From the inception of the Oxford Zen Centre, the work of The Prison Phoenix Trust (PPT) has been a part of its life. The PPT offers meditation and yoga, silence and the breath, to prisoners and prison officers all over the UK and Ireland through books and CDs produced for prisoners by PPT staff, and through regular classes taught by qualified yoga and meditation teachers. Half its work includes supporting people in their practice through letters written by specially-trained volunteers. Many letter-writers are members of the OZC Sangha.
OZC founder Zen Teacher Sister Elaine MacInnes directed The PPT for six years as did other Sangha members. OZC Zen Teacher Sandy Chubb who worked for The PPT for 21 years, directed it for ten years, and the present Director, Selina Sasse, is also a member of the OZC. They have all written books on yoga and meditation to help prisoners practice in their cells. Assistant Zen Teachers Peter Wallis (Oxford) and Meg Vaughan-Fowler (London Jizo Centre) both worked as former PPT assistant Directors and the present PPT Deputy Director is Jason Doble who helps with the Sangha’s communications and administration.
Not only are PPT Sangha volunteers strengthened by their zen practice, but they are led naturally into this work as a mutual expression of gratitude.
So our heart and tradition is with those behind bars in prisons, in bail hostels, secure hospitals and immigration detention centres, offering practices which help bring hope and healing to captive men, women, and young people struggling to find themselves and – since ‘release day’ doesn’t mean ‘freedom day’ for so many – ex-inmates are included too.
If you would like to support or learn more about the work of this national charity based in Oxford, see www.theppt.org.uk