Free Online Prison Volunteer Program

10/10/18 0

Volunteers often play a pivotal role in helping incarcerated men and women turn a corner and truly alter the course of their lives. This free online training will give you a solid overview of the core concepts and teachings in the Lionheart Foundation’s  Houses of Healing Program (HOH).  HOH has met with great success nationwide as it addresses clearly and directly the situations and feelings that almost all incarcerated men and women struggle with. It guides and supports prisoners in confronting issues such as childhood wounding, grieving, managing anger, facing the impact of crime, and taking ultimate responsibility for themselves and their actions. Feedback from volunteers across the country and over decades describes their experience with HOH as being rich and rewarding.  We expect that you will find it deeply rewarding as well.

To learn more, please click on link below.

Free online prison volunteer training.


Program for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement

12/03/18 0

“Houses of Healing (HOH) “We’ve heard about the good results the Houses of Healing course has had in other prisons in boosting morale, lowering violence and promoting development.” -Co-chairs, Spring Creek Restorative Justice Initiative, Alaska

HOH Self-study Program for prisoners in solitary/segregation/SHU: With support from the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) “Innovative Grant Program”, the HOH Self-study Program for Prisoners in Solitary was delivered to 464 men in three SHUs (Special Housing Units) otherwise referred to as isolation units.

The program was offered in Pelican Bay, CSP-Corcoran, and CA Correctional Institution. The following is a summary of the feedback we received, to date, from the 160 participants who completed the course evaluation.

 93% of respondents reported being able to remain in control of their behavior when upset (“most of the time” or “almost always”), since taking the course, compared to 18% before the course, with 90% of individual respondents reporting improvement.

 86% of respondents reported being able to handle anger in a positive way, (‘most of the time” or “almost always”), since taking the course, compared to 15 % before the course, with 93% of individual respondents reporting improvements.

 91% of respondents reported using healthy ways to make themselves feel better when upset, (“most of the time” or “almost always”), since taking the course, compared to 13% before the course, with 89% of individual respondents reporting improvement.

 95% of respondents reported feeling hopeful about life (“most of the time” or “almost always”), since taking the course, compared to 29% before the course, with 83% of individual respondents reporting improvement.

 95% of respondents reported the ability to take responsibility for their actions, (“most of the time” or “almost always”), since taking the course, compared to 30% before the course, with 86% of individual respondents reporting improvement.

 Among the emotional regulation techniques taught in the course are meditation and yoga. 78% reported that they meditated between three times a week to almost every day.

 100% of respondents stated that they would recommend the Houses of Healing Self-study Program to others.

Lionheart, in conjunction with criminal justice professor Dr. Carolyn Petrosino (Bridgewater State University), is now conducting formal research on the self-study program with new participants in the CDCR. We expect to complete and submit the findings to professional journals in Fall 2018

Learn more about Houses of Healing and Lionheart’s Prison Project.  Click here.


Lionheart’s Power Source Program’s positive impact on incarcerated youth

15/01/18 0

Update: November 2017 Article in PennCurrent (University of Pennsylvania) points to the positive impact of Power Source on 16-18 year olds incarcerated at Rikers Island, NY.

Reversing the negative psychological effects of prison through mindfulness

Just four months in prison can harm a person’s cognitive abilities and impulse control. Penn criminologists report that a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training can reverse the damage.

Rikers Island
Rikers Island in New York City. The Island has 10 jails that can house as many as 15,000 inmates at once.

Just four months in prison can negatively affect a person’s cognitive abilities and impulse control, according to findings published in Criminal Justice and Behavior from Penn criminologists Adrian Raine and Rebecca Umbach. The good news is some combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness training can reverse the damage.

“We have known for decades that poor cognitive functioning is a risk factor for crime and delinquency,” says Raine, the Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology. “The big thing for society here is that imprisonment is making worse a risk factor that sends people to prison to begin with.”

The study, led by Umbach, a fourth-year criminology graduate student, analyzed data collected by New York University researcher Noelle R. Leonard. Incarcerated 16- to 18-year-old males at Rikers Island Prison in New York City were randomly assigned to three months of either a control group that attended weekly sessions focused on substance use, violence, and sexual health risk-reduction, or an experimental group that participated in what’s known as the Power Source intervention, which uses CBT and mindfulness meditation. Power Source was developed by Bethany Casarjian and Robin Casarjian of the Lionheart Foundation.

“This was a specific kind of mindfulness,” Umbach says. “Participants learned breathing exercises and went through varying degrees of CBT. The idea was that the CBT would make you more willing to open up to the positive effects of mindfulness. They were also encouraged to meditate and do breathing exercises on their own.”

Everyone in the study completed what’s called the “Emotional Go/No Go” test at intake, then again after four months. Inmates viewed faces on a computer screen expressing one of four emotions—fear, happiness, sadness, or anger—or a neutral face. For each of eight rounds, one of these or a neutral face became the focus. For the fear-focused round, for example, participants were to press the button when a fearful face appeared and avoid pressing it for a neutral one.

The Penn team confirmed what’s been hypothesized, that spending time in prison has negative psychological consequences for cognitive control, emotion regulation, and emotion recognition. They also found that while performance of both groups decreased significantly over time, the CBT/mindfulness appeared to mitigate the decline for impulse control and emotion regulation.

Prison Mental Health

“Perhaps we should be paying a little more attention to cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness when we have young offenders. These kids are 16 to 18, they’re teenagers,” Raine says. “Maybe we should be doing a little more to help them with their impulse control.”

Though this work doesn’t prove that such an intervention can work for older offenders who have been in prison longer, Raine says it is proof of concept for a methodology that could apply to future research.

In that vein, Umbach says she hopes to replicate the results, and has plans to assess other tasks in the dataset Leonard originally collected. She feels strongly about the implications of these and future findings on those who end up in prison.

“Most people who are incarcerated go back out into the world,” she says. “Are there efforts we can make to keep them at a level of cognitive functioning that’s as close to normal as possible?”

Originally published on .

New! Power Source Posters for At-Risk Youth

27/11/17 0

The Power Source Posters help create an inviting and dynamic learning environment for the adolescents you serve. The posters augment the Power Source Book  and the Power Source Workbook equipping adolescents with the social and emotional regulation skills they need to build healthy relationships, break intergenerational cycles of violence, high-risk behaviors, and be successful in the workforce.

This four-poster series serves as a visual reminder of the skills and concepts presented in the program providing a dynamic and visually engaging tool for working with the Power Source Program.  
Posters both broaden and intensify the impact of Power Source and further empower at-risk youth to build the skills associated with healthy social and emotional development. Serving as a constant reminder, these powerful images portray relevant information efficiently and effectively.  
Vibrant and capitivating, the posters attract the attention of youth and are presented in a format that youth can quickly understand and engage with ease.
We have kept our printing costs low and our quality high to offer these beautiful posters at an affordable price to you.
Posters can be purchased individually ($24.95 includes S&H) or at a discounted rate as a set of 4 ($69.95 includes S&H).  To Purchase All Four Posters click here.

The Core Self Poster (1) – Provides a powerful visual reminder of the identity model taught in the Power Source Program.

Poster measures 24″ X 36″ and are printed in full color on 100 lb. poster paper. 
PRICE: $24.95 (includes S&H)  Purchase Now

Stop, Breathe & Choose Poster (2) – Highly visually engaging, this poster offers youth an environmental cue to use this simple and effective self-regulation skill.

Poster measures 24″ X 36″ and are printed in full color on 100 lb. poster paper. 
PRICE: $24.95 (includes S&H)  Purchase Now

The Cool Thoughts Poster (3) – Emphasizes the critical role thoughts play in de-escalating situations and helping youth keep their personal power.

Poster measures 24″ X 36″ and are printed in full color on 100 lb. poster paper. 
PRICE: $24.95 (includes S&H)  Purchase Now

The When in Doubt Poster (4) – Reinforces the importance of Situation Selection and Modification when it comes to identifying and avoiding high-risk places and people.

Poster measures 24″ X 36″ and are printed in full color on 100 lb. poster paper. 
PRICE: $24.95 (includes S&H)  Purchase Now 
The Power Source Program is an evidence-based Social and Emotional Programm for Highly At-Risk Adolescents.  It is Easy to Use, Simple to Deliver, and Engaging to Youth.  To learn more, click here.
The Lionheart Foundation – PO Box 170115 – Boston, MA 02117 – Tel: 781-444-6667 – –

Offending Behavior: Ways to Apologize and Make Things Right

25/10/17 0

Excerpt from Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life, a book for at-risk adolescents, by Dr. Bethany Casarjian

Apologizing for offending behavior can take many forms. It can be a conversation with the person you hurt — face to face or by phone. It can also be done through a letter. Although many kids find writing difficult or unpleasant to do, it let’s you really plan what you want to say. Writing a letter of apology can be a very powerful way to express your feelings about what you have done. Even if you throw the letter away, or never send it, putting your feelings and thoughts into words on paper can help you move down the path of healing.

Apologizing is something you’ve got to do to really stand up and take responsibility for your offense or mistake. But it isn’t always the final step. If it is possible, you need to repair the damage you did by paying back. When you can — make it right. This might happen in a lot of different ways. If you stole money from someone, return it. If you spent the money, then work to get the money to repay the person. If you stole an item that can’t be replaced, find out how much it costs and give the person that amount of money. If you started a rumor about someone and it hurt them or their reputation, you need to fix it by coming straight. Sometimes we won’t see our victim again, but we know that we have wronged someone. If this is the case for you, try repairing the damage by doing something kind for someone else. It won’t undue the damage you did to your victim, but it will help someone else. And that’s a powerful thing.

The Power Source Training: A Program to Prepare Lifers to Facilitate a High Impact Program for Young Prisoners

19/09/17 0

The Lionheart Foundation’s newest Innovative Grant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) supports The Power Source Training Program: A Program to Prepare Lifers and Long-Termers to Facilitate a High Impact Program for Young Prisoners (18-23).

Robin Casarjian, Lionheart’s Executive Director, visited the two prisons in California where the program is taking place (CSP-Sacramento [new Folsom] and Mule Creek State Prison) to launch the program. She met with an enthusiastic response from more than a hundred lifers and long-termers. This grant involves training lifers and long-termers to deliver a program that integrates both Power Source and Houses of Healing with 18-23 year olds within the prison system. Because there were many more registrants than there were opportunities for participation, final registration was determined through a lottery. The training is an enormous gift to lifers who see no possibility of being released and to those who have many years to serve in front of them. The program opens the door to doing something of significant meaning where they can make a potential life-changing difference for the younger men, many of whom will be released. Lionheart has also applied for and received CDCR research approval for this program to gather data on the impact of the training for both the prisoner-facilitators and the young men.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Transformative Programming for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement: The Houses of Healing Self-Study Program

18/09/17 0

The Lionheart Foundation’s Houses of Healing (HOH) program has had a life-changing impact for thousands of the men and women involved in the criminal justice system.  In 2016, Lionheart created an unprecedented 14-session program based on HOH – The Houses of Healing Self-study Course for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement that has been piloted, with great success, to prisoners in three Supermax prisons in CA over the past year.  Lionheart is moving forward to promote the program to prison systems in additional states.

In solitary, there is usually no programming available and prisoners naturally degrade psychologically.  Research indicates that the prolonged isolation associated with solitary confinement adversely impacts individuals’ physical and mental health.  The HOH Self-study Course for Prisoners in Solitary Confinement proposed herein will not only offer a connection to the larger world with weekly mailings over a period of four months, but will also deliver a program shown to reduce depression, anxiety and anger, the psychological symptoms associated with solitary confinement, while bolstering emotional competency skills.

More than 450 prisoners confined to solitary confinement in the CA prison system (referred to as Special Housing Units or the SHU in CA) registered voluntarily to participate in the course, reflecting the enormous need and desire for support.  There have been 160 evaluations returned from the CA prisoners thus far. 100% of these prisoners indicated that they would recommend the program to others. The vast majority indicated having a greater sense of hopefulness, gaining practical skills to manage the intense stress of solitary, and gaining insights that are helping them heal from both the trauma of solitary and what is usually a trauma-impacted early life. The profound impact of the pilot study on these prisoners has led to the approval by the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for Lionheart to recruit additional prisoners and carry out a formal research project in 2017-2018.

Most of these prisoners will be released back into society.  The goal of this program is to offer these men and women effective tools needed to cope with their experience in prison, but also to give them the support they need to facilitate successful reentry into society, positively impacting these returning citizens, their families, and the greater community.

Power Source Parenting: A program for teen parents from the Lionheart Foundation

04/09/17 0

The Lionheart Foundations’s Power Source Parenting is a cutting edge program designed to give teen parents the guidance and skills they need to be loving, effective parents and raise healthy children. The centerpiece of the program is the book, Power Source Parenting: Growing Up Strong and Raising Healthy Kids and The Power Source Parenting Facilitator’s Manual written by Dr. Bethany Casarjian, Clinical Director of Lionheart’s youth projects and co-author of Power Source.

This theory-driven  intervention provides the opportunity to impact the lives of thousands of teen parents as well as their children and future generations. There are a number of excellent parenting curricula, but none that are, like Power Source Parenting, skill-based in terms of young mothers’ own emotional regulation.  In Power Source Parenting young parents learn highly effective skills to manage stress and anger, while reducing risk-behavior such as substance abuse and interpersonal violence in order to be more emotionally available and nurturing parents. Taking control of one’s own emotional responses is the first step in modeling and teaching these skills to one’s child.

Power Source Parenting draws on well-established interventions such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness Training, as well as proven parenting programs such as Parent Management Training.

In keeping with Lionheart’s goal to establish its curricula as evidence-based, clinical staff have completed a pilot study with teen parents in group homes under the auspices of the MA Department of Children and Families.  Results from this study are complete and very promising.  Consequently, our research team at NYU was awarded another grant from the National Institutes of Health to further research Power Source Parenting.

Teen mothers who participated in the pilot reported significant increases in positive parenting attitudes including appropriate developmental and parenting expectations, empathic awareness of their child’s needs, and decreased endorsement of corporal punishment.  The young mothers demonstrated gains in parenting sensitivity and attunement, greater levels of parenting competence, increased levels of attachment to their children, greater levels of perceived support from their partners, and improved knowledge of parent/child roles.

Our agency has been providing case management and support services to adolescent parents and their children for over 22 years.  We have reviewed and utilized numerous resource materials over this period,  including books, brochures, pamphlets, videos, DVDs, etc.  I have never come across a resource that has been so universally accepted and embraced by my staff as Power Source Parenting.
– Director, Adolescent and Family Services, Fresno, CA

I am as happy with this parenting book as I was when receiving the Power Source materials!  These resources have basically become the only materials we utilize.  I am currently working with 10 high-risk teens both male and female who are expecting babies this year.  Thank you for making these resources available to providers…
– Phoenix Treatment Center, Iowa

“Missing Out”. Excerpts from Lionheart’s Power Source Parenting

28/08/17 0


Once I got pregnant, things really changed with my friends.  Maybe they thought I was slowing them down.  They couldn’t smoke in the car or around me.  I stopped drinking so I couldn’t party with them anymore.  It’s not that they didn’t want to be there for me, but I just wasn’t as much fun for them to hang around with.  Also they got pissed off because they thought teachers let me get away with a lot at school because I was pregnant.  Everyone was treating me different.  They never called me to go to clubs because they thought that my big belly would chase guys away.  Their families told them not to hang out with me because I was a bad influence.  Once the baby came, things got even worse.  I couldn’t go out ever because I couldn’t find a sitter.  Then they almost never came around.”   Lisa, 18 years old

One of the hardest things to deal with about becoming a teenage parent is feeling like you’re missing out on the best part of being young — hanging out with friends, having fun, being free.  If you have a baby, you know that it’s almost impossible to do those things like you used to.  And that can be a hard pill to swallow.  Lots of things get in the way, like finding someone to watch the baby.  If you mom is helping you take care of your child, she might feel resentful if you are going out to hang out with friends.  She might feel that it’s your responsibility to stay home and take care of your child.  You probably have less money to spend when you go out than before you had a baby.  Babies take a lot of money to raise.  And most people taking care of children all day are sometimes too tired to even thin of going out.

NOt going out can make you’re missing out and can even lead to feelings of resentment toward the baby.  All parents need to hang out with people their own age.  Especially young parents.  You probably won’t go out as much and do all the things you did before you had the baby.  But it’s important not to isolate yourself from other people your age.  Being with friends is important.  It’s a change to connect and refuel and have a little fun.  So what can you do about it?  Here are a few ideas that other young parents have tried.

  • See if you can find activities your friends are into that you can take the baby along for, like going to a park or the mall for a short time.  (But be realistic.  If you have an active two-year-old, the mall might not be a good choice.  He’ll want to run around and you might just be chasing him rather than hanging with friends.
  • Explain to your mother that you understand what your responsibilities are, but that you’d really appreciate it if she could watch the baby for just two or three hours a week so you could go out.  (Find something cheap to do if you do go out so you’re not broke for the next week.)
  • Swap babysitting with a friend.  You watch her child for three hours one week, she’ll pay you back the next week.  Pick someone you can trust so the baby is safe.  Make sure the street goes two ways so you don’t get walked on — doing all the sitting and getting nothing back.
  • If the baby’s father is also a caretaker, work it out with him so that a few hours a week you get to get out and enjoy yourself and give him the same opportunity.
  • Make new friends — especially new friends with kids.  Talking to other people going through the same things you are is important.  They know the deal.  They can relate.  Plus, you’ll be able to hang out together and do things that your kids can do.  Rather than going clubbing, you can hang out at the park.  Instead of partying, you can bust open some Play Doh.  If this sounds lame or like a letdown, it beats being alone.

I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have Jackie (my best friend).  I met her at a parenting group and we’ve hung out ever since.  Before that I didn’t really have no one.  She really gets what I’m going through with my baby and my baby daddy.  We chill when we ain’t working or going to school.  It helps me a lot just to know that I have someone who understands me.  Shana, 16 years old



Releasing Anger from Lionheart’s Houses of Healing Program

23/08/17 0

Some people are afraid to face their anger because they fear if they did, they might lose control.  That’s what they saw other people do.  They may feel that they have so much anger inside that they could and would destroy the world if they let themselves really feel it.  So they keep the lid on tight.  There is a tremendous amount of energy in this anger.  And it really won’t go away by ignoring or pushing it all down, even though it may seem that way at first.  If you have a lot of anger, it is important to channel that energy in as many healthy ways as you can.

There are several ways to channel your anger constructively.  One is physical release.  Run. Lift weights. If there is a punching bag, let yourself get into punching it.  Play any kind of sport.  Games like racquetball or basketball that require a lot of energy are great outlets for releasing some steam.  If you are confined to your cell, do push-ups or sit-ups.  Even take a towel and twist it as hard as you can.

As you’re running, lifting weights, punching the bag, or twisting the towel, you could even say “I’m angry,  I’m angry” — over and over and over for three or four minutes.  Don’t get into a story about your anger.  Don’t say “I’m angry” at a particular person.  Just keep repeating, as intensely as you can get away with, “I’m angry”.  Acknowledge your anger.  Let the energy of anger out.

Write about your anger.  Give your anger a voice in writing.  Write everything you are angry about.  Keep writing until you feel you have gotten all your thoughts and feelings down on paper.

Talk your anger out with a trusted third party.  Talk it over with someone you can safely share your true feelings with — someone who will listen without judging.  (a relative, friend, counselor, clergy…)

You can let that energy out in a way that is safe and won’t hurt you or anyone else.

It may take days, weeks or months to work through some of your anger.  Be gentle with yourself and respect what you need as you take this important step.  It is also important to bring a great deal of awareness to the process of working with your anger so as not to get stuck there and let anger become a trap.  If anger is within you, you need to feel it in order to let it go.  If, however, you get stuck in always feeling angry or always needing anger in order to set boundaries, then the anger which is necessary at first to empower and heal you eventually disempowers you and inhibits your healing.

Excerpted from “Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom”  Robin Casarjian

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