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.