Thursday, September 5, 2013


The Only Way Out is In:
Jenny Philips on TEDxBoston

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

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.

Cultural anthropologist, writer and psychotherapist Jenny Phillips has been working in the field of mental health for more than 15 years. Much of her work has been with male prisoners, teaching inmates courses on emotional literacy and VIPASSANA meditation, an ancient meditation technique based on the teachings of Buddha. Her work has helped inmates—many serving multiple life sentences—transform their lives, face their pasts and become more peaceful, purposeful people.

In 2008, Jenny released the self-produced documentary The Dhamma Brothers, which followed 36 prisoners at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama through a 10-day silent vipassana meditation course. Her book Letters from the Dhamma Brothers: Meditation Behind Bars is a collection of letters and interviews from inmates who took part in the meditation course. The book depicts prison life and the journey many of the prisoners took to better understanding the teachings of Buddha and achieving inner peace.

Jenny has doctorate in anthropology from Boston University and is currently researching a book—along with her husband, journalist Frank Phillips—on author Ernest Hemingway's 22 years in Cuba. Jenny's grandfather, Maxwell Perkins, was a legendary book editor and close friend of Hemingway's.
Jenny Phillips on 
Oprah’s Soul Series