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23.08.2014
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The Dhamma Brothers is a documentary film released in 2007 about a prison meditation program at Donaldson Correctional Facility near Bessemer, Alabama.
Director Jenny Phillips was largely responsible for the meditation program's inception at the prison.[1] Phillips had previously studied prison culture in Massachusetts.
The meditation program at Donaldson was shut down shortly after the second meditation retreat. The film also includes interviews with local residents who provide statements that are negative about the meditation program, perceiving it as anti-Christian. Donaldson Correctional Facility is situated in the Alabama countryside southwest of Birmingham.
As she met with the men, one by one in the privacy of an office, she was drawn in by their openness and willingness to talk freely about themselves.
As a meditator herself, Jenny knew that meditation directly addresses the issue of personal suffering, and offers a simple yet powerful means for obtaining relief. The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic story of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of a group of prisoners as they enter into this arduous program. Before the Vipassana retreat, the men openly express fear and trepidation, wondering what they will find when they look deeply within and face the consequences of past actions and trauma.
Seated on meditation mats on a red rug donated by the Warden, wrapped in navy blue blankets, the men sit still in silence as they journey inside.


The stories of the men at Donaldson Correctional Facility are those of the unseen, unheard, and underserved. Dhamma Brother Omar Rahman (1953a€“2009) discusses his life in prison and the impact of the Vipassana program. The Dhamma Brothers discuss their lives, their brotherhood, and the impact of Vipassana six months after the first program in 2002. Dhamma Brother Ricky Alexander talks about the difficulties and the benefits of his meditation practice. According to New York Times reviewer Whitney Joiner this was because the chaplain of the prison complained to administrators that he was losing his inmate congregation.
1,500 men, considered the state's most dangerous prisoners, live behind high security towers and a double row of barbed and electrical wire fences. They are shown packing their scant belongings and preparing for the journey inside, a very short walk down the prison corridor but a sea change in their lives as prisoners. Teachers and inmates, men from culturally different worlds, are locked together in a dramatically revealing process. The spiritual warriors of Donaldson Correctional Facility discuss their collective experiences and vow to try to maintain their nascent sense of solidarity.
This film shines a spotlight upon society's outcasts and untouchables as we witness them on their Odyssean journey into their misery to emerge with a sense of peace and purpose.
Ron Cavanaugh, the Director of Treatment for the Alabama DOC, and Warden Gary Hetzel of Donaldson Prison.


I love this documentary, i have just finished the 10th day course, now i am trying to involve my family into this technique so i was wondering if you could update the video. Intrigued by this, Jenny Phillips, cultural anthropologist and psychotherapist, first visited Donaldson Correctional Facility in the fall of 1999.
Even though many of these men will never be released from prison, they were thirsty for meaningful social and emotional change. We observe the transformation of the prison gym, a frequent site for violent battles among inmates, into a monastery, a separate, restricted place in which the inmate students can eat, sleep, and meditate in total seclusion from the rest of prison society.
This is, most likely, the first time non-inmates have ever lived among inmates inside a prison.
The film includes material from the second ten-day intensive meditation retreat held in May 2002 with thirty seven inmates and a follow up three-day retreat and interviews in January 2006.[8] Each retreat consisted of a rigorous daily schedule and was held in complete silence. She planned to observe the meditation classes facilitated by inmates and to interview the inmate meditators about their lives as prisoners.
It left her wondering if it were possible to live with a sense of inner peace and freedom within this harsh prison environment.



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