‘Pain transformed, healing transferred’

By Andrew Jenner | July 20th, 2015

Jeff From and Marcus Freed

Prison healers Jeff From, MA ’07, and Marcus Freed ’74

There’s a quote from the Catholic priest and writer Richard Rohr that’s widely used in the world of restorative justice and trauma healing: “pain not transformed is pain transferred.”

As he’s often done many times over the years, Jeff From, MA ’07 (conflict transformation), recently used the phrase during a trauma awareness workshop with inmates at the London Correctional Institution, a large state prison in Ohio. In this instance, though, the participants got hung up on the phrasing. It seemed too negative and passive, somehow.

Why not turn the tables, they asked? What about something like, “pain transformed is healing transferred?”

Jeff loved the new insight, which came as a fresh reminder that working on restorative justice inside a prison carries as much potential to change an experienced workshop leader as it does those learning about it for the first time. “I’ve been working with the material for 10 years, and I was like ‘Yeah, that’s what we do!’” he said. “There’s lots of ways that these guys have contributed immensely to my understanding.”

Jeff began working with the Horizon Prison Initiative in 2007. The organization was founded 15 years ago to help inmates at Ohio’s Marion Correctional Institution transform their lives, the prison culture and communities. A major part of that work has been using restorative practices and values to transform the prison’s culture. Today, Jeff says, Marion Correctional Institution has gone from one of the most violent prisons in Ohio to “basically the model prison for the state,” and Horizon has launched similar programs in two other state prisons in London (where Jeff is its program coordinator) and Chillicothe.

Jeff’s colleagues at Horizon have included Marcus ’74 and Brenda Freed ’74. Brenda volunteered at the prison in London from 2008 until she died in 2014; Marcus has been volunteering there since 1999. Now retired after 36 years as teacher and school counselor, Marcus coordinates volunteers and provides other support to the program in London Correctional Institution.