Considering the financial, emotional, and social costs of violence and incarceration, one would think using tools that offer an alternative to a life of revolving-door crime would be welcome in the prison system. In Rhode Island, they are.
HEALING VIOLENCE explores the progressive programs implemented within the Rhode Island Department of Corrections - including mindfulness training, meditation, and group therapy - to help break the cycle of violence. The programs help the incarcerated identify triggers and change automatic reaction, shifting thoughts and behaviors away from violence toward more constructive, peaceful, and enduring conflict resolution. Rhode Island is the first in the country to employ some of these innovative programs in a prison system. Rhode Island PBS presents HEALING VIOLENCE on Thursday, November 12 at 8 p.m.
The documentary features stories told by local professionals, including Alison Bologna, WJAR-NBC10 reporter and mindfulness yoga trainer; Fleet Maull, founder and director of Prison Mindfulness Institute in Providence; Jim Gillen and Anchor Recovery's DryDOC program; and local businesses and organizations offering vocational training to juvenile inmates.
Rhode Island Department of Corrections Director A.T.Wall says results are measurable.
“...We track certain behaviors that take place behind the walls, conformity with the rules or non-compliance with the regulations and we see that the people who are engaged in a serious way in mindfulness seem to have found a sense of purpose and groundedness. They’re not acting out. They’re not challenging authority. They seem to have achieved a certain peace.”
In the Rhode Island Training School, the facility that houses younger offenders, prison mindfulness training not only build self awareness, but also attempts to provide the inmates with a greater sense of self worth. The film includes a segment on vocational training; culinary training and hair styling instruction is offered to inmates who are interested in those fields. The training opens an avenue to gainful employment once the juveniles are released, and helps build self-esteem and provides positive affirmation of one's abilities.
“In my capacity, I had to be open-minded," said Joseph Cardin, superintendent of the Rhode Island Training School. "I don’t really judge what can help...Yoga 20 years ago? I think I’d be scratching my head on that one. But today I see the value of programs like yoga, and embrace them and support them when I can.”
HEALING VIOLENCE travels from the streets of Providence to the cell blocks at the Adult Correctional Institutions, to the local yoga studios where the practices of deep breathing and meditation are transforming lives.
“If you think about what are some of the most important skill sets to have as human beings," said Fleet Maull."To be able to self-regulate, to manage our own emotional life and our minds... instead of being in that reactive place, and to be skillful in communicating with others. What's more important in life?”