SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- An inmate at Donovan State Prison in Otay Mesa contacted ABC 10News with hopes of recognizing a volunteer’s devotion to the wellbeing of facility staff and inmates.
In a letter to ABC 10News, the inmate wanted to highlight Brahman Kyrie’s positive influence on those she worked with at the prison.
Brahman Kyrie -- which is her spiritual name meaning "divine mercy"-- began volunteering at the prison three years ago, leading meditation classes.
Her work at the prison includes a mural project on the grounds in early 2020, which included the well-known Menendez brothers.
“The guys in there are some of the most traumatized people I've ever met,” she told ABC 10News.
Trauma that Kyrie believes almost always led to the acts which landed them in prison.
“We don't get to make a really good decisions when we're being impulsed by our past trauma,” said Kyrie. “We just don't have access to reason or, 'Is this a good idea? Probably not.' We're just reacting from that place of woundedness, fear, fight, or flight.”
In a YouTube clip from a 2019 presentation, Kyrie said to a room filled with dozens of inmates: “We're going to send blessing to everyone in this whole prison.”
She later said: “It's so easy for me to let go of the old and be born anew.”
Kyrie told ABC 10News, “I lived a bit of a wild life back in the day, and I got clean and sober 14 years ago and I started to learn about meditation and prayer.”
While Hindu teachings and dress are prominent in her approach, Kyrie said she's not pushing any religion but inviting participants to embrace their own sense of the divine.
“Really, we have a lot of Christians, lots of different faiths, really,” Kyrie explained. “I do Hindu ceremony, I do a lot of Puja [an act of worship in Hinduism]. But we also do a lot of meditation and blessings and healing that is nondenominational -- that it's just whatever your heart is called to.”
In response to those who say prison is supposed to be a place of punishment, Kyrie responded, “Well, it doesn't really work. The punishment, like, we're going to throw away the key thing, doesn't work. It's been proven that those people that we do that to, they're going to come out of prison a lot angrier. Today's prisoner, tomorrow's neighbor.”
Along with teaching meditation, Kyrie has helped create other avenues for personal and spiritual growth at the prison, including inmate mural projects and the first Restorative Justice Fair in an American prison.
“We brought in some people who have been victims of crime in their lives,” said Kyrie. “And these guys were able to read their remorse letters to the surrogate victims.”
Kyrie said she believes a change is happening in the way we look at prisons. And she prays that someday each prison will become a hub of healing and restorative justice.
“Because personally, I've had those experiences where I've just resented the person that's inflicted harm on me, and I've hated them and resented them. When I chose to forgive and chose to let that stuff go and do my own healing. I benefited from that,” said Kyrie.
The pandemic has kept Kyrie and other volunteers out of Donovan Prison over the past year, but she said she's looking forward to returning -- something that could happen by mid-June when statewide restrictions are expected to be lifted.