Thank you for the positive review of the film The Dhamma Brothers by Jack Brown [Cinema Dope, May 29, 2008]. The Vipassana program has been taken as part of treatment within this department. So far, over 150 inmates have gone through the program. The graduate forensic psychology department at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa conducts pre/post testing and longitudinal studies on the program. Results indicate that inmates who take the course experience less acute and long-term anger and are better able to control the outward expression of angry feelings. A five-year follow-up showed a 20 percent reduction in disciplinary actions compared to general prison population inmates.
Most of the inmates taking the course have long sentences ranging from life to life without parole. Since parole consideration is remote to nonexistent for the majority of participants, one of the primary goals of the program is to reduce institutional violence and make the facility a safer place for inmates to live and staff to work.
Ron Cavanaugh, Psy.D.
Director of Treatment
Alabama Dept. of Corrections
Women Build Utopia
May 15th's The World This Week focused on dystopian/utopian visions from our past and into our future. I counted 11 "prognosticators" quoted or referenced in the article; only one (Ursula LeGuin) was female. Here are some ideas in the realm of fantasy to balance out all that intellectual testosterone.
Starhawk's ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing gives an inspirational account of one community's utopian future, while offering a cautionary tale of a dystopia driven by Christian fundamentalism and corporate militarism. Her ideas regarding nonviolent resistance in action are stunning. Octavia Butler's bleak but powerful science fiction series (Lillith's Brood and Parable of the Sower) name places of deep shadow that must be owned if humanity is to move forward and not become extinct. Spider and Jean Robinson have two sci-fi series (the Stardance and the Deathkiller trilogies). In both, humanity is forced to dramatically shift paradigms or to perish stubbornly clinging to outdated ones.
I choose to seek models of a future where we have managed to wake up spiritually and actively pursue "conscious evolution" (a term coined by another female futurist, Barbara Marx Hubbard). My favorite visionary writers (add Marianne Williamson) do not assume that hierarchical thinking, "an eye for an eye" vengeance and soul-killing patriarchal beliefs follow us into the mid-21st and 22nd centuries. I look for inspirational visions of cultural shifts and improbable happenings that allow me to imagine humanity surviving what is before us now with grace. We need all of the creative visioning we can muster. Happy reading!