Prison System

John – not his real name – is serving a nine-year prison sentence and is participating in the Beyond Recovery programme, founded by Jacqueline Hollows, as a social enterprise that works within the criminal justice system, in custody (prisons) and the community.

“I wanted to create social change. I decided that my life was to be about eliminating stigma and exclusion, particularly for those who had experienced addiction and offending behaviour. We are currently engaged in a 12-month programme in a UK prison. As part of that, we have just completed a 3-day immersion programme with 13 inmates.

BR Impact of Intervention 25 April 16

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“The levels of intelligence, connection and resilience that were felt after just three days blew my mind. Men who previously had experienced PTSD, extreme levels of violent behaviour, depression and anxiety were talking about hope; forgiveness and possibility. One man, sentenced for 7 years but currently serving 15 due to his behaviour in custody, saw a way out of the prison in his mind and could no longer even imagine being violent. One man, previously considered too low an IQ to be on the programme, said, ‘I feel like I’ve been given an extra gigabyte of brain; I’ve written a creative letter to my mum who hasn’t spoken to me for six years.’ Showing people the simple truth of how the mind works helps them see solutions for their own lives. At the end of the programme, one man said, ‘I’ve realised it’s not the world that needs to change, it’s just within us, and when we change, the world changes’.”

Jacqueline Hollows, MSc, founder of Beyond Recovery CIC, a social enterprise that works within the criminal justice system, in custody (prisons) and the community

“In criminal justice before, the approach with [female offenders] had always been, ‘You’re broken, you’re wrong, and I’m telling you how to be right.’ With this approach, it is, ‘You are whole. You are complete. In that moment, you believed your thinking, and there but for the grace of God go I. Let me show you how you created this experience for yourself and acted on it.’ … [These inmates] are a reflection of me. They are me. In serving them, I’m serving myself. [In these programs], the women started to experience themselves without their stories and without anyone judging them or judging themselves. They allowed their wisdom to be free.

“Last year, I had an insight about world peace. If each person can experience their own personal peace, then that’s how we achieve world peace. When each person has an understanding of how we’re creating our experience moment by moment, then there’s less violence: within the home, within the community, then within towns, within cities. It grows exponentially. And it starts by each person having an understanding of themselves.”

Janet Rhynie, MSocSc, MD of JR Training and Consultancy Ltd.; Founder of The Essence

“Over 20 years of programming, thousands of inmates were exposed to these principles. I saw the full range of results, including many men and women who left the criminal lifestyle and didn’t return to it. Their levels of consciousness changed, so even if some were released but came back, they didn’t blame the system; they returned to jail in a different state of mind, and they knew why they were there. We taught a lot of violent criminals, as well, and many people didn’t understand why we bothered with them. But over time, those violent prison units got better. The officers noticed the change, in that there was less fighting among the inmates, which helped the officers’ stress levels decrease.”

Catherine Casey, BSW, MA, Clinical Psychology, taught “state of mind” programs in jails and juvenile detention centers in Santa Clara County, California, and San Quentin State Prison for 20 years.

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