The Compassion Prison Project began in 2018 when Fritzi Horstman, the Grammy award-winning film producer, read the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk and her understanding and perceptions around trauma and its impact on human behaviour were irrevocably altered. Up to that point she had been unaware that her beliefs and behaviours were the result of the trauma she had endured as a child… As a result of this realisation, her mission to make a difference was born. She felt it was her responsibility and duty to do more.
Her research and explorations helped her to see that it was in the prison environment that the greatest evidence of trauma was to be found… and something needed to change. Over the course of several months, Fritzi and a dedicated team of facilitators and volunteers partnered with incarcerated men at Kern Valley (a maximum security prison in California) where they created powerful tools to address and heal from childhood trauma.
They spent time exploring childhood trauma and the impact it had on their lives. They found that by using techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and the power of intention, they were able to bring about healing and positive change. As a result, they created the Compassion Trauma Circle which gave the men a physical way to see and understand their childhood trauma, by understanding the shame and dehumanisation that results from both child abuse and incarceration.
These men found ways to make amends to themselves, to the people they’d harmed and to their communities. They learned what it means to have deeper compassion for themselves and others, and what it means to have a sense of belonging by recognising our shared humanity. Through this process they began honouring and uplifting one another while joining together as a community.
This powerful video gives a moving illustration of this work:
To find out more about The Compassion Prison Project and the innovative work it is doing, click here.