Education and Emotional Literacy with the Lionheart Foundation

By Christopher Zoukis

As its website attests, the Lionheart Foundation “provides education, rehabilitation and reentry support to incarcerated men and women in prisons and jails throughout the United States.”  Their prison-based initiatives are one of the cornerstones of this foundation, but Lionheart also supports youth-at-risk programming as well as programming for teen parents.  The hub of the program for prisoners is based upon the book The Houses of Healing: A Prisoner’s Guide to Inner Power and Freedom and is the basis for many teaching and mentoring initiatives for in-prison populations.  Image courtesy

Reduce Recidivism and Change Lives for the Better

The Lionheart Foundation is not the only prison education initiative in the country.  However, it is unusual because it is not focused merely on one region as many state-based initiatives are and because it is so closely connected to a book–a manual for a better life as some have dubbed it.  According to the foundation, hundreds of prison teachers, volunteers, and chaplains rely on Houses of Healing to help inmates focus on positive change and to embrace new opportunities like education.  The book is at the heart of the foundation’s National Emotional Literacy Project for Prisoners and there are now more than 130,000 copies in circulation.

What Does the Lionheart Foundation Do?

Though the foundation greatly promotes its initiatives designed for “emotional intelligence,” it also conducts education workshops for the public to better inform people about the needs of prisoners and the need for communities to help support their reentry and rehabilitation.  All of its programming is designed for at-risk populations like prison populations, juvenile delinquent centers, and teen parents in at-risk neighborhoods.  Along with promoting the values of justice, excellence, competence, and generosity, the Lionheart Foundation is also involved with a major research project supported by The National Institutes for Health.

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Too Many Prisoners Dilemma

By Dan Froomkin

There’s a growing national consensus that, as Attorney General Eric Holder stated in August, “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason.”

When Holder proceeded to order federal prosecutors to stop triggering mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders, that was big news. But where were the follow-up stories?

It’s a familiar cycle. Despite the heavy toll that mass incarceration exacts every day and in countless ways on many American communities, families and of course the incarcerated themselves, the topic attracts remarkably little consistent coverage in the mainstream media.

“Traditionally, the coverage of this has been crisis driven,” says Ted Gest, the founder of Criminal Justice Journalists, who also oversees a daily news digest for The Crime Report news service.

Recently, a hunger strike in California and other protests called renewed attention to solitary confinement as a human rights issue. And questions about oversight were briefly raised after Baltimore jail guards were busted in April for allegedly helping a charismatic gang leader, who impregnated four of them, run his drug and money-laundering operations.

David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, says he’s seen only a modest increase in news coverage of criminal justice reform despite his sense that the nation is starting to turn the corner on mass incarceration. “I’ve been doing this work since 1990 and there’s been no time that things have looked this hopeful for significant reform in the criminal justice system,” he says.

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