Breakthrough Prison Program

Life Lessons Learned From the Breakthrough Prison Program

Life Lessons Learned From the Breakthrough Prison Program 2560 1707 Jen Devore

I’ve lived my whole life practicing and educating others on some core values.  These include:

  • Growth – Purposely putting myself in new and edgy experiences, leaning in, challenging myself 
  • Community – being a part of something larger, honoring each individual, knowing something more is available to each us when we have and engage in groups
  • Connection – vulnerable, authentic expression and relationships
  • Alignment – designing all of life, personal and business, time and money, around Intention vs. Automatic/Reactive.  Living from Purpose and Intention.

One of the ways I do that is purposely seeking out opportunities to push into uncomfortable situations so that I can grow, heal, shift paradigms and perspective, and pop my heart open. My focus my whole life in business has been to recreate social norms so that individuals and communities are thriving, healthy and connected and to create systemic change accordingly. 

Historically, I’ve focused on 2 areas as they were aligned with my own life – Business settings and the Education system. After my latest experiences, I’m adding the Prison system to the top of my list!

I recently volunteered at Colorado State Penitentiary (CSP), a Level 5 maximum security prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections, with an organization called Breakthrough.  The two experiences there have been some of the most transformative and nourishing experiences I’ve ever had.  I thought I was simply going in one time to lean into my own discomfort and provide a service to people who are incarcerated including mock interviews and coaching on business planning to get them ready to return home.  To my pleasant surprise, I now have an entire new community of people who are committed to diving deep into their own transformation, through going directly into their discomfort and being vulnerable.  What struck me the most was that there was a room full of humans (about 60 in total, both civilians and those incarcerated completely intermingled) “doing the work” together (which is often rare to find on the “outside!”). 

There are so many individual stories, so much trauma and tragedy…sometimes it’s a challenge to “hold” it all!  In this article, I want to share about one man, who’s a graduate from the program and is now a Peer Facilitator in the Breakthrough program supporting others in their journey through the program and helping them ready themselves for their release.  This gentleman is in for life, and mentioned in our conversation that he used to be on death row.  I had shared that we’ve all been through a lot in life, but that most of us would not have the resilience, courage or dedication that I’ve seen in the men in this program.  His response was that you cannot compare.  That my problems are big for me and he’s here to listen and support me in my discomfort and growth.  He shared that when he was on death row, fellow incarcerated individuals wouldn’t bring their problems to him because he was on death row and they were not.  He told them the same thing he told me.  I have no idea what he did, or how he got off death row.  What’s important is that he has hope, he lives for the moment, and he is a glowing light. He is about to graduate Cum Sum Laude with a degree in Psychology, and will be addressing his “why:” why he insisted on receiving a degree in higher education even though he’s in prison for life – during the College Graduation. 

I invite you to join me for Breakthrough’s Graduation ceremony at CSP on October 31st, where the fifth cohort of men to complete Breakthrough’s program will wear their cap and gowns and celebrate their achievements with volunteers and their families:

And to ask yourself:

  • What uncomfortable experiences do I want to pursue for the sake of growth?
  • Does my community inspire me to develop myself, on all levels?
  • Where can I spend time for more connection?
  • What areas of life am I living in Alignment? Out of Alignment?  And what actions can I take? 
  • Will I take them?

-Leslie Jones
Creator of The SpiralMethod