“I’d gone into a war zone. Everything was a challenge. The best part of the day was hearing the cell door lock at night. Then there was this 3-day workshop. I didn’t care what it was about, it was 3 days out of the environment. Those 3 days, they changed my life.”
Formerly incarcerated, Freedom Project Board President
The Washington State Department of Corrections and the Statewide Reentry Council estimate that 8,000 people are released from prison each year. Many leave prison traumatized, and most have experienced nothing in the form of restorative healing. Furthermore, they are released to cities, towns and neighborhoods that are ill-prepared to support successful reentry.
As a result, over 4,000 of these individuals will be re-incarcerated within five years of release.
Together, we need to do better.
Freedom Project’s vision is that together we shift from punishment to restoration, from oppression to equity, and from apathy to empathy.
We currently offer NVC and mindfulness classes at seven state facilities:
In the future, Freedom Project hopes to expand its programs to encompass major prisons throughout Washington State.
Freedom Project interrupts the cycle of incarceration with programs that provide healing connection and restorative communities for participants both inside and outside prison. Our programs support incarcerated individuals and those recently released through the practice of Nonviolent Communication, mindfulness, racial equity and anti-oppression. These practices define who we are, how we work with the communities we serve, and how we train our volunteers.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been used worldwide for over four decades to help people transform blame, anger and criticism into understanding, effective communication and peaceful resolution of conflict. NVC inspires teamwork, authentic expression, and empathic listening.
Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice that reverses the negative psychological effects of imprisonment and nurtures freedom, inner peace, and human kindness, in places where there is little.
Racial Equity and Anti-Oppression are the intentional practice of re-centering power, resources, and voice to those most impacted by systemic oppression and trauma. We move away from traditional teacher/student methods and embrace a co-learning model in which all have insights to share.
We also support incarcerated individuals to become workshop facilitators and mentors. In 2017, people who are currently incarcerated facilitated 463 hours of class time. Furthermore, we continually work with facilitators who are currently incarcerated and those recently released from prison to develop and revise our curriculum. This collaborative practice supports our values of accountability, equity, and authenticity.
Volunteers lead all of Freedom Project programs, both inside and outside of prison. This enables us to continue to meet the demand for programs inside and outside prison, and reach more participants without depending on paid staff. Since 2001, over 320 volunteers have facilitated Nonviolent Communication, mindfulness and equity classes inside prisons:
That’s a lot of change!