I’m wondering if you could survive even one week in a Missouri State Prison. The food alone is sometimes unrecognizable, you are placed in a cell with a complete stranger after being stripped searched and having all your possessions taken away. You are instructed not to accept anything from anybody – no help from your fellow inmates. Some of the other inmates will test you to see if they can control you. There’s no one to turn to. People on the out-side won’t listen – they believe you are getting what you deserve.
Karlene ‘Kalen’ McAllister is a Zen Buddhist priest who was ordained in 2008 at Ryumonji Zen Monastery in Iowa. She received dharma transmission and traveled to Japan in 2012. She organized the movement to allow Buddhism inside the Missouri prison system and was a volunteer in over six state prisons. In 2009, she was hired to work as one of 22 state prison chaplains in Missouri. She was the only woman Buddhist Chaplain in Missouri and mostly likely in the United States. After 5 1/2 years she retired and has continued her work with ex-offenders or returning citizens. Most recently she opened the Laughing Bear Bakery that hires ex-offenders. She organized Inside Dharma, which is an active Buddhist outreach organization that works with offenders, ex-offenders, and the homeless. They are responsible for putting out the resource guide StartHereSTL.