"The Enneagram Prison Project is an outstanding beginning to a long-awaited and much-needed movement towards serious human and societal transformation. In working with the incarcerated, arguably one of the most hurting reflections of our society, the positive impact on all of us is far-reaching and life-changing. This project deserves our earnest attention, financial support, and positive human contribution. This inspiring and uplifting use of the Enneagram as a tool for meaningful social change is in every way worthy of this profound psychological and spiritual system around which I have created my life's work."
— David Daniels, M.D., Author, Teacher
The Essential Enneagram
"I look forward to working with EPP again, and will continue to devote my resources and those of the Enneagram Institute, to supporting this very necessary work. For those of you already involved, thank you! And for those of you thinking about it, I am sure there is a place for you in the greater work of transformation that the Enneagram is part of, and to which those of us in EPP are dedicated."
— Russ Hudson, Author,
The Wisdom of the Enneagram
"The heartful humanity of those incarcerated has not been taken away by either whatever they have done or by the prison system. They are still worthwhile, valuable, and loved — capable of a love and courage that will redeem them and make their hearts glow with wisdom and kindness toward themselves and all humanity. Even from behind bars, those incarcerated can live a meaningful and blessed life because they are (and always have been) connected with the best of human nature in the depths of their own Being. I am certain that studying the Enneagram will gradually lead them to these truths.
— Don Riso, Author,
The Wisdom of the Enneagram
“I'm proud to support this well crafted and determined outreach to the incarcerated. Susan Olesek and now the Enneagram Prison Project brings the spiritual quality of Truth in Action to this necessary and forward-looking Enneagram public-education program."
— Helen Palmer, Author and Teacher
"If we are too busy, if we are carried away every day by our projects, our uncertainty, our craving, how can we have the time to stop and look deeply into the situation — our own situation, the situation of our beloved one, the situation of our family and of our community, and the situation of our nation and of the other nations?"
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Vietnamese Buddhist, Author, Peace Activist
In April of 2012, with the help of two committed, founding board members — Rick Olesek and Suzanne Dion, Susan Olesek — an Enneagram Facilitator-Trainer based in California — founded THE ENNEAGRAM PRISON PROJECT (EPP). EPP is determined to bring the immense transformation Susan witnessed, working with hundreds of inmates, to the hundreds of thousands she knows are newly incarcerated every year in the United States alone.
EPP is a non-profit dedicated to the self-awareness education of the incarcerated, using the Enneagram. The education process includes in-depth application of the Enneagram system and its methodologies combined with addiction-awareness and childhood-trauma education, mindfulness meditation, and sensate-awareness practices.
Freeing the incarcerated everywhere in the world from the prisons of our own making.
The Enneagram is an incisive self-assessment, self-awareness system brought to Stanford University in the 1990s and now taught worldwide to individuals, business leaders, spiritual directors and most recently, to the incarcerated thanks to EPP. To study the Enneagram system in depth, visit Enneagram Worldwide or the Enneagram Institute, two of the world's leading Enneagram training schools; both are located in the U.S.
EPP conducts 8-, 12-, and 16-week group-facilitated programs for both incarcerated men and women in county jails and state prisons in the United States and now also in Helsinki, Finland. Students are required to verbally articulate their learnings in class and in small groups as well as through written assignment.
A 2002 study survey showed that among nearly 275,000 prisoners released in 1994, 67.5% were rearrested within three years, and 51.8% were back in prison. However, the study found no evidence that spending more time in prison reduces the recidivism rate. (Source: Langan, Patrick A.; Levin, David J. (June 2, 2002). "Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994" (pdf). Bureau of Justice Statistics.)
"Prisons are often the forgotten element of the criminal justice system until things go badly. Catching the guy and prosecuting him is really important work, but if we don't do anything with that individual after we've got him, then shame on us. If all that effort goes to waste and we just open the doors five years later, and it's the same guy walking out the door and the same criminal thinking,
we've failed in our mission."
— Minnesota Commission of Corrections,
Tom Roy April 7, 2011
The definitive objective of The Enneagram Prison Project is to bring life-changing impact to those incarcerated in order to ultimately reduce recidivism rates in each state of the nation and each country in the world. This reduces the number of victims and the amount of tax-payers' money spent. How do we do this? By making sure that people behind bars are doing more than just time. The incarcerated need to examine not just what they've done, but why. They need to dissect their interior lives and intrapersonal pain, places that are, for most, even scarier than the things they've done or the crimes they have committed.
Children in harms way all too often grow up to harm society. Once adult, all that unresolved hurt in turn cause immeasurable hurt and suffering by victimizing others and the society in which they struggle to become a viable participant. It costs an average of $47,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California. Capturing, reprimanding, and removing people from our communities takes an enormous toll on all of us. And after all of this? Most are released back into the population and their cycle just starts over. Many actually emerge from jails and prisons in even worse shape than when they went in.
The second key objective is to improve the intrapersonal lives of those behind bars — from the about-to-be-paroled to those serving very long to life sentences. People who have hurt others are hurting within themselves. These women and men can live lives in abject misery and suffering. Statistics show that remarkably high percentages of incarcerated men and women (and no doubt is at the root of those incarcerated for violent crimes) were victims of countless forms of abuse and neglect and suffer psychological turmoil that quite often if not always began in early childhood; this is so hard to imagine let alone comprehend for those who were raised in safe, nurturing, and supportive homes. Comprehending this, it is important to address much of the incarcerated population with understanding, compassion and care, and with the most effective tools for healing and for change available. A shift in caring is upon us. Welcome to our work. A shift in caring is upon us. Welcome to our work.
EPP facilitates Enneagram-driven programs "on the inside" that provide an isolated environment for inmates to study themselves, their childhood backgrounds, their particular personality structure, and what triggers their emotional and psychological reactivity. Each inmate student is assisted to understand the core motivations behind why they do and think and react in the ways that they do, and why they’ve made the choices they have eventually made that landed them incarcerated.
EPP also includes instructive educational modules on addictive disorders awareness and childhood trauma and neglect awareness, following the teachings and research of EPP’s Board of Advisors Dr. Gabor Maté and Dr. Mark Schwartz, both experts in the fields of addiction recovery and trauma.
EPP further teaches basic meditation and mindfulness techniques in order to strengthen inmates' ability to observe their own thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. EPP teaches inmates how to better self-regulate emotional terrain and impulsivity. Self-observation has been proven to accomplish the following results, among many others:
- Gain direct insights as to why they’ve turned to criminal behavior and acting out (a cover for something deeper)
- Show how to manage and reduce overwhelming feelings and the need to act on these negative emotional triggers
- Learn to master grounding techniques to reduce emotional stress that can lead to violent reactivity, criminal activtiy, or chronic addictive relapses
- Identify personality type strengths, challenges, blind spots, character weaknesses, and personal paths of of emotional and psychological development
The Enneagram Prison Project (EPP) is developing a large community of Enneagram coaches, mentors, and trainers specifically skilled in supporting EPP students once they are released as well as cultivating individuals who can return to facilities with us and share their learnings on the inside, former inmates who can inspire those still incarcerated with a lot of heart and care to designated prison populations.
Members of our society who have suffered when young and grew up to perpetrate against others need and deserve a razor-sharp tool such as the Enneagram and skillful teachers to incisively extract them from violent, despairing, hurting and self-sabotaging patterns. These individuals are deserving of facilitators who know suffering, who are empathetic and skilled, who are seasoned and adept with the Enneagram system, and who will bear witness to each student’s process with wisdom, presence, guidance and deep compassion.
The US has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, with 743 people incarcerated for every 100,000 Americans. No other nation even comes close to these figures.
One in 100 American adults has been behind bars
In 2008, approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or being monitored (probation and parole).
Of all those currently in U.S. prisons today, 8.5% are female and approximately 91% are male.
Total state annual spending on corrections is roughly $52 billion, the bulk of that number is spent running prisons.
Forty-three percent (43.3 %) of those released in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years.
It costs an average of $78.95 per day to keep an inmate locked up,
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates (reported by NewsOne), African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates.
A black male is seven times more likely to be imprisoned than a white male. Socio-economic differerences considered key to this statistic.
Reenactment of childhood victimization is the major cause of violence in our society.
Numerous-studies have documented that most violent criminals were physically or sexually abused as children. (Groth, 1979; Seghorn et al, 1987)
Of the 14 juveniles condemned to death for murder in the US in 1987, 12 of them, or 86% had been brutally, physically abused and five had been sodomized by relatives as children. (Lewis et al, 1998)
A study of convicted killers reports 83.8% suffered severe physical and emotional abuse and 32.2% were sexually violated as children. (Blake, 1995) WCHAC-STATS http://www.annafoundation.org/wchac-stats.html 4 of 5 3/6/2005 2:57 PM
Eighty percent (80%) of women in prison and jails have been victims of sexual and physical abuse. These women are far more likely to be abused while in prison. (Smith, 1998)
These staggering statistics come with major social implications because prisoners don't have the luxury of examining why they're hurting, instead they stuff it, armor their hearts, and just hope to survive. Inmates also can't have jobs and therefore don't pay taxes, they can't care for their children at home, and they cost an average of $28,000.00 per year to keep behind bars. Tax payers are the ones that pay for this and still face being perpetrated against once again when offenders who are not rehabilitated are released back into society, oftentimes in worse shape than when they were incarcerated in the first place.
"Four years and hundreds of inmates later, there's one thing I know for sure: The Enneagram works. When properly understood, it is in fact a profound tool for personal transformation."
— Susan Olesek, Founder EPP
Susan Olesek | Human Potentialist | Enneagram Teacher
Rick Olesek | Information Systems | Entrepreneur
Suzanne Dion | Marketing and Communications, Enneagram Teacher
We have faith enough in this work to do it for free, and many times do just that. But we don't want to deplete the passion behind this effort before it comes to its fruition. We are raising what we need to not just survive, but to thrive. The work of self-realization is no quick-fix, that's not how it happens. This is life-long work.
To that end, the more carefully we lay the foundation for curriculum tailored to this population, gather Enneagram facilitators who are well prepared for the environment of prison, and the more prepared we are to financially support this well intentioned effort, the more people we'll be able to reach. We are all about providing the incarcerated with the internal, psychological, and emotional resources we and they need to set forth an extraordinary caliber of transformative work.
• As an Individual | Become a Part of EPP EPP offers opportunities to participate as a volunteer, coach or mentor, in-custody teacher or fundraising contributor.
• As a Correctional Facility | Become a Provider of EPP Programs EPP contracts directly with correctional facilities of all sizes to offer in-custody and re-entry programs and classes.
• As an International Affiliate | EPP forms a partnered alliance with internationally based organizations who want to bring EPP programs and services to correctional facilities in their respective countries.
Working together we can make a much needed difference.