Skip to content Skip to footer

Our mission is to transform prisons and communities through compassionate action.

Compassion Prison Project began as the brainchild of award-winning producer Fritzi Horstman, whose own childhood trauma helped shape its conception. Over the course of several months in 2019-2020, Fritzi and a dedicated team of facilitators and volunteers partnered with the men who were incarcerated at a Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), a maximum-security prison in Southern California. Together, they created powerful tools for addressing and healing from childhood trauma.

During 2019, the men at KVSP and CPP explored mindfulness, meditation and the power of intention. Understanding the shame that comes with the dehumanization of child abuse and being incarcerated, the men found ways to make amends to themselves, the people they’ve harmed and their community. They learned what it means to have deeper compassion and belonging through recognizing our shared humanity, honoring and uplifting each other. In February of 2020, Fritzi and a film crew went to the prison where the men participated in the powerful childhood trauma exercise called Step Inside the Circle. The immense importance of that day was captured in the 6 minute PSA, Step Inside the Circle, which is the first of a three-part documentary series exploring the significant correlation between ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores and the lives of the men and women who are incarcerated. While the Step Inside the Circle video went viral – the real story is how many lives can be transformed by addressing childhood trauma in the context of increasing awareness and compassionate understanding.
As the recognition of the Compassion Prison Project grew, volunteers from across the world came forward asking how they could help spread awareness of childhood trauma. CPP Volunteers (Compassion Ambassadors) represent currently and formerly incarcerated men and women, family members, therapists and psychologists, artists, writers, college students, community activists and more. In response, CPP developed a curricula and training so that other facilities and communities could create and run their own compassion trauma circles. To date, CPP’s Step Inside the Circle PSA has gained over 2 million views and Honor Yard, the next film in the series, has recently launched. CPP is now piloting compassion trauma circles on Zoom both for communities and for prisons. Formalized curriculum and video content is in production and these tools will be used to replicate childhood trauma awareness work in prisons and communities around the world. Finally, CPP will be launching a Youtube Channel and Podcast which will draw upon its work and a multitude of amazing thought leaders to educate the public about trauma, trauma-informed prisons, trauma self-care, restoring hope and spirit.

Stay tuned; we’re just getting started.

If you study prison populations as I have, you see a common preponderance of childhood trauma and mental illness. The two go together. So a lot of the people are being punished for being mentally ill and they are mentally ill because they were traumatized as kids. So what we have in [prisons] are the most traumatized people in our society.

Dr. Gabor Mate

Our Core Values

Compassion Prison Project believes in the power behind Compassion in Action.  The experience of Childhood Trauma is a common thread that runs amongst so many, from all walks of life. It’s a crucial reminder that whether we live in a mansion or are up for parole, all living beings need the security of love and the power to be heard.

Compassion

We lead with compassion in everything we do. This opens the doorway to forgiveness, making amends and healing.

No Shame, Accountability

We choose not to shame anyone, including ourselves. Rather we hold each other accountable to be the change we want to see in the world.

Humanity

We recognize our common humanity: people who are incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, non-incarcerated, correctional officers and police officers.

Listening

We listen deeply, giving each person the space to voice his, her or their perspective.

Do No Harm

We adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent communication.

Thrive

It’s not enough to help people survive. We are here to help people thrive.

We envision a world where...

Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.

Madeleine L'Engle

Donate Today

CPP is a not-for-profit, grassroots-based organization. Big changes are made in small steps and we value the amount of every donation. Your contribution directly supports CPP's projects to achieve its mission to transform prisons and communities through compassionate action. All donations are tax deductible. Please consider donating today.

Stay Informed

Sign up for the Newsletter