Monday, October 6, 2014

Peace behind bars: an impossible goal?

Can there really be peace behind bars? Probably not, but give Warden Mary Berghuis credit for making huge strides toward that goal.

Ms. Berghuis, whom I describe as a warden with a heart, runs both Brooks and West Shoreline facilities in Muskegon. During my last visit, she handed me a little plastic card with the label: THE POWER OF PEACE PROJECT. I was intrigued, and asked for more information.

Turns out Warden Berghuis, always thinking outside the box for her prisons, met Power of Peace Project founder Kit Cummings at a conference a few years ago. During their conversation, the nationally known motivational speaker offered to go to the Muskegon prisons to introduce his program. And since that time, he has made several return visits.

Cummings’ principles make strong demands of prisoners:

1. I WILL do my very best to live I peace with everyone I meet.
2. I WILL NOT provoke or disrespect anyone.
3. When provoked, I WILL NOT retaliate.
4. When cursed, I WILL NOT curse back.
5. I WILL NOT lie, cheat or steal.
6. When I am wrong, I WILL promptly admit it and quickly make amends.
7. I WILL treat ALL people with the respect with which I wish to be treated.

The warden says that Cummings gets leaders (good and bad) to join together to commit to 40 days of peace, believing that once they’ve had peace for that period of time they will not return to violence. She estimates that over 800 Muskegon prisoners have now participated in this project, and feels it has made a huge impact!

And Cummings isn’t letting up. Warden Berghuis says that he is now trying to connect Muskegon area schools, churches AND prisons in an effort to eliminate violence.

Don’t you wish every prison had this program?

Don’t you wish every prison had a leader like Warden Berghuis?

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