Tell us about yourself & your interest in prison dharma: (answer required) .
I live in tell Aviv - Israel
I volunteer in prison. I guide a meditation group already two years.
In addition to that, I organize meditation groups in 13 more prisons, and I hope in the near future to open meditation groups for prison guards. my volunteers are from different practices: Tibetan Buddhism, Thich nhat hahn, Theravada
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I clicked on your profile because you are Israeli, and I am Jewish. I'm a dyed in the wool JewBu. You have eclectic music taste, like my own. Thank you for doing prison work. Do you serve Jews and Arabs (an others) equally? I believe that is the way to bring peace to Israel: to love one another and to be sisters and brothers, instead of us and them.
Michal: My main comment on working with corrections officers (here they don't like to be called "guards") is that you really have to have the support of the warden or superintendent of the prison. I worked with staff at one prison teaching "mindfulness for stress", but we got no staff participation till the warden said he would allow them to use a half hour of work time if they would donate a half hour of their lunch break to the project. If they respect the prison administrator (not always the case) and if you have the administrations support, then you will get some participation. Move slowly until these conditions are in order. If you acknowledge that their jobs are stressful, you will get them on your side. In just a few sessions, the staff were revealing all kinds of stress related conditions, like insomnia, marital conflict, etc. etc. It's well worth doing as conditions align to make it possible.
Metta to you,
Michael: Thank you for your comment. I do a lot of work with people recovering from addictions. Generally, I ask that they be 60 to 90 days away from their last use before any extended meditation. The emotions, body and nervous system are just too impaired during early withdrawal. If they were just doing a once a week 30-50 minute meditation session, I suppose it wouldn't hurt, but it also is not pleasant and not productive.
Why don't you order my book called Sitting Inside, you can order it on this Web site or on Amazon. It has a chapter on volunteers and their motivations. Many people show initial interest, but then disappear after awhile. Also, the simplest thing I can say is to look for people who are happy and mature in their practice. Unhappy people tend to want contact with prisoners so they can feel useful or loved or needed.
My cirteria may be too high, but I think you want people who are endorsed by their own sangha and who are experienced enough to be allowed to give meditation instruction to beginners in their own tradition. You also want people who are not too sectarian in their own Buddhist tradition. Some of this you can do by organizing training for volunteers in addition to whatever the prisons are providing.
So, that's a start. Keep me posted on how you're doing.
Metta to you,