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Houses of Healing Self Study Course for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement.

28/10/16 COMMENTS 0

The Lionheart Foundation offers a Houses of Healing Self-Study course for men and women in solitary confinement. Currently there are hundreds of inmates in CA alone who are engaged in the program.

Since the book Houses of Healing was published about 150,000 copies have been distributed to prisons and jails throughout the United States. The Lionheart Foundation, publisher of Houses of Healing and the sponsor of this course, has donated about 60,000 of these books to prison libraries. Hundreds of prisoners have written to tell us how the book Houses of Healing (HOH) has changed their lives.

This is the only time I have ever reflected on my life and what led me to the way I’ve lived. I feel after reading Houses of Healing and doing the exercises a weight has been lifted off my shoulders that I’ve been carrying around forever.
Cynthia MCI Framingham, MA

This book has really been an eye opener to me.  So many years I have gone through many groups and one on one therapy and have never had the burden and relief that I have gotten from Houses of Healing.  I pray that anyone who reads this book can get as much as I have gotten from it.                            Robert   State Prison  Riverhead, NY

 Throughout my incarceration (28 yrs off & on), I have read hundreds of books.  I can honestly say that “Houses of Healing” has made the biggest impression on me than any other book I have ever read.  It has been a huge help in helping me reorganize my thinking while letting me know that I was not the only person feeling like I did… The insight        I have gained has been immeasurable.                              Phil  CSP-Lancaster, CA

      … Houses of Healing was for me the first glimmer of light on a dark horizon.

     … I found Houses of Healing remarkable in that it fit my situation right on the money.

     … I just wish I could have found this book years ago.

 Like these individuals, many incarcerated men and women get access to Houses of Healing through the book alone. They might find it in the prison library or a friend, staff person, or cellmate suggests they read it.  To make the Houses of Healing Program available to men and women in solitary / segregation, Houses of Healing is being offered in this self-study course. 

Assignments are mailed to prisoners each week for 14 weeks.  Like any self-study course, no one checks up on whether you do the assignments but like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  As prisoners read the weekly mailings and do the assignments, we hope they will feel encouraged and inspired by what they are learning from week to week – and as a result, really want to do the assignments and step into the course with both feet.

Being in solitary confinement is extremely challenging for most anyone no matter how emotionally “together” they are when they first go in. Because of this, each session starts with a section called “Doing Time in Solitary.” The “Doing Time in Solitary” sections do not directly connect to topics covered in Houses of Healing. They are written to be an additional support while in solitary (as well as when prisoners return to population or the outside community).  These sections offer important advice, coping strategies, and inspiration, often from men and women who were locked up for long periods of time in solitary.

Every session includes “Participant Notes.” The Participant Notes give prisoners an overview of  the topics to be addressed  in that session. The notes also provide some additional encouragement, and suggestions on how to work with the lessons.

The pages titled “Self-work” give prisoners the assignments for the week, as well as worksheets that correspond to the assignments. If they participate fully, I trust that this program will be a great support for them – and perhaps like it has been for many incarcerated men and women before, a real game changer.

Being in solitary involves dealing with many challenges.  Exactly how challenging solitary is for each person depends on many things. Some of these things include: how restrictive the isolation is; the circumstances that preceded their being put in solitary;  how long they will be/or have been in solitary; and their emotional state/mental health when they were put in solitary. Other factors include how isolated they are; whether or not they have a cellmate and if they get along with him/her; whether there are others around who they can communicate with; whether they have a TV to pass some of the time;  and what access they have to books. Other key issues include the quantity and quality of mental health and medical services when they need them; how they feel they are treated by staff;  whether they have support and communication from people outside the prison as well as whether they receive visits and can make phone calls to people who are important to them;  and very importantly, what skills they have for managing their stress (anxiety, frustration, anger, etc.).  These issues and others greatly influence the degree of difficulty and challenge solitary confinement brings to each individual person.

In the Houses of Healing Self Study Course, prisoners are offered many skills for managing stress.  These are skills that can be useful wherever they are.  They will be encouraged week in and week out to give this program their best shot.  All research shows that long-term isolation takes a toll on emotional and physical health and well-being.  In this course prisoners are taught techniques that have been scientifically proven to guard against, minimize, or slow down this downward spiral – tools that keep the people who practice them more in control of their own life and well-being. The techniques they learn have been proven to increase resilience which is the ability to withstand or recover more quickly from challenging circumstances. Prisoners gain insights about themselves and their lives.  And they will hopefully discover greater psychological and emotional freedom – even behind bars – even while in isolation.

 “If I had to do that time in solitary over, I would work out daily, read a lot, try to keep positive thoughts in my head, eat only what my body needed, and try to keep my head up no matter what.” Ken. on death row at 16 years old

 

Interesting article on Isaiah B. Pickens, Ph.D.

21/09/16 COMMENTS 0

Dr. Pickens was a facilitator at Rikers Island for the NIH funded study on Lionheart’s youth program, Power Source.

This article is an interesting glimpse into Dr. Pickens’ “passion”.

BE Modern Man: Meet “The Mentalist” Isaiah B. Pickens, PhD

JP

 

Social Emotional Learning

15/09/16 COMMENTS 0

THE LIONHEART FOUNDATION OFFERS SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LITERACY (SEL) PROGRAMS TO ADULTS AND AT RISK YOUTH.
What is Emotional Regulation? Emotional regulation refers to the processes, both automatic and controlled, that we use to manage our emotions. For many adolescents who emotional development and self-regulatory capacities have been negatively impacted by trauma, explicit and differentiated instruction in thee SEL skills are critical to their ability to stay in school, hold jobs and, for some, avoid the criminal justice system. Early adversity arising from maltreatment, exposure to violence, and profound neglect undermines the acquisition of these SEL skills through neurobiological mechanisms and social learning channels. As a result, trauma-impacted youth often experience imbalances in their physiological responses to stress, exaggerated reactions to negative emotional cues, and possess fewer internal resources for self-soothing. Lionheart’s Social Emotional Literacy program for prisoners and at risk youth, Houses of Healing and Power Source, address these issues and help youth and adults learn strategies to carve out a new way of life — helping them break cycles of negative high-risk behavior; heal shame, anger and grief; and emerge with a new sense of self and a positive future orientation.

Prisoner led Houses of Healing Programs

15/09/16 COMMENTS 0

Research on prisoner-led programs:  There are 49,000 prisoners serving a sentence of “life without parole” in this country. There are emotionally mature lifers and long-termers in any institution who would make outstanding Houses of Healing facilitators. Recently we received 30 evaluations from a prisoner who facilitated a HOH program in a Michigan state prison. The evaluations were exceptional.  We want to get data on these prisoner-led programs in order to “legitimize” and promote them. Some states do not allow prisoners to facilitate programs and others don’t promote it even though it is allowed. Not allowing mature long-term inmates to facilitate programs is an enormous waste of a very valuable resource.  Prisoner-led programs are a way to make HOH available to thousands more prisoners at little or no cost to prisons or the public. And, it gives great meaning and purpose to the incarcerated men and women who facilitate these programs. Toward this end, in 2015, Robin Casarjian visited a number of California prisons where prisoners facilitate the HOH program to explore options for this research.   Additionally, Lionheart will initiate a study on and seek funding for prisoner-led Houses of Healing programs

The Power Source Workbook New Resource coming this Fall

14/09/16 COMMENTS 0

New Resource: Coming later this fall.  The Power Source Workbook, based on the book,Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life, offers a theoretically-driven, high-impact, ready-to-use resource that requires no explicit training, preparation, or planning, is evidence-informed, accepted by youth and adapted specifically to the needs of at-risk youth.  If you would like to be notified of the release of The Power Source Workbook, please

Power Source  (PS)  power source workbook.

Lionheart has developed a Power Source “classroom-based social-emotional learning curriculum” for Berkshire Farms, a residential treatment center and school for at-risk adolescents in Canaan, NY. The program originally created is geared to clinicians while the new curriculum has been geared to the classroom teacher. Beth Casarjian, Clinical Director of Lionheart’s youth projects, is in the final stages of  copy design. Lionheart then hopes to raise the funds to work with school-based curriculum specialists to bring this pilot curriculum to another level, one that can be utilized in schools nationally.

At the recent 11th Annual International Mindfulness Conference sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, results from the Power Source NIH study conducted at Riker’s Island were presented by Dr. Amishi Jha from the University of Miami, a leading researcher in the field of mindfulness and cognitive neuroscience. Her presentation, entitled, “Does Mindfulness Training Help Build Resilience?” featured the data from the Power Source research which demonstrated that participants in the Power Source groups experienced significantly less degradation in attention over time than those in the control group. Her thesis was that in stressful environments such as involuntary confinement (youth prison) and military deployment, mindfulness meditation serves as a protective factor against the cognitive impairments caused by stress.

 

New Power Source Resource: Fall 2016

31/08/16 COMMENTS 0

THE POWER SOURCE WORKBOOK, by Dr. Bethany Casarjian

In 2003, the Lionheart Foundation published the book Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life (PS) to help youth impacted by trauma harness their inner-strength, resilience, and dignity. Power Source was originally designed to be delivered as a 13-session facilitator-led program with the primary target population being youth involved in the juvenile justice system. After leading the program toward evidenced-based status through a large NIH grant conducted at Riker’s Island in conjunction with our research partners at NYU’s School of Nursing, we realized that despite results demonstrating the effectiveness of the program in buffering youth against attentional-decrements, many professionals in the field were not utilizing the program as it was designed. Mental health professionals serving this population are often stretched thin between case management and serving as mental health triage. They often lack the time and resources to utilize a manual-based intervention with fidelity. Further, communications with agencies using the program revealed that there was a much larger youth audience to be reached beyond those involved in the juvenile justice system, including thousands of students engaging in a range of health-risk behaviors. After running focus groups in several different agencies and querying individuals using the PS program, we came to understand that professionals needed a theoretically-driven, high-impact, ready-to-use resource that required no explicit training, preparation, or planning but was also accepted by youth. They also needed a program that could be adapted to the unique needs of the population they were serving. Further, such a resource needed to stem the “knowledge-vacuum” that often occurs in agencies with high staff-turnover where staff are trained in a program and then leave, taking that expertise with them. The Power Source Workbook addresses all of these issues, providing an easy-to-use, highly accepted, and flexible resource. Pilot testing over the past year in school and residential settings and used by clinicians with diverse training backgrounds suggests that the Power Source workbook equips professionals with an evidence-informed and youth-accepted resource.

Contact: judith@lionheart.org if you would like to be notified of the release of the Power Source Workbook.

Lionheart Foundation Social Emotional Learning Programs SEL

08/02/16 COMMENTS 0

The Lionheart Foundation offers social emotional learning programs for at risk youth and prisoners.

The Lionheart Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing social emotional learning programs SEL to incarcerated adults, highly at-risk youth and teen parents nationwide in order to significantly alter their life course.

Lionheart provides:
◾exceptional quality rehabilitative resources to be used directly by prisoners and at-risk adolescents;
◾resources and training for professionals who work with these populations in a prevention, rehabilitation and re-entry capacity; and
◾direct social emotional learning (SEL) programs for adults in prison; at-risk youth in juvenile institutions and public and private programs and schools; and at-risk teen parents in shelters, hospitals, social service agencies, schools and other community programs.

Lionheart also conducts public education on the need for transforming our nation’s prisons and juvenile institutions into places where nurturing emotional (re)habilitation, inspiring positive values, and imparting behavior patterns necessary for healthy functioning in our communities are primary goals.

www.lionheart.org

JP

Houses of Healing at San Quentin

14/12/15 COMMENTS 0


HOUSES OF HEALING AT SAN QUENTIN

Several years ago Father George Williams, the Catholic Chaplain at San Quentin, brought to San Quentin a program called Houses of Healing, written by Robin Casarjian and published by Lionheart Foundation. Father Williams was friends with Robin and originally taught the course in the Boston area. A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom, the Houses of Healing book and curriculum are based on Emotional Literacy and Restorative Justice. In 2011, Father Williams gave Susan Shannon, one of his ministry students at the time, the opportunity to begin a Houses of Healing group at San Quentin. Currently over 100 men have taken the course, with more on the waiting list. Two years ago Kathleen Jackson joined Susan as a facilitator, and has helped expand the course by offering another time slot. Soon, Hassaun Jones Bey, who interned for two years with Susan, will start his own group, bringing the total Houses of Healing groups to three.

Facilitator Susan Shannon says, “The Houses of Healing book and course written by Robin Casarjian over 20 years ago are currently implemented in over 200 men and women’s prisons across the country. This course is a great class to take for seasoned programmers who would like to go deeper into some of the core teachings of other foremost San Quentin self-help groups, as well as for men new to any program at all. Some of the men who were new to programming from Susan’s first course have gone on to become master facilitators of other programs. The Houses of Healing groups are limited to 15 or less, and run approximately 7-9 months.

Chris Gallo, a recent graduate, describes it this way:

“In the scope of what is important to the rehabilitative process, Houses of Healing is a comprehensive look into the self. With discussions on self-understanding, healing relationships, and stress management, this thirty-session class instructs on being true to one’s core self. Participants learn to identify and deal with their sub-personalities, such as anger, selfishness, control, and insecurity, and low self-esteem.

When I entered into this small group I originally found more questions than answers, but it was not long into the sessions that the intimacy of the group caused it to become a safe place to open up. While being asked to represent our class with a few words is a great honor, I feel it is more powerful to share everyone’s voice:

Houses of Healing is a must for any lifer who wishes to be able to express himself better on the impact of his crime, anger, abuse and self worth. Allen

The Houses of Healing program…took me by the hand and led me to my past, which helped me understand the grief, pain, and suffering I created. Flavio

Houses of Healing has helped me to maintain an attitude of introspection. It has reinforced my emotional awareness and allowed me to develop relationships I might not have had otherwise. Ray

In Houses of Healing I learned how to forgive myself. Before I learned that knowledge I walked the Earth feeling shame, guilt, and a lot of fear. Once I learned the value of self-forgiveness and how to forgive, the sun got brighter, and the air cleared. I became whole again. Glenn

It helped me have further understanding in accepting responsibility for my actions and holding myself completely accountable for all of the choices I made that affect not only my life but so many other lives as well. Richard

Houses of Healing is really life-changing. I know it was for me. Harry

I once thought that my childhood had nothing to do with the man I became. Thanks to House of Healing I have been able to connect my childhood trauma to my criminal behavior. I’m filled with joy from what I’ve learned in this class, and now my life feels very complete. Darnell (Mo)

I know the pains that I have caused will never go away; but now I have a better understanding of where it started from as a child, and I can heal that inner child. Lee

I’ve learned forgiveness plus how to breathe, to watch the sky, and to meditate. I now think cool thoughts, not just hot ones. I’ve learned that Houses of Healing isn’t just about short time or short term fixes but a life change that I must use each day. I thank Houses of Healing for giving me more tools for my tool box of life. John

The biggest impact for me has been the acknowledgement of those sub-personalities and the realization that they are not a part of my core self. I am not broken or distorted, but pained by the echo of my past; and by following the guided steps I have been able to resist and re-write my story. Chris

These are the gentlemen I have had the privilege to share my truths with. We were blessed with a kind and dedicated facilitator, Kathleen Jackson. The graduating class of 2015 would like the population to know that this could be one of your successes as well. We bonded in circle, honesty, and respect. Now we are family.

The Power Within (Part II)

06/05/14 COMMENTS 0

Editor’s Note: Lionheart welcomes guest bloggers to write about topics aligned with our mission. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming guest blog, please contact us at: questions@lionheart.org The following post is posted from Theinnervoice84′s Blog.
Many thanks for this insightful post. http://theinnervoice84.wordpress.com/

Prisons are full of victims. No, I don’t mean crime survivors, nor individuals who’ve suffered at the hands of injustice (although a great many of us do fit these categories). I mean that the overwhelming majority of currently incarcerated people think, thus behave, as if we’re innocent bystanders in a world that keeps shitting on us. Over the course of my bit I’ve struggled to shed a similar mentality.

I used to say the only thing that pisses me off is stupidity. I viewed frustration and anger largely as the result of others’ idiocy because I wasn’t yet able to see myself in their behavior. Not surprisingly, I was crazy vindictive. But receiving 17 years in prison kind of makes a person re-evaluate, well…..everything.

Soon after I came in I began to wake up. I started paying more attention to ideas and people who for whatever reason (ego, fear, pressure to conform to my subculture) I’d always dismissed. For ages people just like me have cut themselves free from the puppet strings of emotion and ignorance to achieve a better existence, especially on this side of the wall. (Unlike in society, where people are much more able to cover up their insecurities and lack of fortitude with wealth and status, in prison, due to the constant pain and humiliation of the circumstances, the difference between those who have and those who haven’t realized self-empowerment is stark, like comparing children to mature adults.) I chose to heed the wisdom of those success stories and in time I became determined to no longer allow myself to get upset. “There is in this world no such force as the force of a man determined to rise.” W.E.B. Dubois.

The most important lesson behind this determination is that we have only two options when facing hardship/disappointment: do something about it or get the hell over it. We can also blame others, become violent, or even deny reality – and usually we do. But these are reactions; we don’t really choose them. They’re like coming to a fork in the road and putting the car in park or turning into a ditch. They don’t move us forward, which is what life’s about. Especially for us who are incarcerated or have been released recently, everyday is about progress, about distancing ourselves from the attitudes and weaknesses that got us in trouble.

Most currently and formerly incarcerated people have had very few if any of the types of positive support and legitimate successes necessary to build a healthy self-confidence. As a result, we fail to recognize ourselves in the countless individuals throughout history who’ve transcended every degree of misfortune, every kind of disadvantage (with the obvious exception of debilitating mental disabilities). We tend to see obstacles as if looking through magnifying glasses yet see our immense human capacity to overcome them as if peeking through closed eyelids. We think and feel powerless when the truth is we are much closer to invincible. “If we all did things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Thomas Edison.

Of course, there are many situations in life that we absolutely can’t do something about. Fortunately, however, there is virtually nothing that we can’t get the hell over.

We all have our own struggles to overcome and some of our demons and memories are immensely powerful. Yet, there comes a point in most of our lives when suffering is a choice. We’re aware of remedies, we even use and benefit from some of them, but then we stop, as if institutionalized in our own personal prisons. Essentially, through our actions we declare that peace of mind and self-control aren’t worth the effort.

I assure you they are. I know the darkness of making myself miserable and the glory of the other side. Where I am now is priceless.

The famous Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl endured one of the most oppressive, soul-crushing experiences the world has known. Yet his life’s work was preaching the power of self through numerous examples from what he saw and lived through during the concentration camps. I’ll leave you with his words. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Cut off the puppet strings. Keep boxing temptation.

Tip: I’ve benefitted mostly from various spiritual and philosophical teachings, as well as a strong belief in myself based on prior achievements and good family influences. However, it would be naïve and arrogant to act as though what worked for me is the solution to everyone’s issues – I don’t have a personality disorder nor have I ever experienced genuine depression. Some of us surely have a more difficult time with self control, thus peace of mind. Nevertheless, when we’ve finally had enough with suffering we find ways to improve. As I said above, there are always others who’ve overcome or are overcoming the same internal and external circumstances we’re facing and the Internet makes it easier than ever to find them and learn from their struggles. I do want to recommend something I’ve tried and seen help others, even those with mental health issues: biofeedback software by Wild Divine (www.wilddivine.com). It monitors the user’s heart rate and sweat level while going through various meditations, short talks and breathing exercises, such as slowly opening doors or a developing bridge that only responds as the user lowers his/her heart rate and calms down. This gives the user visual evidence of the power they have to control themselves. It might be a bit expensive, but maybe there’s a free trial period you can take advantage of.

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The Power Within (Part 1)

28/04/14 COMMENTS 0

Editor’s Note: Lionheart welcomes guest bloggers to write about topics aligned with our mission. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming guest blog, please contact us at: questions@lionheart.org The following post is posted from Theinnervoice84′s Blog. Part II to follow.
Many thanks for this insightful post. http://theinnervoice84.wordpress.com/

About two months ago a buddy of mine got out early after completing a relatively difficult six month substance abuse treatment program. He’d been to prison a few times before but he was finally serious about overcoming his alcohol addiction and insecurities, moving past his painful upbringing and making good on the potential so many people have seen in him. He couldn’t miss another day of his ten-year old son’s life, or keep dealing with the irresponsibility and manipulative games of his son’s mother. He couldn’t waste anymore time on incarceration. Whenever we spoke on the phone things seemed to be coming together more and more for him.

Today he’s sitting in county jail hoping to get under seven years for a new charge.

Reading that first letter he sent me after this latest arrest was heartbreaking. He clearly needed all my support as his self-respect was in shambles and those who’d been in his corner suddenly seemed to be in hiding. Every sentence made more vivid the picture of a man utterly lost in shame and confusion. “Am I destined to die drunk and alone, only out of prison if lucky?”, he asked. “What am I missing?….I don’t even feel human, no human would just throw away his son’s love, right?”

Generally I have a decent idea about how to respond (or not to respond) in these types of situations. But this time I felt totally useless. Outside of battling with an overwhelming sweet tooth, particularly 4-5 years ago, I have little idea what it’s like to have such a weakness for something that I’d repeatedly sacrifice my freedom, family, and self-esteem (basically, my life) for it. His demon is foreign to me – even if it does have less to do with alcohol and possibly more to do with things like a fear of trying and failing.

Those of us who return to prison, especially if more than once, surely go through a similar evaluation of who we are and what if any worth our lives have. Is it our fate to be a disappointment, a cautionary tale, at best? Will we ever be more than addicts, thieves, drug dealers, etc.? Do we even deserve anything more than society’s contempt?

I’ve never been incarcerated before this and after all the self-exploration I’ve done, all the missed opportunities I’ve mourned and all the pain I’ve seen my loved ones endure because of my crime, I’d be devastated if I returned to prison. As I try to see my friend through his internal hell I’m reminded of just how important, how essential it is that I leave no stone unturned in my preparation for release. Despite how confident I am in my development and maturity, I can’t guarantee I won’t find myself back behind bars after I’m released – even innocent people get locked up. But the least I can do is be nakedly honest with myself and confront every single potential pitfall in my character and thought process so as to reduce, as much as possible, the odds of me coming back.

Engulfed in self-pity, my friend wrote that he understood if I didn’t want to keep “such a loser” as him in my life. But I’m a die-hard believer in redemption; no matter what mistakes we make or sins we commit, the path to dignity and triumph is always open to us. We define our fates. Besides, after giving up 17 years of my life for a childish allegiance to an irrelevant street code, I would be an absolute hypocrite if I gave up on someone else for their poor decisions. I just hope his experience and expressions of guilt can help us understand the importance of anticipating and strengthening ourselves for the tests and difficulties sure to come.

Keep boxing temptation.

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