TEDxBoston 2011

Jenny Phillips, Ph.D.

The Only Way Out is In

How prisoners transformed their culture of violence and despair to one of inner peace and redemption.

Psychotherapist Jenny Phillips describes how the tranquility of ancient Buddhist meditation at a maximum-security correctional facility helps prisoners emerge from a rigorous Vipassana program with a renewed self-image and a greater sense of personal responsibility.

Curator’s Pick: “Nobody felt safe; the prisoners weren’t safe, the staff weren’t safe…A radical idea began to spread: maybe meditation could help.”

About Jenny: http://www.dhammabrothers.com/



Jenny Phillips is a cultural anthropologist, filmmaker, writer, and psychotherapist. For the past twenty years, Phillips has provided mental health services in a medical center in Concord, MA. Her specialties include crisis intervention, family therapy, behavioral medicine, hypnotherapy, and mindfulness training.

Over the past fifteen years, she has worked with men in state and county prisons in Massachusetts teaching emotional literacy skills and mindfulness meditation.  Based upon her experiences working with prisoners and recording their lives behind bars, Phillips wrote an article, Culture of Manhood in Prison, which was published in 2002 by the American Psychological Association journal, Psychology of Men and Masculinity.

In 2008, Phillips produced and directed a documentary film, The Dhamma Brothers. The film had a national theatrical release in 2008, and a national broadcast on public television in 2010. The Dhamma Brothers tells the story of a group of prisoners inside a maximum-security prison in Alabama participating in a 10-day intensive meditation program based on the 2600-year old teachings of the Buddha. By portraying this intimate and personal journey among prisoners, many of them serving life sentences and others life without parole, the film serves as a vehicle to raise public awareness about the potential for personal transformation among prisoners.

In 2002, Phillips and her husband, Frank, The Boston Globe’s State House bureau chief, initiated a project in Cuba to restore the Cuban home and extensive documents of Ernest Hemingway. This historic project continues to serve as a unique shared endeavor sanctioned by both the U.S. and Cuban governments during a time of heightened political conflict.

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