Jericho Circle Project

What is the Jericho Circle Project?

The Jericho Circle Project is a non-profit 501 © (3) organization that brings men’s work to offenders and ex-offenders in institutional and community settings. The project creates circles to help men become more aware of the connection between their feelings, perceptions and behaviors. As offenders see themselves more clearly, they develop a deeper understanding of how their personal pain and struggles have taken them off course and caused pain to others. Through guided group processes and training in emotional literacy, men build the skills necessary to re-vision interrupted and misguided lives. The project empowers offenders by breaking down the walls that separate them from themselves and others. Once the walls begin coming down, offenders can redirect their lives toward greater commitment, self-awareness, and civic responsibility. JCP assists men who have broken the law to face difficult truths about themselves so they can identify and pursue more productive directions in their lives. Back to top...


What are our goals?

The project seeks to develop a national network of facilitators, standardized curricular materials and support services to assist offenders in federal, state and county institutions, transitional facilities (half-way houses, pre-release centers, etc.), and community settings. We focus on three broad target areas:


What do we teach?

Our programs teach a variety of skills and techniques:

Background

Approximately two million men are incarcerated in the United States. Over the last several decades, correctional facilities have expanded at an unprecedented rate. More money than ever before is going into the criminal justice system, and a disproportionate amount of that money is going into building and maintaining prisons and other secure facilities. In a time of increasing fiscal constraints, federal, state and county correctional facilities cost over $30 billion a year to run. Due to tougher sentencing guidelines and more cautious release policies, more inmates are spending greater period of their lives behind the wire.

By any measure, we have created a prison nation with large numbers of our citizens living inside institutional walls. But in spite of efforts to segregate those who have broken the law through tougher laws and longer sentences, the barrier between offenders and society is far from air-tight. Over 95% of those behind bars will eventually return to society. In 2000, the nation’s prisons released 630,000 people—the largest exodus in prison history—more than four times as many as were released in 1980. Barring life sentences for all offenders, it is clear that the more people that are locked up, the more will eventually be released.

Looking at the other side of the equation—who enters prison—there is ample evidence to suggest that a vicious cycle is in place. Unconditionally released and paroled inmate—whether technical violators or convicted of a new offense—now represent a significantly higher percentage of those entering prisons. Prison populations are not only larger than they have ever been, but they now contain greater numbers of men who have, by whatever measure, failed before. An ever-increasing number of men in our society, especially men of color, have become pariahs—outcasts who find it exceedingly difficult to return from the exile of their confinement and reintegrate into society. Using a phrase that has been applied to slavery, many men returning from prison experience a kind of "social death."

In the long run, the "out of sight, out of mind" approach fails to protect society. It neither completely removes those who have committed crimes from society, nor does it reduce crime among those who are released. Rhetoric and wishful thinking aside, studies have continually demonstrated that time served in prison is not an effective deterrent to crime. To the contrary, the latest research shows that inmates currently released from prison are more likely to commit new crimes than those released a decade earlier. The cycle continues to perpetuate itself over time: men commit crimes, they are sent to prison, they commit new crimes or technical violations, and they are returned to prison. Back to top...


The Crime Problem

Our nation is committed to incarceration as the primary response to crime despite their costs and lack of demonstrated benefits, prisons are here to stay.

Prisons are part of a tough on crime strategy that seeks to incapacitate offenders and deter their future criminal behavior a strategy that cannot be shown to work.

Serving time in prison has become more difficult and damaging in many respects. Programs, both within prisons and after release, have been curtailed. The evidence shows that men who serve more and harder time are likely to be more recalcitrant, bitter and likely to reoffend upon their release. To break the cycle of crime, interventions are needed at two points: when men are subject to the greatest level of supervision and control (in institutions) and when they are released back into their communities. Instead of resources being introduced at these crisis points, they have been systematically withdrawn. Over the last two decades, programming has been significantly reduced both within and beyond institutional settings. The problems associated with the withdrawal of services have been exacerbated as states face a new fiscal crisis in the delivery criminal justice services.

To summarize: on the one hand, the conditions of incarceration have become more austere and coercive, leaving inmates with less hope, fewer rights, fewer ties and fewer skills to return to their communities; on the other hand, supportive services and networks in the post-incarceration environment have been dramatically weakened or have disappeared. Back to top...


Fighting Crime From the Inside-Out

The Jericho Circle Project designs and implements programs to break the crime-punishment-crime cycle. The Project attacks crime from the inside-out in three ways:

Programs

The Jericho Circle Project offers three distinctive yet interrelated programs to meet the needs of men involved with the criminal justice system. Each of these programs is designed to operate in the context of existing correctional systems and their goals. Back to top...


Jericho Integrity Circles

Meeting on a regular 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. Back to top...


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 3-5 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. Back to top...


Jericho Community Circles

The most difficult challenge that offenders face is reentry into their communities. The high risks of recidivism for returning offenders are conspicuous testimony to that fact. The coercive and numbing environment of institutions undermine the very skills that are so crucial to effective adjustment on the outside—flexibility, responsibility, self-awareness, and independence. Jericho Community Circles support men in the reentry process by bridging the circle and initiation work done within institutions with men’s circles operating on the outside. Men who have completed a minimum curriculum and/or initiation cycle within an institution are, with the supervision and guidance of after-care planners, integrated into men’s circles in the communities to which they return. These community circles help extend and strengthen the work that was started in the institutional setting. Community Circles enable men to integrate their ongoing work into their lives and face everyday problems with the support of initiated men who have similar life experience. Back to top...


Daddy Stories

Men behind bars find themselves estranged from their sons and daughter with predictable results: children have little contact with or understanding of their fathers and incarcerated fathers find they are powerless to offer direction, mentoring and nurturing to their children. The impact of separating incarcerated men from their children is far reaching on both sides of the bars. Studies have shown that inmates with close ties to their families and their children have more success at reintegration and lower recidivism rates upon release. For children, especially those at the elementary or pre-school level, the negative effects of disconnection are well documented. Studies have shown that separation of young children from their parents and associated trauma can result in emotional dissociation, regression, depression, anger, and a variety of antisocial behaviors among the children left behind.

One of the most valuable forms of contact between fathers and young children is the “bedtime story.” Any father who has had the opportunity to read such stories to his children can testify to the beauty and precious intimacy that is created during these moments. Even though they may be separated by bars and physical distance, it is possible, through the medium of videotape, to bring fathers and their pre-school children together in this way.

Through this JCP program, fathers and grandfathers are videotaped reading stories (English and Spanish where appropriate) and showing accompanying pictures to their pre-school children. Books are made available to the families at home, along with the videotapes, so that children can follow along with their father’s/grandfather’s narration. Inmates participate in pre-taping sessions to acquaint them with the stories and prepare for their videotaped reading. Back to top...