Hello, PDN Friends--This is my first posting. I am sitting with a group of inmates at a prison in eastern Wisconsin. I find that often they like to get into discussions and complaints about various situations in the prison. I try to steer them away from this line of discussion because I find it disheartening and pretty useless. Today, I said I would like to continue their discussion at the end of our sitting because I had some ideas I would like to advance. So we sat for our usual time, and then I raised the topic of Nonviolent Communication and how it might be used in some situations. However, it became clear to me that I was being rather naive and that the situations they face are complex and sometimes nearly insoluble--particularly in the area of their relationship with certain guards. Later, in chatting with one of the chaplains, I asked whether there was or could be an informal committee of guards and inmates that might address complaints about treatment from both groups--something outside the normal, formal process (getting written up and ending up in the hole). He surprised me by saying the chapel staff is also sometimes rudely treated by some of the guards and the institution in general. "If they had their way," he said, "they would get rid of us." The inmates have told me the place is safe physically--there are few incidents--but it seems to me it isn't safe for human thriving. I am wondering whether anyone else has seen these types of problems and whether anyone has tried to tackle them--outside our traditional Buddhist practice. It seems to me that leadership is really key here, and I don't think this institution's leadership is interested in these "softer" issues. Also, I doubt that the guards receive much or any training in effective communications, human relations, etc.
Any comments from this group?