The Awakening Program: An Inmate Collaboration to Transform Self, Community, and the System of Mass Incarceration

April 22, 2022

9:00 — 11:00 am PT and 18:00 — 20:00 CET on Zoom

Awaken, Transform, Serve, Repeat

Each one of us is born into bondage: confined by our egos, trapped in dysfunction, limited by conditioning, or locked into addiction. And when we liberate ourselves and unlock our human potential, we also transform our communities.

Steven Clark is a graduate student of positive psychology who has been incarcerated for the past seventeen years in Maine. He designed The Awakening Program to address the overwhelming need for healing in the American prison system, which has recidivism rates of up to 80 percent. Using principles of positive psychology, Steven created a curriculum that can be taught and learned via mentor relationships, enabling incarcerated men and women to awaken, serve, and transform themselves as well as the prison system.  

In response to the widespread contagion of negative emotions like fear, hatred, or despair in prison, Steven's program seeks to engender positive states like self-awareness, compassion, and presence that can go viral among the incarcerated and prison employees, as well as their families.

To change any system, we must begin with ourselves and our own consciousness. If, as Steven says, incarceration can be seen as a gift, and even the most violent criminals can experience dramatic transformation, then this exchange will help us relate differently to our own personal challenges as well as the challenging systems in our lives.



Key Questions for Exploration

  1. In a prison system where fear and violence are endemic, how do we create the conditions for intimacy and vulnerability between men? 

  2. What role does service play in our awakening? What does it mean  to be free? 

  3. How do we - the incarcerated, those working in the system, and society at large - transform our perception of incarcerated human beings? 

  4. How do we connect with and increase humanity in dehumanizing bureaucratic systems?

  5. How can incarcerated advocates work in partnership with prison employees to extend this program to other facilities?

Contact Information


Steven Mathew Clark, [email protected]