Retreatants gather to celebrate Mass at Ironwood State Prison during a JRJI retreat. (Picture provided by RedEarthLA)
JRJI has been facilitating restorative justice spiritual retreats using Ignatian meditation in California state prisons and juvenile halls since 2009. Through meditation based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we have been able to move the hearts of our incarcerated communities and help them recognize God's presence in their lives. This prayer method activates the imagination by using the senses of taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Loving with the heart of Jesus helps us to navigate our lives to a place of healing. Returning to these facilities is very important to us as we build relationships with these growing spiritual and monastic-like communities.
We have also established a Restorative Justice "Jesus the Risen Prisoner" Retreat Program that we currently offer to many California prisons. The purpose of this program is to guide and assist inmates as they experience self-awareness, empathy and healing. We have established our program in the general population yards (GP), transitional housing units (THU), sensitive needs yards (SNY), and occasionally, in security housing units (SHU). In many cases, this process is transformative as the inmates gain a sense of hope that their lives will not be meaningless, and they can accomplish good, even behind bars. We have witnessed inmates restore relationships with their families and victims of crime through this transformative process influenced by spiritual exercises and education.
What happens at a retreat? On a retreat, prisoner-retreatants are given the opportunity to place themselves in the presence of a loving God who sees them for who they are – not mistakes, but rather individuals in need of healing. Through the application of the principles of Ignatian spirituality, the prisoners are introduced to Ignatian meditation, contemplation, and discernment of spirits. They are able to find a spiritual space to address their sins, to encounter God’s infinite love, to meet Jesus Christ face-to-face, and to journey with Jesus in his passion, death, and resurrection.
Participants of JRJI retreats are given an opportunity to reach healing and forgiveness following this five-step method: 1. Testimony 2. Gospel 3. Meditation 4. Anointment 5. Writing & Sharing
By learning the tools of Ignatian meditation, prisoners are given the tools to embrace the love and healing power of Christ in a loveless and often hopeless place. By virtue of their cells and the restrictions of freedom placed on them, prisoners are ideally suited to become modern-day monastics who can dedicate their lives to prayer for their victims, their families, and the world. Through a method developed by a soldier-turned-mystic in Spain over 500 years ago, lives are changed and men and women are liberated from the vicious cycle of violence and suffering.
Restorative Justice "Jesus the Risen Prisoner" programs established in state prisons
Pictured: Fr. Mike Kennedy with Corcoran retreat participants. Drawing provided by a Corcoran inmate of the Jesus the Risen Prisoner Community at Corcoran State Prison.
JRJI currently facilitating Restorative Justice "Jesus the Risen Prisoner" Retreat Program at Centinela State Prison, Pleasant Valley State Prison, Calipatria State Prison, C.C.I. in Tehachapi, and the California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster once a month. We also facilitate this program at Corcoran State Prison/CSATF, California Institution for Men and California Institution for Women, High Desert State Prison, and Pelican Bay State Prison various times throughout the year. In recent years, JRJI helped initiate and coordinate restorative justice retreats and works in Seattle, Washington and St. Louis, Missouri.
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JESUIT RESTORATIVE JUSTICE INITIATIVE 8501 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232 (310) 559-0777 • firstname.lastname@example.org