Prison Fence Watch Tower

Prison Meditation & Mindfulness

At our April 2018 meeting, the Sweeping Heart Zen Board voted to send  monthly financial support to the Prison Mindfulness Institute.  This support for PMI is now part of our ongoing community service work.  Furthermore, our support for PMI is in addition to the monthly support we provide to the Grace Center and Action, Inc., in Gloucester.

One of the reasons we chose PMI is its list of spiritual advisors.

The list of spiritual advisors to the Prison Mindfulness Institute is like a Who’s Who of contemporary American Buddhist leaders. And, the list includes luminaries from other contemplative faith traditions as well.

For example, the list includes Pema Chodron, Thupten Chodron, Rabbi David Cooper, Joseph Goldstein, Roshi Joan Halifax, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Father Thomas Keating, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg.

The willingness of these spiritual giants to be associated with the PMI’s community service work suggests that the work PMI does is of the highest quality imaginable.

Here’s the full list of PMI advisors:

One of the mot significant things that the Prison Mindfulness Institute staff does is train volunteers to share  its Path of Freedom program with inmates.

Here’s how the PMI website describes this program:


Path of Freedom ® is a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence (MBEI) model for at-risk and incarcerated youth and adult prisoners developed by Kate Crisp and Fleet Maull. 

The curriculum we use in prisons includes training in: mindfulness meditation, emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, and various resourcing and resiliency building skills. 

Participants develop greater self-awareness, improved impulse control, and greater social awareness which will give them a new positive vision for their lives.

The program is presented in a non-sectarian manner and is open to participants of any faith and/or those who do not identify with a particular faith tradition. The curriculum has received very positive reviews from experts in the corrections field.

Books Behind Bars

Moreover, another important part of PMI’s work is the Books Behind Bars program.  In this program PMI collects books on Dharma, yoga, contemplative spirituality, and on Nonviolent Communication (NVC) from donors.  Next, PMI puts these books in the hands of interested inmates.  To date, PMI has distributed 57,000 books in prisons across the United States.

Consequently, I’m happy to say that the SHZ Board also voted unanimously to become a gathering point for PMI’s Books Behind Bars program. Here is a link describing our involvement: 


Here’s a brief documentary (9 minutes and 41 seconds) on the prison work the Prison Mindfulness Institute does in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The video highlights what inmates have to say about why this work is important:

Here’s a link to a full list of Prison Mindfulness Institute programs: