More than a million Americans are locked in jails and prisons — a human tragedy. Many committed grave offenses. Some have experienced racial disparities at the hands of courts and police. They may have endured deep emotional wounds as children; a high number of inmates were abused. Many are caught up in addiction from opioids to alcohol. People living with mental illness, especially those who are poor, are far likelier to land in jail than in a hospital.
“When prisoners are able to release some of the hurt from their childhood, from their lives, they become themselves.”
— Robin Casarjian,
author of ‘Houses of Healing’
Then, when prisoners are freed — as more than 9 in 10 eventually are, they often are harshly stigmatized. Nationwide, nearly half of those paroled end up back in jail. The pattern of recidivism inflicts enduring harm on the safety and wholeness of society and on these individuals.
Our audio documentary examines ways to interrupt this destructive cycle. We focus on the truly visionary work of Robin Casarjian, a counselor and educator based in the Boston area. Her long efforts as Executive Director of the Lionheart Foundation, established in 1992, have left an imprint on more than 100,000 inmates, youth at risk, pregnant and parenting teens, and other underserved populations. The central goal is helping people in distress to recover from trauma and to acquire capacities of deep empathy for others — based in greater self-awareness and coming to terms with reality. As you’ll hear, this can be a life-changing journey.
Robin is the author of Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom. It provides a self-study curriculum intended to impart new coping mechanisms to people who are emotionally dis-regulated, as is often the case for those who’ve gotten into serious trouble. These materials have reached incarcerated people in all 50 states and have been adopted system wide for justice-involved youth by the states of California, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and New York.
“Life was giving me an opportunity to have an intimacy with my humanity, which I had lost by committing a crime.”
— Alvin Kimbrough, former prisoner in California
You’ll also listen to three former prisoners — some who’ve spent years in solitary confinement. They’ve all now been released, in one case when a sentence of life without the possibility of parole was revised in part due to “exceptional conduct”. They have experienced profound transformation through Houses of Healing and a related project called Self-Awareness and Recovery. Their stories are deeply moving and offer a tribute to resilience of the human spirit.