About UsHelping prisoners and parolees heal from the inside
The History of Inside Circle
Inside Circle was officially formed in January 1999 by Rob Allbee. Rob, a poet and former convict himself, had been offering his experience and expertise as a writing instructor and men’s circle facilitator on a primarily volunteer basis in the California State Prison at Sacramento in Folsom, California. As the request for circles and writing instruction grew, taking more and more time away from his capacity to earn a living as a carpenter, he began to explore ways to solicit funding for these program he felt so strongly about. Rob recruited the help of his friend Donald Morrison, a local accountant, and together they formed Inside Circle.
Who Are We?
- Inside Circle, a nonprofit organization created by inmates and ex-convicts, is dedicated to the personal growth of men in prison. The immediate goal is a reduction of prison violence and lower recidivism when inmates parole. The long-term goal is to let these men heal and lead meaningful lives. Contributions to the organization are deductible for tax purposes.
- Inside Circle provides emotional literacy and behavioral change training through weekly support groups for inmates. The purpose of these groups is to help inmates take behavioral, emotional, and spiritual responsibility for their lives. The organization helps inmates create environments in which prisoners can safely work and explore the issues that have prevented them from living up to their full potential as human beings.
- The founders of Inside Circle have been working with inmates and establishing weekly support groups within Folsom Prison since 1997. There are currently more than one hundred inmates participating in groups inside several California prisons. In addition to the weekly meetings, Inside Circle conducts several four-day intensives each year. While these numbers are encouraging, bear in mind that there are over 200,000 inmates in 35 prisons within California’s prison-industrial complex.
What Do We Provide?
- Inside Circle provides weekly support groups and periodic intensive trainings that allow inmates an opportunity to discover for themselves how to take full responsibility for their lives and their behavior.
- The inmates and volunteer staff create a safe environment where the inmates can tell the hard truths about their lives and discover the true motivation behind their destructive behavior, and the gifts and talents that they bring to the world. How is Inside Circle different from similar programs?
- The Inside Circle groups and trainings provide the inmates with the opportunity to re-experience, heal, and re-frame the life traumas that have burdened their lives.
- Inmates participating in Inside Circle’s programs are there by choice. No “good-time” merits are awarded to the men for their participation. No letters go into their files. Their only reward is the knowledge that as they change, others will witness their changes and have to deal with the consequences of their new choices.
- Inside Circle has a working relationship with an international network of men’s support groups, the ManKind Project (MKP), outside the prison and across the country that will, as the program develops, “catch” the inmates upon their release from prison and invite them to participate in similar support groups on the outside that will support and encourage the new choices that they make in life. Additionally, Inside Circle has supported and encouraged the development of similar programs in other prisons nationally.
How Did This Get Started?
In 1997, the late Patrick Nolan, an inmate at new Folsom Prison, felt the need for the inmates themselves to honestly and openly confront the ever-increasing violence in the environment in which they lived. Out of that need, the original Men’s Support Group was formed with the help of Chaplain Dennis Merino. Merino and Nolan soon recognized that experienced facilitators were needed to help the groups.
They both approached Arts-In-Corrections instructor Rob Allbee, knowing that he had extensive experience in men’s group processes, and asked him if he would help facilitate the groups. Allbee, himself a former convict, agreed to participate and quickly discovered that he needed additional outside volunteers to facilitate the increasing number of groups. Allbee, through his association with MKP, an international network of men’s groups, started to recruit men from the Sacramento MKP community to assist with the weekly group facilitation.
Once the weekly support groups were firmly in place, planning began for the first intensive training that would be held inside Folsom State Prison. Allbee enlisted the services of Bob Petersen and Don Morrison, both experienced support group and training facilitators, to help create the program and organization for the first intensive training. An additional step was the creation of the organization to handle the business aspects of the program. The second step was to gather the very best facilitators from around the world to help conduct the training.
During the four-day intensives, the inmates typically enjoy an intense spiritual and healing experience. This is possible because of the dedication and service of the many volunteer facilitators who participate in the trainings. These men, many who have come for multiple trainings, come from all over the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. They are not compensated and pay their own expenses in Sacramento. They have donated their time and energy to assist these inmates in taking responsibility for their lives.
Inside Circle has received a generous response from the public and from the men of the ManKind Project. We could not do what we do without this financial support or without the volunteers’ assistance. The work simply would not have happened without this support.
What You Can Do:
First, you can indicate your interest by getting on our mailing list. Second, you can make a contribution to our work by making a donation online. Third, if you are grounded and have discovered your own mission in life, you can volunteer to staff the trainings in prison. Fourth, your can prepare your community and it’s groups to receive these “brothers in blue” when they return to your communities.