Breaking Out of Prison—Every Tuesday
Knight is a resident of the correctional institution a small band of volunteers visits weekly.
Kadampa Center Prison project is a group of volunteers affiliated with the Kadampa Center community who offer prisoner-support workshops using meditation to overcome negative emotions and addictions, to more skillfully navigate life (both in prison and out), and, as appropriate, to develop spiritualy. We also have grown to offer transitional aftercare support and the opportunity for individual students to further their studies by communicating with a pen pal.
The project started in 1994 when volunteer Herb Cunningham started leading a meditation class at Central Prison in Raleigh. Over time, as inmates from the original class at Central were shipped to other prisons, requests came in to start similar programs. Herb recruited additional volunteers, and the first new program was set up at Caledonia Correctional in Halifax County in the mid-90s. We're still offering meditation classes weekly at Caledonia, and we've continued to expand our offerings in additional prisons as we grow our volunteer base.
When Venerable Robina started the Liberation Prison Project in 1996, the Kadampa Center Prison Project served as a model for that worldwide prison outreach initiative.
Our weekly meditation workshops are facilitated by Kadampa Center Prison Project volunteers, and while based on Buddhist principles, are appropriate for anyone. We do not have a set curriculum that we use every time - many participants continue to attend our classes over time, so we try to keep them fresh by offering meditation and discussion based on a variety of texts, including (but not limited to):
A typical class involves guided and silent meditation and discussion of homework related to the current chapter/section of the book. Depending upon the size of the class and the interests and experience of the participants, the format may vary. Once or twice a year at each facility we do a one-day retreat, typically on a Saturday. This is an opportunity for potentially new participants to meet us and get a sample for what we do, and a chance for our current participants to deepen their practice.
We currently have meditation classes ongoing at:
We are just beginning to work with the NC Department of Public Safety and their Transitional Aftercare Network. The goal of the program is to help people leaving prison have the best chance possible of success. Our team is currently mentoring seven individuals pre-release.
Many of our class participants have questions about meditation and Buddhism that we cannot address during our limited workshop time. There are others at prisons where we don't have a program who are interested in having a deeper conversation with someone. Our pen pals offer them spiritual support and guidance - something they often do not get inside the prison or from their family and friends outside.