On July 19, 2017, I facilitated a circle for incarcerated men who are students in the Common Good Atlanta program at Phillips State Prison. Common Good Atlanta serves as a liaison between prisons offering college courses for incarcerated men and universities teaching the courses.
While heading to the prison with Dr. Elizabeth Beck, who invited me to share how restorative practices are used in schools, I was excited for another opportunity to hold circle and nervous about my ability to create a safe space in a prison setting.
I was quickly reminded that I had no reason to be nervous because together we could hold the space. All I had to do was be authentic and trust the process. Trusting the process means trusting yourself and those who are with you. It means believing in the goodness of people and knowing that collectively, we have everything we need to hold the space.
This circle was no exception. Yes, these men were convicted of crimes, but they are more than the incidences that landed them in prison. Therefore, we shared authentically and they emanated wisdom, power, and goodness though their status often leads to them being viewed as unlearned, powerless, and insufficient.
I could sense our interconnectedness and collective strength which stirred up a variety of emotions. I was happy they had one another, sad their knowledge and strength was caged in a prison complex, and thankful for our time together.
If given the opportunity, I would gladly return to Phillips State Prison. My only hope is that I have helped them as much as they helped me.