Beyond Scared Straight -Juvenile Justice Reform: What is the main thing that the public and media don’t understand about what’s going on in the prisons?

Via Scoop.itJuvenile Justice

At a time when most Americans still seem to equate justice with retribution, Robin Casarjian has a different vision. Author of Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart (Bantam), Casarjian is a Boston counselor and educator who began working in prisons in 1988, teaching forgiveness and helping prisoners develop “emotional literacy“ (a term originated by New York Times psychology reporter Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence). In 1995 Casarjian expanded her work by writing a book entitled Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom, which she is giving free of charge to prisons nationwide. Houses is a simply written, pragmatic self-help guide that deals with such subjects as anger and resentment, grief, self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others, and regaining dignity. Replete with simple exercises, meditations, and checklists for self-reflection, Houses provides prisoners with a rare resource for psychological and spiritual self-healing. The readers’ responses to Casarjian are often more poignant than typical fan letters to authors. One prisoner wrote that Houses had been “an eye opener to me that I am not a bad person.” Another pleaded for a personal copy because “I need it like I need air to survive, but most of all because I want to better myself for me and my family.“ Merely by bringing up the idea of healing in relationship to the issues of crime and imprisonment, Casarjian has staked out the high ground in a debate where most commentators and politicians battle over who can come up with the most vengeful and punitive measures. At a time when the “corrections industry” is fast becoming one of the largest governmental enterprises, particularly at the state level, the fact that most prisons seem to serve as graduate schools for advanced criminality should cause widespread consternation. In the following conversation, Casarjian outlines her activist philosophy and answers criticism from both ends of the political spectrum.

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