The Zen Mountain Monastery Prison Program began in 1984 with the request
of a NY State prison inmate to start a practice group within the prison.
This resulted in a court battle that reached the NY State Supreme Court
and resulted in the formation of the first Zen practice group in the
NY State Correctional Facilities.
Since that time, Zen Mountain Monastery has been actively involved in
working with Buddhist inmates both within New York State and across
the U.S. Activities include weekly visits to several prisons by senior
ZMM monastic and lay students who lead prison sanghas in meditation,
liturgy, and dharma talks.
Periodic intensive meditation retreats are also led by volunteers. Receiving
of the precepts, weddings, Dharma Combat, face-to-face teaching and
memorial services now take place on a routine
basis within the Buddhist prison sanghas.
As a result Zen Mountain Monastery was asked to function as an advisor
on Buddhist activities for the New York State Corrections system as
part of a religious advisory group that reports to the commissioner
The Monastery has thus also been active in helping to establish Buddhist
practice groups at several other state facilities. In addition, many
more inmates across the country are supported in their Zen practice
on an ongoing basis through correspondence, as well as by donated dharma
books and audio tapes.
Beginning with a scattered handful of inmates writing letters to the
Monastery asking for guidance in their practice, this correspondence
program has grown tremendously over the years. In response to this growth,
ZMM has initiated the National Buddhist Prison Sangha (NBPS), a nationwide
network of Buddhist volunteers who make themselves available to interested
inmates in their area.
Depending on their experience with practice, as well as their time and
personal resources, these volunteers may provide support through correspondence,
visits, the creation and leading of practice groups, and more. The Monastery
provides orientation and guidance when necessary.
Anyone interested in further information or donating materials for the
prison program, or becoming active in the NBPS, may contact the Training
Office at Zen Mountain Monastery.
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold
Sensei is the coordinator of prison practice activities and the
Director of the NBPS.
He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by calling US (845) 688-2228.
© 2003 Zen Mountain Monastery
Those based in
countries other than the U.S. please contact your local correctional
facility and ask if volunteers are needed in any area.