Tagged: “Forgiveness for prisoners”
Do you remember 2019, the year before last year? It was a year plagued by worldwide unrest, hurricanes, and societal conflicts. When it mercifully sputtered to its end, people sang and drank and danced happily on its grave, assured that 2020 surely would be a much better year.
For a few months, it was. But then, thanks primarily to what was first labeled a “miniscule coronavirus” discovered in a far-away land, 2020 turned out to be much worse for many millions of people around the world. It was one of the most challenging years in modern history—a year to forget, but one we will always remember.
Yet, as a forgiveness researcher and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), I am proud to report that despite its many challenges, 2020 turned out to be our most productive year ever since I began studying forgiveness three decades ago.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF OUR NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR 2020:
1) We completed and had published 11 significant scientific research projects. I was able to team up with a different group of uniquely-qualified specialists for each of those projects. Covering a wide range of cultural diversity, and encompassing studies in seven countries with both adult and child participants, those studies included:
- Development and implementation of a totally new forgiveness tool—The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory–that has important implications for world peace. As part of that project, we tested the tool in China, Taiwan, Slovenia, and the U.S. It will soon be available on the IFI website at no cost to researchers.
- Completion of three “peace education initiatives” in China, Iran, and the U.S. that are designed to inspire and engage educators, students, and community leaders. I continue projects like these because I genuinely believe that forgiveness is the missing piece to the peace puzzle and that the IFI must continue its mission of “Healing Hearts, Building Peace.”
- Seven other projects documenting how Forgiveness Therapy can positively impact the homeless and those in prison, help prevent bullying (Spain), assist female acid attack victims in Pakistan (a significant social issue there), and others.
+ See all the 2020 IFI Research Projects +
2) As recognition and adoption of our Forgiveness Therapy interventions grows, I was able to develop and deliver more than a dozen targeted forgiveness presentations in the U.S. as well as in Scotland (Edinburgh), Northern Ireland (Belfast), and Slovakia (Bratislava) during 2020. Audiences included cancer treatment specialists, pediatricians, oncologists, and other medical specialists; prison maximum security staff and inmates; school administrators and teachers; and university faculty, research associates, and students.
+ See the full list of 2020 Forgiveness Presentations +
3) Responding to frequent requests from national and international news reporters, I was able to complete media interviews, podcasts and video productions in Spain, Germany, Italy, Israel, Canada and a variety of U.S. locations. One of those podcasts—hosted and broadcast by Dr. Alexandra Miller, a popular family relations psychologist—was downloaded by individuals in 225 US cities and 22 foreign countries in just the first three weeks after it was recorded.
+ See the entire list of 2020 Media Engagements +
4) In addition to all that activity, I managed to continue our promotion of the immeasurable benefits of forgiveness and Forgiveness Therapy by:
- Authoring 12 new forgiveness-related blogs for Psychology Today;
- Originating 12 additional blogs for “Our Forgiveness Blog” on the IFI website; and,
- Providing written responses on our website for 208 “Ask Dr. Forgiveness” questions.
Yes, 2020 was a ground-breaking, record-setting year for the science of forgiveness, for the International Forgiveness Institute and for me personally. At the same time, the pandemic has helped us realize that life is too short to be unhappy. Living in the moment matters. Being there for the people you love matters. And it gives us the chance to add to our Unfolding Love Story.
There is one sure way to get rid of your unhappiness: Make this year the one when you learn to forgive. If you live a forgiving life, I guarantee it will be a happier and healthier life.
While “perseverance” and “grit” may be apt descriptors for what turned out to be perhaps the most peculiar year in modern history, forgiveness researcher Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, has a different take on 2020: “Without question, it turned out to be our most productive year since I began studying forgiveness three decades ago.”
Scientific Research Studies:
To illustrate his point, the man Time magazine called “the forgiveness trailblazer,” rattled off the 11 scientifically-based manuscripts he and various team members completed and had published or accepted for publication during the year. Covering a wide range of cultural diversity, and encompassing studies in seven countries with both adult and child participants, those studies included (click title to read more):
- Compassionate love and dispositional forgiveness: Does compassionate love predict dispositional forgiveness? (Conducted in the United States) – Published in Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health.
- Measuring intergroup forgiveness: The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory. (China, Taiwan, Slovenia, United States) – Peace and Conflict Studies.
- Effectiveness of forgiveness education with adolescents in reducing anger and ethnic prejudice in Iran. (Iran) – Journal of Educational Psychology.
- A philosophical and psychological examination of “justice first”: Toward the need for both justice and forgiveness when conflict arises. – Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology [in press].
- An addition to peace education: Toward the process of a Just and Merciful Community in schools. (China and the United States) – Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology [in press].
- Evaluation of the effectiveness and satisfaction of the Learning to Forgive Program for the prevention of bullying. (Spain) – Electronic Journal of Educational Psychology [in press].
- Trauma and healing in the under-served populations of homelessness and corrections: Forgiveness therapy as an added component to intervention. – Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy [in press].
- Validating the Enright Self-Forgiveness Inventory. (United States) – Current Psychology [in press].
- A randomized controlled trial of a forgiveness intervention program with female acid attack survivors in Pakistan. (Pakistan) –Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy [in press].
- “A Review of the Empirical Research Using Enright’s Process Model of Interpersonal Forgiveness” (International) – Handbook of forgiveness .
- “Forgiveness Within Psychotherapy” (International) – The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Models and Theories.
In addition to his first love (scientific research on forgiveness, as evidenced by the list above), Dr. Enright developed and delivered targeted forgiveness presentations in the U.S. and around the world during 2020. His more noteworthy audiences included:
- Staff and imprisoned people at Her Majesty’s Prison – Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Doctors and medical specialists attending an online conference on polyclonal immunoglobulins in patients with multiple myeloma – Bratislava, Slovakia.
- Pediatricians, oncologists, and cancer treatment specialists attending the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Educational Conference – Madison, Wisconsin.
- Faculty and research associates at the Pan-European University – Bratislava, Slovakia.
- School administrators and teachers – Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- Students and faculty of Liberty University – Lynchburg, Virginia.
- Rotary Club members – Richmond, California.
Media Interviews, Podcasts, Video Productions:
As a highly-sought-after media personality, Dr. Enright’s 2020 media interviews included:
- A 67-minute podcast hosted and broadcast by Dr. Alexandra Miller, a popular family relations psychologist, on Rehabilitating those who are ‘Forgotten’: People in Prison. The podcast was downloaded by individuals in 225 US cities and 22 foreign countries in just the first three weeks after it was recorded in July.
- A multi-segment forgiveness video produced for Revolution Ventures, Bangalore, India.
- A “therapeutic music-discussion video” with song-writer/performer Sam Ness that was produced for those struggling with anguish caused by COVID-19. The therapeutic video, called “How to Beat the Coronavirus Lockdown Blues,” was distributed worldwide through venues including YouTube.
- A video interview at the International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.
- Interview for DER SPIEGEL/Spiegel online, a German weekly news magazine that has the largest circulation of any such publication in Europe.
- Interview with author Aaron Hutchins for Maclean’s—a current affairs magazine with 2.4 million readers based in Toronto, Canada.
- Interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH, Germany’s largest daily newspaper.
- Podcast interview with Dr. Peter Miller, Sport and the Growing Good: 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
- Live interview, The Drew Mariani Show (national), Relevant Radio.
- Interview with Dr. Max Bonilla, International Director, Expanded Reason webinar, Madrid, Spain.
BLOGS AND MORE:
The activity doesn’t stop there. During 2020, Dr. Enright:
- Authored 12 new forgiveness-related blogs for Psychology Today and 12 more for “Our Forgiveness Blog” on the International Forgiveness Institute website.
- Provided written responses on the IFI website for 208 “Ask Dr. Forgiveness” questions.
- Together with Jacqueline Song, IFI researcher and creator of the IFI’s Driver Safety Campaign, distributed more than 5,000 “Drive for Others’ Lives” bumper stickers requested by website visitors and funded by a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation.
We have five projects right now at the International Forgiveness Institute:
1) We have a bumper sticker campaign entitled, “Drive for Others’ Lives.” The point is that, when driving, people are encouraged to think about those in the other cars and to behave in such a way as to respect them for the purpose of keeping them safe.
2) We are working on forgiveness interventions for people who are without homes, specifically those who: a) have unjust treatment from others in the past; b) are experiencing now excessive anger, anxiety, and depression in need of healing; and c) currently are not forgiving the people from the past for their injustices. We expect that the forgiveness intervention toward those from the past will lessen the current psychological challenges and possibly aid them in securing more stable housing across time.
3) We are doing similar programs (as described in #2 above) for people who are in prison.
4) Forgiveness education through our curriculum guides for educators of children (as young as age 4) through adolescence (up to age 18).
5) We are planning an international forgiveness conference in July, 2022 for educators, particularly educators who have been teaching forgiveness in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, and Israel and the West Bank.
Recent estimates in 2016 place the number of people without homes in the United States on any given night at 553,700 and worldwide at over 100 million based on the 2005 global survey done by the United Nations Human Rights (Homeless World Cup Foundation, 2019). Recent estimates from the International Center for Prison Studies (London, England) place the number of people who are imprisoned in the United States at approximately 2.2 million and worldwide at approximately 10.35 million (Walmsley, 2015), with recidivism rates in the United States being 57% after one year (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010) and 77% after five years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).
Such statistics show that traditional forms of rehabilitation are not working.
We recommend that researchers and mental health professionals begin to place more emphasis on adverse childhood experiences for people who are without homes or are imprisoned. Current mental health issues, possibly caused by these, might be more deeply ameliorated through Forgiveness Therapy.
Forgiveness Therapy focuses the client’s attention, not on current symptoms or behaviors, but instead asks the client to begin viewing offending other people with a much wider perspective than defining those offenders primarily by their hurtful behavior. The attempt to be good to those who are not good to the client has the paradoxical consequence of reducing anger, anxiety, and depression in the client.
Through Forgiveness Therapy applied to people without homes and those imprisoned, clinicians will have a new, empirically-verified approach for reducing the resentment that might keep people in a homeless situation and in a cycle of recidivism.
The vital next step is to begin randomized experimental and control group clinical trials of Forgiveness Therapy for people who are without homes and for those who are imprisoned when they: a) have adverse childhood experiences; b) currently are unforgiving of those who perpetrated the trauma; and c) currently are clinically compromised with excessive anger, anxiety, and/or depression.
This is an excerpt from an article recently accepted for publication:
Trauma and Healing in the Under‐Served Populations of Homelessness and Corrections: Forgiveness Therapy as an Added Component to Intervention by Mary Jacqueline Song, Lifan Yu, & Robert D. Enright (in press). Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy.
- Recidivism of prisoners released in 30 states in 2005: Pattern from 2005 to 2010 updated. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2005/2010).
- Global homelessness statistics. Homeless World Cup Foundation. (2019).
- World Prison Population List (Eleventh Edition). Walmsley, R. (2015).
When International Forgiveness Institute founder Dr. Robert Enright first proposed Forgiveness Therapy for incarcerated people in a correctional facility, his approach was met with an equal amount of derision and skepticism. After all, it had never been tried with a prison population anywhere else in the world.
That was 35 years ago. Today, Dr. Enright’s methodology is being lauded–and more importantly, implemented–because of its positive, demonstrated results with people in prison.
As just one example of the current popularity and credibility of Forgiveness Therapy for prisoners, a podcast featuring Dr. Enright’s work entitled “Rehabilitating those who are “Forgotten”: People in Prison“ was downloaded by individuals in 225 US cities and 22 foreign countries in just the first three weeks after it was recorded on Aug. 9th.
The podcast was hosted and broadcast by Dr. Alexandra Miller, a popular psychologist, family relations specialist, and author who has also featured Dr. Enright on a previous podcast entitled “How to Forgive.” The most recent 67-minute podcast discusses two rehabilitation research projects recently completed by Dr. Enright and research colleague Dr. Maria Gambaro, Ph.D., with 103 men in a maximum-security prison in the United States. Access the podcast.
Dr. Enright began exploring the possibility of sharing his forgiveness interventions with incarcerated individuals in early 2015 and he initiated his first in-prison research project later that year. Project team members included Dr. Gambaro and associates from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Philippines.
Why Forgiveness Therapy Works for People in Prison. . .
“Unjust treatment from others can lead to inner pain, which can lead to anger. Unresolved anger can deepen and linger, turning to what we call excessive anger, compromising one’s psychological health and behavior. Excessive anger can turn to rage (very intense, potentially violent anger) which can fuel crime, a lack of cooperation within the prison system, and increased recidivism rates. When the excessive anger is caused by unjust behavior from others, prior to a person’s crime, conviction, and imprisonment, then we can reduce and even eliminate the excessive anger through the empirically-verified treatment of Forgiveness Therapy. Forgiveness Therapy may be one of the few existing mental health approaches which offer the opportunity to be free of excessive anger, perhaps for the first time in the person’s life.”
From the Abstract of Dr. Enright’s first research project (2016) in a maximum-security prison – Proposing Forgiveness Therapy for those in Prison: An Intervention Strategy for Reducing Anger and Promoting Psychological Health.
Both the anecdotal and actual results of that initial project were extremely positive. In one group of 12 inmates receiving Forgiveness Therapy, their anger, anxiety, and depression went down significantly. The men themselves credited the forgiveness group experience for those positive outcomes and the facility’s warden asked that the program continue and expand.
In a similar study in South Korea, Forgiveness Therapy was tested against both an alternative skill streaming program and a no-treatment control group. The 48 female participants were adolescent aggressive victims ranging in age from 12 to 21 years old. After 12 weeks, findings showed that the participants receiving Forgiveness Therapy reported statistically significant decreases in anger, hostile attribution, aggression, and delinquency at posttest and follow-up assessments. Additional results included improved grades at the posttest.
“The reality of Forgiveness Therapy is that as those who are imprisoned learn how to give the gift of forgiveness to those who abused them, their inner world becomes healthier,” Dr. Enright says. “Anger has a way of landing some people in medical facilities and eventually contributes to their serious crimes and long prison terms. Forgiveness Therapy can put an end to that poisonous anger.”
One success story Dr. Enright cites is an imprisoned person he calls Jonah (not his real name). Jonah personally told Dr. Enright, during one of his follow-up visits to the facility, that “forgiveness saved my life.” Jonah also wrote an article for the prison newsletter outlining how confronting his anger enabled him to change his life.
“Jonah has been set free inside even though his body is imprisoned and will be for many years to come,” Dr. Enright explained. “The past pain will not continue to crush him because he has an antidote to the build-up of toxic anger–forgiveness.”
Testimonials from other imprisoned Forgiveness Therapy participants include these:
- “I have been imprisoned 6 different times. I am convinced that on my first arrest, had I read your book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, I never would have experienced the other 5.”
- “My first imprisonment occurred when I was 12 years old. If you can find a way to give 12-year-olds Forgiveness Therapy, they will not end up as I have in maximum security prison.”
Dr. Gambaro, one of those who helped spearhead the initial Forgiveness Therapy work, has as one of her goals to help imprisoned people prepare for re-entry back into society and reduce the chances that they will return to the facility.
“When you look at a population of imprisoned people, 95 percent of them are released back in the community,” Gambaro adds. “No matter what you think of those who are imprisoned, they could be your neighbor, someone on the road, or someone at the gas station. Our goal is to help them reintegrate into society so they don’t reincarcerate.”
Given the positive results demonstrated by his own prison projects, as well as similar results expected from research starting soon in other areas of the world, Dr. Enright says, “Our aspiration is that Forgiveness Therapy will become a well-accepted protocol for people in prison and eventually become available to all in the prison system who need it.”
Learn more about Dr. Enright’s work with imprisoned people:
- “Forgiveness Saved My Life” – Reflections from Prison
- The Visit to a Maximum Security Prison
- A Reflection on Forgiveness and the Forgotten People
- Is There a Better Response to Injustice? Pioneering UW Professor Teaches Forgiveness