humanity. And that compassion is a powerful tool which can help bring the best in people and bring us together as one community. In those tricky times more than ever, this great initiative shows us how important compassion and the bonds we share with our relatives are important and essentials to our lives.

For more information on the project check out their website : https://compassionprisonproject.org.


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@2020 by WIDS Team

University Of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Rd, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK

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