Correctional environments should cultivate an atmosphere in which people can pursue personal goals and self-discovery through a meaningful and consistent daily schedule that includes workshops and educational opportunities. Correctional environments should also provide opportunities for those who are incarcerated to have a voice and choice in decisions that impact them.

Pathways to cultivating purpose in carceral settings

1. Establish a workgroup of corrections professionals and incarcerated people to review practices and policies with a focus on creating a purpose-filled daily schedule and living environment and to ensure that they align with this Purpose Principle.

2. Create opportunities for the built environment to have flexible, adaptable spaces that allow for self-expression, healing, and discovery. Spaces should support and encourage programming that facilitates personal pursuits.

3. Expand equitable access to learning opportunities at all stages of incarceration.

  • a. Enhance support for existing resources and expand opportunities for both educational and vocational opportunities.
  • b. Develop robust relationships with community organizations to provide services and support.
  • c. Ensure equity in the type and number of opportunities available for people in both men’s and women’s facilities.
  • d. Expand gender-inclusive programming and interventions for incarcerated people, especially in women’s facilities.

4. Create opportunities to reflect and incorporate cultural healing.

  • a. Provide an emotionally safe environment for people to identify and work through causes of harm tied to social and historical experiences.
  • b. Identify ways to support alternative methods of teaching and learning through storytelling, multiple languages, cooking or food, and guest speakers.
  • c. Create opportunities to celebrate areas of growth, such as family reconnections, demonstrated leadership and support among peers, and positive relationship-building between residents and staff.
  • d. Engage local Indigenous and cultural communities (such as tribes/nations, mosques/churches, elders) by welcoming them into the carceral spaces and offering to repair relationships with the community and address systemic harms.

5. Create opportunities that can provide life satisfaction and connection to a purpose greater than oneself through volunteering and acts of service.

6. Tap into the resources, talents, and expertise of those who are incarcerated, as well as staff, for program facilitation, training, mentorship, and peer-to-peer opportunities.

7. Encourage connections and community-building with daily check-ins for each housing unit.

8. Support people’s connections to the larger community by marking holidays and celebrating accomplishments and milestones (such as birthdays and graduations).

Purpose Principle resources