More About the Lionheart Foundation

The Prison Project

In 1988 Robin Casarjian, a respected author, psychotherapist and educator, was invited to give a talk on the topic of anger, resentment, and forgiveness to inmates in a Massachusetts state prison. The overwhelming interest and engagement she witnessed among the 120 inmates who voluntarily showed up for the talk, prompted her to initiate a program in emotional growth and development specifically for those in prison. Witnessing the profound impact this course repeatedly had on prisoners, Robin was inspired to bring her work to prisoners across the country. She founded a non-profit organization, The Lionheart Foundation in 1992 in order to support this endeavor.

In 1995 she wrote, Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s’ Guide to Inner Power and Freedom (Lionheart Press), a book/curriculum that guides prisoners through a program in self-awareness and emotional literacy skill-building. To distribute Houses of Healing nationwide, Lionheart launched The National Emotional Literacy Project for Prisoners (NELPP). Houses of Healing has increasingly become an integral part of prison programming, and has changed the nature of programming in some of the country’s most violent institutions.

Houses of Healing can now be found in most every state and federal prison and larger county jail in the United States. Substance abuse and mental health counselors, educators, chaplains, administrators and prisoners alike avidly embrace the program.  In the words of one counselor, “there is no other program in which I have observed the profound changes that I have seen in this course.”

Lionheart assures exposure to its curricula through professional trainings and through concerted, national free distribution campaigns, knowing that without this only a small number of those who could benefit would be given the opportunity. Ms. Casarjian has offered trainings to more than 2000 corrections professionals in 16 states, and beyond. Over 85,000 copies Houses of Healing are in circulation, including 55,000 free copies distributed to prison libraries and prison programs.

Revenue from the sale of Houses of Healing (the book, facilitator’s manual and video series) is used to support continuing requests from prison programs and libraries whose reduced budgets do not allow for the purchase of materials. Lionheart also sends free copies of Houses of Healing to individual prisoners.

Having launched its prison project in an unprecedented decade in US history-when the prison population grew from one million to more than two million, one thousand new prisons and jails were constructed, and the tenor of the criminal justice system became increasingly punitive-Lionheart, in a grassroots public education effort, offered a cohesive picture of the prison-industrial complex and advocated for the need to transform prisons into places of healing and restoration.

The Youth Project

Over the years, the Lionheart Foundation received many requests for a juvenile version of Houses of Healing. Many youth staff improvised programs using the Houses of Healing curriculum in an attempt to create effective therapeutic material designed to meet the unique emotional, social, and cognitive needs of at-risk youth.  Responding to this need, and building on the exceptional success of the prison project, Lionheart launched The National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth at Risk in 2003.

The centerpiece of the project, the book/curriculum, Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life (in English and Spanish), was written by psychologist Bethany Casarjian, Ph.D., and Robin Casarjian, M.A.  Power Source fills a giant gap in the therapeutic material available for this population. In addition, the Power Source Facilitator’s Manual, a comprehensive, hands-on guide, is available for clinicians and other staff working with this population. Three of seven videos in the Power Source Video Series, created to assist professionals in organizing and effectively delivering the program, are complete and in demand.

The Power Source Program is currently being utilized in 2500+ community programs, schools, and juvenile institutions nationwide as a core curriculum or as an adjunct to drug and alcohol prevention and recovery programs, gang and violence prevention programs, and life skills and anger management programs. While many programs are struggling with budget cuts and from lack of funds, 50,000+ copies of the Power Source book/curriculum have been distributed to these programs, 80% of these free of charge.  Power Source resources have also been made available directly to youth at 500+ lending libraries at various institutions and schools.  Trainings in the Power Source curriculum have been offered to hundreds of social workers and other front-line professionals. The growth and potential growth of the Power Source Program as well as feedback from professionals and youth alike continues to be outstanding.

The Youth Parenting Project

Working in the field, Lionheart’s clinical staff saw large numbers of at-risk adolescents having children of their own. Dr. Casarjian, clinical director of Lionheart’s youth initiative, reviewed available resources for this target population and found no books, written specifically for them, that address the psychological aspects inherent in at-risk teen parenting.

Understanding that approximately 1,000,000 teenagers become pregnant in the U.S. every year resulting in more than 520,000 births, and that children of at-risk teen mothers are far more likely to be physically and emotionally abused, she was compelled to action. In 2008 Lionheart published Power Source Parenting: Growing Up Strong and Raising Healthy Kids, a groundbreaking psycho-educational curriculum/book designed with the developmental characteristic of at-risk adolescents in mind. Power Source Parenting is designed for any young parent to read individually, although it is anticipated that the largest group of users will be agencies and organizations responsible for conducting parenting groups and working individually with at-risk teen and young adult parents. Lionheart carried out a national free distribution effort for this resource.

 

Back to the brief history of The Lionheart Foundation.