BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Rev. Karlene Kalen McAllister
HONORARY BOARD MEMBERS
Venerable Thubten Chodron
Rev. Shoken Winecoff
Ryumonji Zen Monastery
Lama Chuck Stanford
Rime Buddhist Center
What is Inside Dharma? What does "Inside Dharma" mean?
The name for our organization, coined by prison inmate (Andy K.) Kunga Gyurme, refers to the Dharma taught by Siddhartha Gautama, who is also know as the Buddha, meaning "awakened one".
The Dharma is a way of waking up to and seeing the world as it really is, a way of acting in response to that perspective, and ultimately the liberation that comes from following the Buddhist path. The “Inside” in our name has double meaning, referring both to our work inside prisons and the fact that liberation from the suffering of grasping, anger and ignorance begins inside one’s own mind.
Inside Dharma is a non-profit, non-denominational Buddhist organization dedicated to offering information, support and encouragement to incarcerated and recently released individuals in a manner consistent with Buddhist principles.
Why help people in prison? Aren’t they supposed to be punished?
True justice involves more than punishment. Ideally, justice redresses wrongs by serving the needs of victims, by undoing harm, and, when possible, by creating conditions that deter future offenses, including through rehabilitation of offenders.
Inside Dharma’s primary motivation is compassion, both for victims of crime and for those who are paying for their transgressions via incarceration. We all benefit when prison inmates are given the opportunity to change. We all suffer when punishment is our only response to mistakes. The current high recidivism rate among released inmates is proof that punishment alone does not change minds.
According to a Sentencing Project report, the United States incarcerates its citizens at the highest rate of any country in the world, and we have the largest inmate population of any country in the world. If any of us does not have a friend, acquaintance or relative affected by or going through the criminal justice system, chances are we will before too long. Citizens of all faiths, philosophies, and backgrounds have a vested interest in working to help offenders to grow and to change.
What exactly does Inside Dharma do?
Inside Dharma does not proselytize. When inmates express interest in learning more about meditation, compassion, self-discipline, or any Buddhist school, sect or tradition, Inside Dharma responds by providing reading material, pen pals, practice materials, and visits by our Volunteers in Corrections. If inmates make an effort to organize Buddhist practice groups within their institutions, Inside Dharma makes every effort to provide support.
When inmates complete their incarceration and face release, they often do so with very few material resources. Inside Dharma does its best to provide simple essentials, such as clothing and basic personal hygiene items, to those who need them. The long road back to integration into society is a hard one, and even the smallest gestures can be significant.
How can I support the work of Inside Dharma?
Inside Dharma is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, and it is a registered non-profit organization with 501C3 status. There are ways that you can support the work of Inside Dharma:
1. Check this website for events, and read our newsletter.
Inside Dharma does continuous work with inmates and recently released ex-offenders, but we also hold pubic events. Attend if you can. Showing support for the mission is often as valuable as any monetary donation and volunteering your time.
Published bi-monthly, our newsletter features articles, poems, letters and stories by and about inmates who are struggling to improve their lives by changing what is within their power to change-- themselves. Since we are all struggling to various degrees with the heavy burdens of attachment, ego, materialism, fear and loneliness, the insights and issues raised in the newsletter offer keys to Enlightenment for all of us.
2. Make a direct donation. All donations are tax deductible. Inside Dharma’s operating expenses include postage for mailings to inmates and circulation of the newsletter, gas money for visits to inmates and Buddhist practice groups across Missouri, and purchase of such items as underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap for inmates released without friends or family to assist them before they find jobs.