Turning Prisons
into Monasteries

The Prison Monastery

Our most radical concept is to restore the penitentiary to its roots; a place to contemplate and meaningfully contribute to society while incarcerated, in the process transforming shame into contribution.

Matt Sherman, member of Black Box, recently posted about his experience in New York City. Check out his blog post here
Volunteers harvested snap peas and lettuce from our farm for this week’s Free Food Philo meal
Mendocino County Jail received a chicken coop donation from Carolina Coops, and Founder Matt DuBois flew in to help build it with the male and female garden crews
A state prison in Alabama has approved the inception of it’s first ever yoga program, held by members of the Art of Soulmaking community there. UFP is sending over 25 yoga mats and yoga blocks to be used on the death row unit yoga group.
Matt Sherman, a member of BlackBox, is on a Black Joy & Genius Tour along the East Coast. Read his latest blog here
Soulmakers have been sending us beautiful art work as they go through the program. This is an art piece from California Medical Facility
Earth program awarded a $50,000 grant to fund our prison botanical sanctuary program at Mendocino County Jail, a program that will both promote ecosystem restoration, community contribution, as well as education and employment for the incarcerated population at the jail. Watch our video here
The Guards to Guardians program completed it first five week series with five guest speakers taking 20+ officers through the Guards to Guardians workbook. Recordings are available online on our website to view.
John Liu is on an extended stay on The Land and designing a 100 square mile restoration plan in Anderson Valley California to offset early stage desertification.
Jay Davis, leader in the Harlem Bloods organization and long-time peace advocate, and Gary York, 30-year veteran CO, have each signed on as advocates and spokespeople for Art Of Soulmaking and Guards to Guardians program. A North Carolina State prison has given preliminary approval for both to visit over a weekend to launch each program
The Art of Soulmaking, launched 18 months ago, now receives over 350 letters every month, has reached over 3,000 people, and we now have over 250 volunteers
BlackBox released an interview with Jay Davis, Harlem Blood leader, on his path of Soulmaking in gang to prison life. Chowchilla prison then asked if he could come do a program there. Watch video here
Free Food Philo completed a mini-film about the Free Food Philo sit down meal at a local restaurant. Watch here
Golden Rule Garden in Ukiah joined our Free Food partner network, supplying produce weekly for our Philo and Ukiah meals.
Guards to Guardian currently is working with officers to be trained in the program to mentor other COs around the country.

Restoring
prisons to their purpose;
penitence

Watch Video

TRANSFORMATION IN 4 STAGES:

  1. HEALING: Soul-restoration through working the earth
  2. CONNECTION: Food as a love delivery system
  3. LIBERATION: Reclaiming power based in responsibility
  4. SOCIAL JUSTICE: Consciousness through contribution

Collectively, these form our human ecology.

PRISONS WILL BECOME PREMIERE LOCATIONS / FOR CLIMATE ISSUES

Prison residents could be leaders in restoring soil fertility and creating carbon-negative farmland, critical skills in the 2030 initiative to reduce greenhouse gas.

WE CANNOT HEAL THE 
SOUL IF THE BODY IS 
WEAK AND SICK

The prison diet consists largely
of corn syrup, sugar and
carbohydrates. These foods
are also prevalent in
impoverished communities.

This contributes to the
significantly higher rates of
heart-related health issues.

PRISON WILL OFFER 
THE TOOLS AND 
ENVIRONMENT 
FOR SELF-INQUIRY

Residents need the space to
carve out their own freedom.

We provide frameworks,
contemplative practices and
healing processes adapted
specifically for people in
prison, many of whom struggle
with issues around addiction,
mental illness, and race.

PRISONS WILL PROVIDE 
RESIDENTS THE 
CUTTING-EDGE SKILLS 
TO SUCCEED

Residents who have in-prison
job training have reduced rates
of recidivism. The higher the
wages people in prison can earn
after release, the lower the rate
of recidivism.

Through meaningful contribution,
people in prison reduce shame
and guilt and restore dignity.

Attracting the top talent in various domains from
cooking to ecosystem restoration to education to teach in
prisons for free and record for public consumption

Learn More

The Art
of Soulmaking

“Art of Soulmaking is a way or a tool for people to use to do
some of that inner work they need to do.”

- Kate Feigin, Restorative Justice
Manager at Mendocino County Jail

One Day at a Time

"This is hard for me, some of the questions bring thoughts and memories that even go far beyond the question. But I also feel it is good for me... and I do a little then I meditate and stretch some. I’m able to hear my inner voice and not just shut it down or close it out. Thank you for this project. I’m especially thankful for it at this time and point in my time and life.”
Tami Jade
Art of Soulmaking student

Learn more about The Art of Soulmaking

The Art of Soulmaking (AOS) workbook teaches contemplative practices, along with meditation and yoga. The purpose of the book is to guide one towards discovering their unique genius. Every incarcerated student or Soulmaker is paired with a volunteer like you to correspond by mail as you both journey through the book and exercises.

Forgiving Yourself

"When you take all the exercises of the soulmaking and put them all together you learn how to love yourself and forgive yourself."
Kelly
Art of Soulmaking Student

Working with Pain

"I believe this course really opened up my eyes to a lot of pain I was running from. This course really allowed me to confront some of my ways of thinking that were keeping me locked in constant battle with myself. I was not beacon of light I know I can be. I've faced a lot of my demons throughout this course, I won't say it was easy, but I can say it was worth it."
Pricilla
Art of Soulmaking Student

Free in My Cell

"As I complete week 7 of “The Art of Soulmaking” I feel like a better version of myself. I have struggled to be vulnerable... but felt that this was different... I live in a cell but feel more free as a result of the daily meditation and yoga because I can be “free in my mind.”"
Anonymous
Art of Soulmaking Student
Learn More

The Art of Soulmaking workbook is now used in over 70 prisons across the country. This “monastery in a book” teaches contemplative practices, along with meditation and yoga. The purpose of this book is to guide one toward discovering their unique genius, providing tools to take pain and darkness and convert it in to creativity. Individuals in prison studying the book are paired with volunteer penpals like you to share in this journey. Download the book for free and click here to learn about how to volunteer.

The Art of Soulmaking

“Having been able to experience that [Soulmaking] with my mom….We were able to converse about the things that she learns and she does in there, and I try to incorporate it in my life out here. It’s truly just a blessing to be able to do that with her. Because it’s made her happier. Overall, it’s made me a lot happier.”

Angelica, daughter of a woman serving life without possibility of parole sentence and Art of Soulmaking facilitator

From Guards
to Guardians

Guards to Guardians helps COs re-envision their lives and
their work and connect more deeply with the nobility of their
calling. Seekers will find recognition, insights,
encouragement, and reflections to help embrace and embody
the role of the guardian, and thus to enrich not only their
work but their life as a whole.

For those who believe in redemption, there is no nobler role
than that of a Corrections Officer. Join the Program Online.

Guards to Guardian Book

"COs venture into spaces most of us dare not tread, to do a job most of us could not do. They see things most of us could not imagine, and endure experiences that would break the rest of us into pieces...Yet in reality, in spite of all this—and in fact because of this—there exists the potential for something different...For a way for COs to do their work in a way that’s more meaningful and more impactful, for themselves and the rest of the world."
Guards to Guardian Book
publishing March 2022

Brian Dawe, MCI Norfolk Prison

"I mean there are still certain things that I don't like about myself that I know I can see I am reacting in a way I don't want to react. My god when I was younger I told my daughter one day to go to her cell."

Image

Keith Hellwig

"I’d be fighting with someone, maybe using pepper spray, and a half hour later I’d be sitting at the dinner table with my family. There was no transition time. It affected me and my family. There were times when I had to remember that my kids weren’t inmates."

Image

Anthony Gangi

“I believe this is a noble profession. I believe what we do is a public service that is rarely recognized. One of my goals is to remind people that we are true professionals and deserving of self-worth. I'm tired of people bashing what I do, because it is a piece of who I am, a part of me."

Image
Learn More

Get Involved

Get Involved

UFP Volunteers

Unconditional Freedom Project Volunteer Letter Writers are at the forefront of our work to advance our mission of turning Prisons into Monestaries and changing the lives of millions of people. These efforts serve to provide thousands of prisoners with a way to thoughtfully connect with the outside world and support them on their path to healing and self inquiry.

Turning Prisons into Monasteries