Step Inside the Circle
From Compassion Prison Project
Before reading this article, consider this:
A study examining the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on a sample UK population in 2015 highlighted that, “the odds of having been incarcerated were 20.4 times higher for those who had experienced 4 or more ACEs compared to those who had experienced none”
The Compassion Prison Project in California began as the brainchild of Fritzi Horstman, whose own childhood trauma helped shape its conception.
Over the course of several months in 2019-2020, Fritzi and a dedicated team of facilitators and volunteers partnered with incarcerated men at a Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), a maximum-security prison in Central California. Together, they created powerful tools to address and heal from childhood trauma.
During 2019, the men at KVSP and CPP, utilizing techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and the power of intention, explored childhood trauma and the impact it has had on their lives. Understanding the shame and dehumanization that results from both child abuse and incarceration, these men found ways to make amends to themselves, the people they’d harmed and their communities. They learned what it means to have deeper compassion for themselves and others, what it means to have a sense of belonging by recognizing our shared humanity. Through this process they began honoring and uplifting one another while joining together as a community.
In February of 2020, Fritzi and a film crew went to California State Prison – Los Angeles County in Lancaster, where 235 men participated in a powerful exercise that addressed childhood trauma. The immense importance of that day was captured in two short films, Step Inside the Circle and Honor Yard, which explore the significant correlation between ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and the lives of the men and women who are incarcerated. Those videos went viral but the real story is how so many lives can be transformed by addressing childhood trauma through increased awareness and compassionate understanding.
"Like you said, we wasn't born in the world of being evil people. My mother didn't want me. She hid her pregnancy. She tried to flush me down the toilet. But as I learnt about these things, I always ask myself what was wrong with me?"
"In prison, you're not supposed to show your weaknesses. But to take each step forward in the circle was a reminder to ourselves that we still have the humanity and we want to be loved. Most people on the outside don't understand it. We want to change so we can reenter society better than what we left it."
Watch the 6 minute Step Inside the Circle video:
Retweet about this article: