Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Imprisonment as a shadow of American culture: How the healing power of the circle can rebuild community
by Leonard, Adele Ann, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 214; 3685627
Abstract (Summary)

The research involved an examination of the exorbitant growth of the prison population in this country over the past 30 years from a Jungian perspective, showing how this phenomenon can be seen as a manifestation of an American cultural shadow. It then undertook an in-depth examination of the universal symbol of the circle—particularly in terms of how its inherent characteristics have been used to bring about healing across the centuries—and explored how these attributes can be used to help bring incarcerated people back into the circle of humanity by restoring and strengthening the ties that bind them to the greater community. Finally, the study involved an in-depth examination of one particular circle-based initiative--the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP)--to examine its effects on individuals in prison and upon their return to society.

Initial work involved an extensive review of the literature from a critical hermeneutic perspective, as seen through the interpretive lens of liberation psychology. The fieldwork phase involved the researcher's participation in and observation of AVP in action, particularly in prison settings, and carrying out in-depth interviews with eight formerly incarcerated AVP facilitators. The results indicate that AVP appears to not only be meeting its goal to reduce levels of violence, but has also helped the interviewees in the difficult transition back into society. Some core elements identified included: use of the circle format, the experiential nature of the process, emphasis on building consensus, and an array of tools that give people the opportunity to make conscious, positive choices.

While there are myriad ways to approach bringing positive change to a correctional system that is flawed in so many ways, I personally believe that depth psychological approaches that understand and honor the deep-seated causes embedded in our cultural shadowland, and that utilize the healing power of the circle, will have a much better chance to seriously bring about real change than any quick fixes to the mechanisms of imprisonment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watkins, Mary
Commitee: Koehn, Allen, Leder, Drew
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Counseling Psychology
Keywords: Circle healing, Incarceration, Prison, Shadows
Publication Number: 3685627
ISBN: 978-1-321-61960-7
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