I was pretty brief in my initial post on the closing of the Kinross Ethics Project. I know many people are puzzled and upset about this decision and some have asked after me and asked what, if anything, can be done.
The first thing I want to say is that the ethics group always existed due to the grace of the Michigan Department of Corrections. So losing it isn’t a matter of losing something we had a right to. We’ve never had any sense of entitlement about it. I also know that from the DOC's point of view, all things must be considered in terms of maintaining order in prisons and preventing prisoners from using privileges for bad ends. These are legitimate concerns.
This doesn’t mean I agree with their decision. I believe the ethics group came under fire because I wrote the guidebook “Stepping Up.” In their legitimate concern for security, prison officials have created a situation and a system of rules in which good and healthy things (such as healthy relationships with ethical and successful people and the writing of a book imploring prisoners to act ethically) are treated with suspicion, condemned and prohibited. Since such things — not external control mechanisms — are the infrastructure of true security, condemning and prohibiting them in the name of security actually has the opposite effect: it decreases security.
Because I believe this, I’ve written to the MDOC director and offered the program to the department. I would love to see them accept this offer and implement the Ethics Project throughout the state. If any of you have anything to say that may allay their suspicions (about me or the program) or simply something to say about the program’s value, you can follow up with a letter of your own to Daniel H. Heyns, MDOC Director, PO Box 30003, Lansing, MI 48909. Maryann has a copy of the letter I sent, so if you want that for background she can email it to you.
As with all things, the most important question in this is how can we keep our response wholistic? How can our response represent what we're standing up for? Getting smacked often has the power to pull us away from our principles, so when we feel smacked we have to make an extra effort to stay on course. Thus, though I’m upset about this and disagree with it philosophically, I’m not going down the "us-vs-them" road. Or trying to win the case by proving that they’re “bad people.” They’re not. I know many who work here who positively support this work.
Some are obviously against it but they don’t represent all staff anymore than those prisoners who are constantly doing evil and who need to be suppressed represent all prisoners.
To keep it wholistic, we need to keep this in mind and deal with everyone involved with reverence, goodwill and justice. I’m trying to do this and will continue to do so.
I deeply appreciate the concern many of you have expressed. Wholeness ethics has always been more than a “prison program.” We need it in our schools, in our marketplace, in our agriculture, in our politics, and in every aspect of our lives. If wholeness ethics is not allowed back into Kinross Correctional Facility, this will simply free up more time and energy to take it into these various other places.