October Update

Bought a standard poodle puppy.  Bringing him home October 5, so October will be full of housebreaking, and FUN.



Entries in prison (2)


Humane Prisons: Freeing the Spirit

In my last post I mentioned a “spiritual experiment” in the solitary confinement unit of a Mississippi prison.  In 2007, in response to a deadly summer of assault, suicide, and murder, prison authorities loosened restrictions on the prisoners.  “They allowed most inmates out of their cells for hours each day.  They built a basketball court and a group dining area.  They put rehabilitation programs in place and let prisoners work their way to greater privileges.”

         And what was the result?  “…the inmates became better behaved.  Violence went down.”  In fact, so many prisoners were able to be moved into the general prison population, the solitary confinement unit was closed, saving Mississippi millions of dollars.  And now many states are following Mississippi’s example.

         I think this experiment reveals gratifying aspects of the human spirit. 

         First: the spiritual imagination of the prison officials.  For decades we have lived in the unforgiving environment of “three strikes and you’re out,” or “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”  Yet these officials are willing to think another way and to consider the human potential in the worst prisoners.

         Second and most amazing: the spiritual resilience of the prisoners.  I wouldn’t have expected men who had for so long—months or years—been isolated 23 hours a day, and shackled the remaining hour of each day, to be able to bounce back at all.  Yet apparently the majority did just that. 

         Wonders are all around us!




Practicing Spirituality in Prisons

I have a friend who says, “What you push against gets stronger.”  She’s right. 

         Big example: During the recent souring of my marriage, if I tried to change my estranged husband’s negative opinion of me, my day became a fruitless battle.  When I surrendered to my powerlessness over him, and went on to tasks and pleasures about which I actually had a choice, I had a good day.

         Small example: Suppose I call someone who doesn’t answer.  I could throw myself against the problem, texting them, emailing them, calling them again.  But this just leaves me angry and frazzled.  When I simply leave a voicemail and go on to other things, the eventual call-back feels like a lovely, unexpected surprise.

         Last Sunday, The New York Times had a story about American prisons learning this same principle.  In American prisons over the last thirty years, it became more and more standard to throw unruly prisoners into solitary confinement.  But what the prisons were “pushing against,” namely disobedience or lawlessness, just got stronger. 

         Eventually, in the summer of 2007, in a prison in Parchman, Mississippi, “violence erupted…an inmate stabbed to death with a homemade spear that May; in June, a suicide; in July, another stabbing; in August, a prisoner killed by a member of a rival gang.”

         The reason I’m posting about this has to do with a spiritual experiment that followed.  A spiritual experiment with a spiritual result.  Stay tuned.