This project was born out of our desire to take mindfulness practices into the community to underserved populations. In 2018, we pitched the idea to the Director of Corrections and Rehabilitation Services Administrator at Douglas County Department of Corrections (DCDC). The topic of mindfulness intrigued them both enough to refer us to the Corrections Reentry Services Manager. She readily embraced the need for such a class in the Reentry Program in which participants fall in one of the following categories:
- Pre-trial, non-violent detainees who are unable to make bail and who are willing to receive supervision and education
- Direct court commitments in need of a high level of supervision
- Non-violent offenders serving time who may be near the end of their sentence
Nearly a year and many phones calls, emails, and meetings later, we were cleared to attend the volunteer orientation (the joke in these circles is that it’s just about as difficult to get in as it is to get out!). Finally, in January 2019, we launched our first series of 4-week classes in both the Women’s and the Men’s units within the Reentry Program. In both, we meet once a week for 1 1⁄2 hours per session and award Certificates of Completion in the final session.
The Reentry Program aims to develop a healthy system of support that limits free time and encourages success while inside. Our curriculum seeks to support this goal by introducing the practice of mindfulness and covering these related topics: meditation, self-compassion, empathy, mindful communication, emotional intelligence, and gratitude.
We approach our students compassionately and respectfully as human beings that are not and should not be defined by their mistakes. As teachers, we hope to create an environment for learning and reflecting and to offer insight and practices that will positively impact the choices they make going forward, both while still incarcerated and once released. We conclude each 4- week session by sharing a list of resources and assuring our students that MOI and various other local mindfulness providers will be there for them on the outside with resources for maintaining and deepening their practice.
Here’s what our students are saying about Project IMPACT:
What is one specific example when mindfulness helped you? (women’s responses)
Helped me stay in the moment rather than worry so much.
When the drama in the unit hit and meth was offered to me, I turned it down. The unit was shook down and people went into lockdown. I didn’t use meth because I used the practices of mindfulness.
When my boyfriend and I had an “argument,” I was being mindful by letting him talk and express his feelings
When I wanted to react to an annoyance
To notice when I am or am not being reliable or present in the moment
Helped me to discover a more caring and considerate way of living, express how you feel, listened to others
Trying to stay in control of myself
Being taught deep breathing, helps me relax
What is one way you plan to use mindfulness on the outside? (women’s responses)
I will continue to remind myself to be in the moment and not get caught up in worry.
I want to be mindful and make healthy boundaries with my family.
When I get upset, I’m able to stop, breathe, and have that space in between
Put in practice every day and every moment. We can connect to the direct experience of the emotion by recognizing the feeling
Continue to think before I speak and allow people to express their feelings/speak their mind
What would you say to someone who asked, “Why should I take the mindfulness class?” (women’s responses)
I would say it is assuring for the mind. It feels thoughtful and spiritual.
It helps with staying in the now, being grateful and the importance of empathy. It has been my favorite class!
Just because it’s awesome. Thank you again for an amazing class.
It would be a good class for anyone to take.
Mindfulness is an experience not an idea. It involves simply being and observing our mind and learning how to stay open to the whole range of emotions.
Because actions bring about reactions and it teaches you to react positively
Give it a shot. You’ll like it!
Teaches a better solution and ways to cope by breathing and asking yourself questions Don’t knock it before you try it!
It’s an amazing personal growth class. Helps shed the ego and get out of selfish ways.
What did you like most about this class? (men’s responses)
The opportunity to learn about a subject I would not have considered and then I found it quite interesting.
Different ways to calm myself.
In what way(s) do you think what you learned from the sessions that will make life inside better for you? (men’s responses)
Being able to think things through, not fight someone, letting things bother me and help me concentrate.
More positive, more hopeful. Gives me ways to address negative thoughts and stories The ways to shift focus from the negative to the positive.
How can you imagine using mindfulness in life after you are released? (men’s responses)
Being more flexible with family and loved ones, so I don’t fight them.
Continue meditating, develop more lovingkindness. Teach my 11-year-old son mindfulness and compassion.
Every day in life, work, home, family, friends, kids, etc.
On my daily walks and just continuing to meditate before I go to bed at night.