The California Office of the Inspector General released a highly critical report late last week on the deeply dysfunctional culture at High Desert State Prison. Included in the OIG's "Findings and Recommendations," among other efforts to shift the culture for officers and inmates, is implementation of Center for Council's proposal, in partnership with Center for Mindfulness on Corrections, for a council-based wellness and resiliency program for Correctional Officers.
"There are such extraordinary moments emerging in many of these compassion-based programs in prisons and communities. In this season of abundance and thanksgiving, I am reminded of an amazing and moving council I got to participate in at Lancaster State Prison with a group of inmates who had such incredible stories about food. One shared that he has spent decades wondering about pomegranates... so curious about their taste and feel, and their prevalence in mythology and poetry, and his longing to know a pomegranate, and his realization that a sentence of "life without the chance of parole" meant he's probably never get to taste one.
A critical challenge for social justice organizations as you advocate for positive social change is to listen deeply to the communities in which you work. Recognizing your mandate to voice the needs of the populations that you serve, your team will serve most effectively by developing the capacity to listen deeply and understand the context and history of your communities.
At Center for Council, we believe that when a staff participates in Council, an opportunity emerges for employees and peers to develop greater rapport, trust and a deeper sense of community.
This article was originally published by ZCLA.org
by Jared Seide
In a time of unprecedented challenges to economies, socio-political structures, ecological systems, anxiety is widespread and suffering is deep. How is it possible to provide effective interventions to individuals, and communities, rather than the preconceived notions of “experts.” How do we bear witness to the unique characteristics of the situation, rather than inflict external theories which we presume will fix things? For me, Council provides a dynamic and generative space for easing suffering, interconnecting, and flourishing together. I’m so grateful to have found a path that enables me to support this work in the world.
CP: How do you personally define the “Local Peace Economy?”
JS: I think there are some profound “fundamentals” that are shifting – that must shift – in order for our culture and our world to be sustainable. The immense imbalance amongst us in resources and access has created unhealthy and corrosive conditions for a great many… and systems seem to be breaking apart under the strain. Any read of political, economic, health-care, educational, correctional systems reveals much to be concerned about. And it feels to me that underneath it all is a fundamental, fear-based sense of separation. It is simply impossible and unbearable to continue to pretend that we are not deeply interconnected. The story of the “other” is unsupportable. As we pay attention, we see that what happens to you, impacts me; what emerges in me is about all of us. And in our fast-paced lives, driven by all these systems and efficiencies, it sometimes takes a backward step - a slowing down - to pay attention. Systems that dehumanize in the service of efficiency are unsustainable. I see a great need to bear witness, lean in, grieve, celebrate and embody the re-humanizing evolution at hand. Many of us are engaging in practices that enable us to embody and enact this inter-being – and I am sensing that this shift is finally mobilizing broad-based support from across the cultural and political spectrum.
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