Description of Organization
The Prison Dharma Network (Prison Mindfulness Institute) was founded in 1989 by Acharya Fleet Maull, a Buddhist then serving a 14.5 year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking. Through Buddhist meditation practices and spiritual teachings of various Buddhist teachings, Acharya Maull rehabilitated himself and dedicated his organization to provide meditation-based and/or contemplative prison ministry programs and outreach projects through a network which has over 180 organizational members and over 2200 individual members. The purpose is to assure that every prisoner who is inclined toward employing meditation, contemplative spirituality and other transformative practices has access to the teachings and resources they need to realize their aspirations. The Prison Mindfulness Institute works directly with prison chaplains and other corrections staff to assist them in understanding and providing for healing, educational and spiritual needs of the prisoners and staff of their institutions in the context of a restorative and transformative approach to corrections. Prison Mindfulness Institute supports prisoners in the practice of contemplative disciplines, with an emphasis on sitting meditation practice and the practice and study of Buddhist teachings and other wisdom traditions. It promotes these paths of wakefulness and nonaggression as ideal vehicles for self-rehabilitation and personal transformation. Prison Mindfulness Institute also provides mindfulness-based staff development training for corrections professionals.
In 2022, a grant in the amount of $15,000 was awarded to produce and host an online Prison Mindfulness Summit, the first such online gathering with production support from Heart Mind Institute (HMI), a professional summit production company.
PDN/PMI hosted the Global First Responders Resilience Summit in October 2021, also with the support of HMI. A series of three different prison Dharma/prison mindfulness gatherings took place in the early 2000’s in New Mexico and California, organized by different groups. PDN played an organizing role for the first gathering and participated very actively in the other two. However, since that time, approximately 2002, there have been no significant national conferences or gatherings focused on prison Dharma/mindfulness. PDN feels that gathering together the key contributor and new contributors to this key vehicle for Engaged Buddhism in America for a conference or summit is long overdue.
According to PDN, “This will be a 4 or 5 day free online summit that will air live in late October, 2022. It will consist primarily of pre-recorded interviews, though we may organize some live panels. We will recruit a very diverse group of 20 – 30 speakers, including some of the pioneers in the prison harma/mindfulness/yoga movement, and very much with an emphasis on current contributors, and BIPOC presenters active in bringing Buddhism, mindfulness and yoga into our prisons and jails throughout the United States. We will also include presenters involved in at-risk youth and gang violence prevention as well as post release programming for returning citizens. We will also include among the presenters formerly incarcerated persons who are now active in prison Dharma work.”
In 2018, an additional grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to continue the Mindful Justice Program.
In 2017, a grant in the amount of $20,000 was awarded to continue their Mindful Justice: Transforming our Criminal Justice System through Mindfulness program. This program helped to establish a national platform to bring mindfulness training and values into the criminal justice system. Through various national meetings, research, writing, and workshops, Mindful Justice has helped spread mindfulness-based interventions throughout the criminal justice system and raised the awareness of mindfulness among criminal justice professionals and policymakers.
In 2014, a grant in the amount of $1,000 was awarded to fund a pilot meeting as part of the Prison Mindfulness Institute, Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law and Justice Systems Assessment & Training collaboration.
In 2012, a Pay it Forward Grant in the amount of $75,000 was awarded to create and execute a two-year major donor campaign to promote the field of Buddhism and meditation or mindfulness-based work in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, post-release, and at-risk youth programs as well as to increase development capacity.
In 2007, a grant in the amount of $225,000 was awarded to support core operations, build capacity, and expand prison programs and services to prisoners, prison staff, and prison volunteers.