I read with great interest the article by Dana Boone, “Liberal Arts in Prison.” I completely support and applaud the involvement of Grinnell students in making a difference in the lives of incarcerated people. What a wonderful way to empower not only the prisoners involved, but our society as a whole.
For the past 10 years, I have been a facilitator and a part of a group called Developing a Positive Attitude at San Quentin State Prison here in northern California. The group is modeled on Jerry Jampolsky’s teachings of attitudinal healing. The men who put in the work realize that they have a choice about how they think, act, and respond; their peace of mind and way of being is greatly impacted by this program, and the group members who have been paroled from San Quentin are, to a man, living productive, happy, and healthy lives.
There are also many college programs offered in San Quentin that pave the way for these men to return to society as people who contribute and make a difference. Many of the men in my group have been incarcerated for decades. One such man is a biker, heavily tattooed, and is only recently expressing emotions other than hate. He often stops me after group to discuss his newest passion, physics, and his fascination with string theory. Thanks to my Grinnell education, I at least have some idea of what he is talking about and how exhilarating it is to have the opportunity to learn.
Keep it up!