Center for Council has recently received word that we have been awarded funding to bring the Inmate Council Program (ICP) to eight more California State prisons. Three of these new sites will be funded for three years of ICP programming. Council is now being practiced and taught within 22 CDCR institutions around the state.
The ICP offers council training as a "rehabilitative resource" and teaches inmates how to independently facilitate Council circles on the yard for other inmates. Our preliminary research with RAND Corp and University of California has demonstrated that our Council programs "lead to reduction in anger, aggression and hostility and better communication, cooperation and pro-sociality." And we know that the work is profoundly shifting prison culture in a positive direction.
We are thrilled to expand this work and eager to support an ever-growing circle of incarcerated carriers of Council as they find their way into the practice and bring it to others on prison yards around the state.
Center for Council Director Jared Seide recently traveled to Auschwitz to coordinate daily Council circles at the annual Bearing Witness Retreat in partnership with Zen Peacemakers.
Read a detailed description of this incredible, invaluable, and powerful work.
In these heartbreaking times, we feel grateful to have the means to come together with open hearts to bear witness, take stock, deepen community, and to celebrate our common humanity.
We want to share with you a little of what we've recently been up to.
Each year, Center for Council's Social Justice Council Project provides a select number of community-based, social service and arts organizations with individualized Council training and with resources to support their missions, help enhance and deepen their work, and bring folks together in Council.
On June 24, 2016, Center for Council was so pleased to host the Social Justice Council Project Gathering and Celebration at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens. At this event, all of this year's Social Justice Council Project participants came together to share how they're integrating Council into their important and unique work in the world.
Check out Sam Escobar's powerful and inspiring essay on leading Center for Council's Inmate Council Program at Salinas Valley State Prison, recently published online!
Center for Council, in partnership with Zen Peacemakers, offered a Council training workshop in Sarajevo for a group of Croat, Serb and Bosniak peacemakers, organized by two dynamic Imams.
“Coming Back to Ourselves: Notes on a
Lawyers Guild Hour Radio Show (KPFK 90.7) aired a show on 6/5/2014 about "Council in Prisons."
Host Jim Lafferty weaves interviews with in-studio guest Jared Seide, along with call-in guests from several active Council programs, including:
With the imminent release of over 20,000 former genocide perpetrators into communities where unspeakable crimes were committed, the Rwandan government and its people seem eager to embrace a model for deepening community resilience and affirming shared values. The resonance of council (or “Peace Circle”) with indigenous Rwandan traditions like ibitaramo is striking and we are thrilled to be partnering with local Rwandan peace workers in supporting the emergence of a program and a practice that serves this critical moment.
Reporter Kenneth Miller followed the film crew into Salinas Valley State Prison and wrote the following article on the powerful weekend.
Miller reports, "An aura of earnest spirituality suffuses the practice, but there’s no religious content. Nor is there a specific therapeutic agenda. “Council doesn’t start with the assumption that something’s wrong with you,” says retired warden David Winett, a longtime supporter. In corrections, he observes, the custom is to tell inmates, “What you need is a good talking-to.” Council’s core belief, Winett says, is that what everyone needs is “a good listening-to.” By hearing others deeply, the theory goes, people learn compassion; by being heard, they learn to better understand themselves.
Read the article in it's entirety here.
Enjoy reading and please share the story to support this incredible work!
- Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye, Butare, Rwanda
It takes unimaginable will and courage to move ahead after trauma. For many of the women of Butare, Rwanda, there has been much to survive. Many of those who lived through the genocide lost family, friends and children. Countless numbers were victims of rape; some went on to raise the children born of those rapes, and many live with HIV.
Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye has been using the practice of Council for the past 2 years in her work with the courageous women of Butare. She will be one of the participants of the training being held by Center for Council at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
"Within one year, a third of those released from prison are back inside. Within three years, two-thirds have returned to prison. To me that says more about the failure of prisons, parole supervision, and reentry programs than it does about the failure of individuals."
-Eddie Ellis, formerly incarcerated founder of the Center for NuLeadership, quoted in The Sun, July 2013
While opinions abound on how to best address the issue of recidivism in our prison system, consensus is growing that we cannot continue with the way things have been.
California has one of the highest rates of recidivism in the nation, an issue that has led to Attorney General Kamala Harris announcing a new state initiative, the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, aimed at identifying the best ways to reduce those numbers.
The practice of Council addresses some of the Criminogenic Factors identified as key to reducing recidivism.
"We can't heal ourselves or other people, unless we bear witness."
Center for Council is part of an extraordinary movement that is bringing reconciliation and healing to the sites of some of the worst atrocities of our time.
This April will mark twenty years since the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda, in which over one million people were killed. Women who were victims of the mass rape used as a tool for war, now live with and care for the children born of those rapes, and many were also left with HIV.
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