|photo courtesy Lucy Leu|
Freedom Project was co-founded by Lucy Leu (right, 2nd row) and Rusty Thompson (left of Leu) in 1998 to help current and former prisoners find the freedom of inner peace and reconcile with their communities. Leu, Thompson and the Freedom Project team go into three Washington state prisons to offer workshops in Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication techniques—reframing expression to speak and to listen with compassion—combined with such “mindfulness” practices as meditation.
An important component of the Freedom Project is helping prisoners make the transition into communities once they are released. Freedom Project workers organize and run support groups for “returnees.” “Safe Returns,” a Freedom Project program in the planning stages will offer returnees daily one-on-one meetings with designated community members.
The success of the Freedom Project, Leu believes, may be attributed to two sorts of partnership; the first is the melding of meditation with Nonviolent Communication, a pairing that helps prisoners become spiritually centered. The second is the collaboration between former prisoners and NEBIs (No Experience Being Incarcerated). When former inmates carry the message, their words and example have the power of authenticity.