The September 2015 Mindful Justice Conference held at the Fetzer Institute Seasons Conference Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan was co-sponsored by PMI, CMLJ, Fetzer Institute and the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation and was funded by the Fetzer Institute and the Lenz Foundation.
This conference brought together the pioneers of mindfulness-based programming in the criminal justice system, as well as teachers, researchers, and policy-makers with an interest in this work, to explore how we can establish a shared vision for system-wide transformation drawing on the principles and practices of mindfulness.
This might have seemed utopian 10 years ago. Times have changed, however. Meditation,mindfulness, and other contemplative practices are more widely understood and frequently discussed in popular media.
A body of scientific data has been published which validates and explains the processes by which contemplative practices alter brain function and structures.
This is a moment of unusual openness to ideas for reforming the criminal justice system. Calls for reform come from every point on the political spectrum. No one, however, has yet articulated a philosophy for transforming the system, grounded in contemplative principles: compassion, community building, and respect for the dignity of all participants. We propose to do that and to put it forward into the public debate.
We believe that that integrating mindfulness principles and practices at all levels of the system–from police encounters on the street to our courts, prisons, and reentry process–could create a dramatically different criminal justice system, one that leads to less suffering, and lower, human and financial cost.
Our goal with the September 2015 conference was to explore and refine this vision together, and discuss how we can put it forward into the mainstream criminal reform discussion, with the hope that over time it leads to deep and meaningful change that benefits all those impacted by our criminal justice system.