Men's Circles to bring down the walls
Circles are a place where inner discoveries become possible and truth can be told. Joseph Campbell has said that “When a magician wants to work magic, he puts a circle around himself, and it is within this bounded circle, this hermetically sealed-off area, that powers can be brought into play that are lost outside the circle.”
The Jericho Circle Project volunteers create and facilitate men’s circles in prisons to support personal change and the discovery of deeper truth. These circles help incarcerated men develop tools to come to terms with their inner struggles and bring down the walls that separate them from their loved ones, communities and themselves. Carefully crafted to develop trust and support authenticity, Jericho circles help men see themselves more clearly, many for the first time. In Jericho circles men learn how to identify and express their feelings, communicate clearly, address conflicts in their lives, hold themselves accountable, identify new personal directions and, perhaps most importantly, find out “what makes them tick.”
When equipped with these skills, men serving time are able to develop a more congruent way of living both within and beyond the walls. “Walking their talk” is one place that men in our circles begin to make diffeent choices and see different possibilities for their futures. Jericho encourages and supports men in “getting real.” Through JCP programs, offenders get to look at their shadows and come to understand the costs to themselves and others of keeping those shadows locked up. The “crisis of masculinity” has kept many men behind walls of their own and society’s making– many of those men end up in prison as a result.. JCP offers incarcerated and transitioning men support to bring down those walls and find new ways to reinvent their lives and become powerful and productive men in the world.
Meeting on a regular (usually weekly) basis within institutions, these circles offer inmates useful and accessible tools to heal their wounds in the crucible of the prison setting. Accountability for behavior and integrity (congruence between what we say and what we do) is a cornerstone of the circle-building process. Within the prison circles, men are held accountable for their actions and commitments.
By speaking and acting on their truth and touching basic feelings, men discover what it means to be authentic on every level. The purpose of this training is to prepare inmates to speak and “own” their emotions and behaviors in a setting which demands that they see themselves and others clearly. In addition, these circles help men develop critical skills in conflict resolution to safely and effectively express feelings without violence.
The crisis of incarceration can motivate men to re-examine their lives and to explore new paths and directions. Jericho Integrity Circles provide safe containers for inmates to do this work.
Jericho Circle Intensive Initiations
There are few ways in which boys can be initiated as men in our culture. In traditional societies, boys entered into manhood through a ritual designed by mature men in their village or social group.
The purpose of this ritual was to create a separation from their lives as boys, to expose them to an ordeal of self-discovery and to welcome them back into their community as initiated men. It is our belief that many young men in our society turn to crime and substance abuse because they have not experienced an effective initiation into manhood. Young men are hungry for guidance, mentoring and challenge from responsible men in their community. In the absence of this experience, men who are passing through and beyond adolescence frequently create their own “pseudo-initiations” (gang rituals, body marking, trials by violence to themselves and others, etc.). While these rites of passage are intended to prove the manhood of young men, they often end up doing the opposite—trapping these men in behaviors and environments that keep them in a state of dependency and take them further away from what it really means to be a man.
Within institutional settings, there are many opportunities to validate manhood in the wrong way. In contrast to the rituals that take men deeper into rule-breaking, JCP offers an intensive 2-3 day initiation experience that challenges and supports men in a journey of self-discovery.
Through these intensive workshops, incarcerated men are able to become grounded in the present and see both their past and their future more clearly. They are given an opportunity to address obstacles that have kept them from maturing and learn tools to not only keep them more present, but to anchor them in more realistic, productive and responsible visions of the future. As of 2009, JCP will have coordinated 13 of these intensive weekends at 4 different correctional institutions at the state and federal levels.