Social Security Disability Benefits and Prison

29/10/18 0

Submitted by:  Eric Minghella

If you or someone you love is incarcerated and on Social Security disability benefits, it’s likely your benefits will be affected while you’re serving your sentence. Thousands of people on Social Security disability serve prison sentences just like the able-bodied population, so the Social Security Administration (SSA) has resources available for people on disability benefits who go to prison. Here’s how your monthly benefits will be affected when you serve time:
Do You Keep Receiving Benefits?
You will not continue to receive benefits if you’re in prison for 30 days or longer, but it’ll be easy to reinstate benefits once you’re released. Those on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) qualify for rapid reinstatement as soon as they’re released, so long as the status of your disability hasn’t changed. Those on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will also be eligible for rapid reinstatement, so long as they weren’t incarcerated for over a year. After 12 months, you’ll need to reapply for SSI once you’re released.
The good news is if you’re on SSDI benefits and you have a dependent family member receiving additional benefits on your behalf, such as a spouse or a minor child, they’ll continue to receive their monthly payments while you’re in prison.
What About Health Insurance?
Most people on SSDI or SSI will be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid respectively. Those on Medicare Part A will maintain health insurance eligibility without any interruptions. Those on Medicare Part B will lose Part B of their benefits unless they continue to pay their monthly premiums.
Medicaid is a little trickier because it’s awarded on a state-by-state basis. You’ll need to contact your local Medicaid office to ensure you’ll remain enrolled in the plan, but you can get a referral form to provide to your local social services office from the SSA’s website.
When Can I Reapply?
The best time to reapply to get your disability benefits reinstated is as soon as you receive your prison release records. You may receive this paperwork up to 60 days before you’re actually released from prison. While you won’t be able to receive benefits before you’re released, you can still apply with the release paperwork so the SSA can get started on processing your claim. This is a great way to ensure that your benefits will start as soon as you’re released. If you don’t have a prerelease agreement, you can still start the process as soon as you think you’ll be released.
To get started with reapplying for Social Security disability after you’re released from a correctional facility, you can call the SSA toll free at 1-800-772-1213 or reapply online through your My Social Security Account. A family member can also make an appointment to apply on your behalf at your closest Social Security office. Good times to call the SSA are first thing in the morning (7-8 A.M.), as wait times become very long throughout the day.
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Investing in the Incarceration of Youth is No Investment at all.

17/10/18 0

The following article was written by Daniel Silva, a lead facilitator for Lionheart’s CA Innovative Grant Programs.  Published in the CA Endowment newsletter.


Investing In The Incarceration of Youth, Is No Investment At All.
By Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva is the Founder of Self Awareness & Recovery (SAR), a former inmate, and is a passionate reform and rehabilitation advocate.

I am a 50-year-old man who has spent 39 years of my life behind bars.  Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to incarcerate me in juvenile camps and the state’s prison system, where I was given a life sentence for murder.

Life could have turned out differently for me, if I had the guidance and support I needed as a child who took to the streets to escape family dysfunction and abuse. Now that I am back in the community, I devote my life to helping young people stay in school and out of prison. That’s why I’m supporting the #SchoolsNotPrisons concert tour, which calls attention to issues I know all too well.

I came of age in Los Angeles, growing up without my biological father.  His absence created a void and resentment, which was fed by even more negativity once my abusive stepfather came into the picture. Being raised in this environment led me to the streets in search of refuge and validation. My juvenile delinquency began at the age of 12, when I started sniffing glue and experimenting with whatever drugs I could get my hands on in order to escape my anger and painful reality. I  raduated from foster homes and juvenile camps, to serving a life sentence by the age of 18.

Even after serving over 20 years behind bars, I remained on a destructive path. Change took time. There was no single instance or “a-ha!” moment that caused me to want a different way of life. It took a culmination of hurt, pain, and hard lessons for me to finally seek change. But when change did come, I was inspired to not just change for myself, but also for those around me who were ighting similar struggles. While serving time, I completed many rehab programs, but there was one  program in particular that opened the doors to my second chance at life: Houses of Healing. This program gave me the opportunity to create a rehab program, and thus Self Awareness & Recovery (SAR) was born.

Had there been intervention and rehabilitation programs earlier in my development, I believe that more of my years would have been spent on the outside helping others, as opposed to being locked-up on the inside – both figuratively and literally. However, I also believe God had a path for my life and that my journey is serving a greater purpose. It is my mission to fight for those who have no one to fight for them, by intervening before young people get stuck in the system, as well as advocating for the rehabilitation and healing of those who remain inside.

Individuals aren’t the only ones who are broken and in need of rehabilitation. The prison system feeds on vulnerable people, many who were born into destructive paths and were themselves victimized as children.  We need to ensure that young people have access to education and opportunities, as well as the guidance and support needed to successfully break dysfunction. It’s time that we as a society build up and invest in our young people, rather than label them as criminals at the first sign of bad behavior. When the prison industry is booming, it’s a sign that we have failed both our children and communities.

With proper investments in education and rehabilitation, I’m confident we can help create different futures for our brothers and sisters who were born on the fast track to jail through no fault of their own. It’s time to invest in building schools to shelter our children, not prisons, because knowledge and education is the only way to break this cycle. 

Links to guided meditations by Robin Casarjian, The Lionheart Foundation.

15/10/18 0

Meditation is the quiet motor underlying all of the Lionheart Foundation’s social emotional literacy programs to prisoners, highly at risk youth and at risk teen parents nationwide. Lionheart programs are offered in prisons, juvenile institutions, schools and community programming.

Click on the link below to access two guided meditations by Robin Casarjian, Executive Director of the Lionheart Foundation, Boston, MA.




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.

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