Through the Eyes of Inmates – Week 4

Scroll down for this week’s reflections on compassion for friends and family written by Donovan Correctional Facility inmates.

At Compassion It, we envision a day where compassion is practiced by every person, for every person, on every day. When we say every person, we mean EVERY person…including prison inmates.

Thanks to partnerships with the nonprofits Brilliance Inside and the Prison Yoga Project, we’re honored and thrilled that this year’s 30-Day Compassion It Challenge includes inmates from one of the yards at RJ Donovan Correctional Facility. We’re meeting with a small group of Donovan inmates each week in order to take a deeper dive into mindfulness, compassion, and self-compassion. By sharing the inmates’ stories and reflections of mindfulness and compassion with you each week and by sharing your stories of compassion with them, we hope to begin to bridge the vast gap that exists between those on the inside and the rest of us on the outside.

We gave the inmates paper Compassion It wristbands to remind them to make compassion a priority each day. They voluntarily joined the challenge as a way to cultivate compassion and create a more peaceful environment within themselves, within the prison walls, and beyond. This challenge offers inmates the opportunity to give back and make amends for the crimes they committed.

Compassion for Friends and Family

By: Anonymous Inmate

This week is compassion for friends and family.

I continue to use/practice mindfulness, which is working for me very well. To me as I actually apply each week to my life (mindfulness, compassion for friends and family) I see growth with in myself I never thought possible.

This week I had a confrontation with someone who I actually felt I was getting to know. The confrontation at hand had the person so mad he had his fist clenched in my face.

For the old me, this behavior would be unacceptable and would have had a negative ending.

But, applying compassion, I was able to extend my hand, apologize and to my surprise receive a handshake as well as a genuine apology. (FYI, this has NEVER happened in my life)

I owe my thanks to Compassion It.


Self Compassion

By: Anonymous Inmate

This week was a challenge for me, more so than the past two weeks. I didn’t know how to be compassionate to myself. I come from a very violent background and I have done a lot of violence to others. I learned and accepted being violent at an early age as a form of communication, even with myself. I’ve been incarcerated since I was 17, and 22 years later I still struggle with forgiving myself and having compassion for myself.

I see clearly how not having compassion for myself created a suicidal and all-or-nothing personality. I used to consider myself hurt and damaged beyond repair; now I know whatever I focus my life’s energy on is what and who “I am”. I used to get triggered by my judgments and perception, and communicate hurt and damage feeling through violence.

Now, I sit quietly and patiently, loving myself, forgiving myself and having understanding and holding space for others.

I can now do something that brings me joy without causing others pain. My mind is quiet, I laugh in true happiness with myself and others. I appreciate myself and all that I’ve been through, overcame and am. I am my own best friend; my unhealthy habit(s) has been replaced w/ patience, productive ones and Life and the things I put in my body are delicious and healthy.

One step, one second and one life at a time!


Oct 22, 2017

By: Anonymous Inmate

I was sitting outside thinking about my family health problems. I was trying to find a way that I could help my family, besides praying for them.

Realizing there is nothing that I could do from in here for my family really had me frustrated and made me feel sad.

I did not notice that I was weeping until a female staff walked up to me and ask me if I was all right. I lied to the lady, saying I was fine and that it was just my allergies.

After the lady walked away, I started wiping the tears from my eyes. When I felt a hand on my shoulder, I looked up to see a man I had never seen before. The man did not say anything to me, he just kept patting my shoulder.

It felt good to receive some compassion during the time of my grief. I realize no matter where you might be in the world, there will always be people that will give kindness, compassion and love to other people that are in need.

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