Since 1998 the Center has provided instruction in the practice of Zen meditation to inmates in federal, state and county facilities throughout North Central Florida. Currently, twelve prisons and jails participate in the prison outreach program, in which approximately 400 inmates are served annually. Through instruction and study of Zen meditation that emphasizes high personal standards, participants are given the tools to cultivate a strong, life-affirming self-image that looks beyond the stigma of “convict” to view themselves as individuals with much to offer others and the community as a whole.
Our programs can be divided into five areas:
- Secular, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) groups and retreats.
- Zen groups
- Possible residency at the Gateless Gate Zen Center for individuals who have exhibited a strong commitment to the practice and to educational efforts.
- Inter-faith meditation.
- The death row ministry, which consists of individual visits and counseling
In US prisons, where the funding for rehabilitation continues to shrink and recidivism rates continue to rise (statistics currently indicate that 65% of the 100,000-plus inmates released this year will be rearrested), there is a tremendous need for independent organizations, like the Gateless Gate, that help the system with its struggle to reduce recidivism and lower crime rates. We accomplish this by helping incarcerated individuals to cultivate an outlook on life that is filled with deeper meaning and purpose, and less focused on the superficial, materialistic aspects of life. We also help these individuals to develop self-discipline and impulse control, and to uproot the root causes of their suffering and of the harmful actions that result from difficulty dealing with suffering.
Perhaps the most critical aspect of the struggle to break the cycle of recidivism is our residency program, which helps people develop social and technical skills. This is especially true for people with addiction issues. Often times, for people with addictions, the first several days after release will determine whether they continue toward a productive, ethical lifestyle, or toward a life of crime. This is determined in large part by where they reside. Are these people in their old neighborhood, with their old peer group or dysfunctional families, or are they in a meditative atmosphere surrounded by people who support their transformation?
In many respects we have become the victims of our success. The prison program has expanded beyond the capacity of the Gateless Gate Zen Center to support. Your financial and/or volunteer support is desperately needed to assist us in our efforts. The Gateless Gate Zen Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporation. All funds donated to the Gateless Gate Zen Center are tax deductible. Find information about how to donate here.
Our prison program works. Read the testimonials of those that have personally experienced and benefited from the program.