PROGRAMS FOR WOMEN IN PRISON AT LOWELL C.I.
In January 2008, Horizon began offering programs at Lowell Correctional women’s prison near Ocala, FL, in collaboration with Gateless Gate Zen Center to present an 8-week series of mind-body stress reduction classes. A 5-day silent retreat follows the eight classes.
This program is an adaptation of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR work developed at the University of Massachusetts Hospital by Jon Kabat-Zin in 1979 and now taught throughout the world. Participants learn how stress affects the mind and body and then learn skillful ways of responding to stress and techniques of meditation practice.
The series is presented in each half of this 2,500 bed women’s prison, and has met with such success, that it has continued to be presented each quarter since beginning. A 6-month grant from the Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Compassion Capital Fund in the spring of 2008 enabled Horizon to hire a community resource coordinator to recruit volunteers, develop community support and present a Family Day event for those women active in the program. A grant from another foundation wishing to remain anonymous has provided on-going funding for materials, administrative oversight, and small stipends for volunteers who drive long distances.
Grant funds also enabled the launch of “Criminal and Addictive Thinking” a cognitive renewal program addressing criminogenic beliefs and behaviors. This program also met with great success and has been repeated at Lowell.
Horizon provided the education and transition departments with “Returning Home Workbooks” and the database needed for transitioning inmates to complete their workbook. The database contains resources, addresses and phone numbers for agencies in all Florida counties that provide reentry assistance. Developed and updated by Horizon coordinator, Joe Bellner, the database is available at both Tomoka C.I. and Lowell C.I.
In 2008 volunteers contributed over 1,050 hours at Lowell C.I. training for and presenting these programs for women. Many inmates were near release; others are long term. The assistant warden began to see declines in disciplinary reports and the education director noticed far better attention, knowledge retention, and focus in education classes among the mind-body stress reduction participants. The Modality program asked for a weekly class, and plans are developing for a transitional residential program to encompass this meditative and body awareness program.