Prison Contemplative Fellowship is pleased to present the documentary film Holding Still

“Powerful, moving and inspiring, ‘Holding Still’ helps you to see not only inmates in a new light, but God in a new light.”
James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray

This website is a meeting place for volunteers and chaplains who teach and facilitate Centering Prayer in prisons and jails. It provides a place for the exchange of teaching materials, prison and jail stories, and comments from prisoners.

What is Prison Contemplative Fellowship?

Prison Contemplative Fellowship (PCF) is an association of volunteers, prison chaplains, prisoners, and former prisoners, who practice a form of silent meditation called Centering Prayer. This prayer practice was well-known in the early church, then lost for centuries, and now is emerging as a powerful tool for personal transformation.

We provide guidance and materials to individuals and groups who wish to do this prayer practice in prisons and jails, regardless of any denomination preference or religious orientation.  When asked, we send books and pamphlets, in English and Spanish, free of charge to volunteers and prison chaplains to support their efforts to help prisoners maintain a contemplative prayer practice.

Through an association with the Human Kindness Foundation, an organization that has sent religious and spiritual materials to prisoners for over 30 years, and who is familiar with the complexities of prison regulations for mailing books to prisoners, we are able to send Centering Prayer materials directly to prisoners across the country. As of the end of September 2021, nearly 1850 prisoners in over 825 prisons, have received Finding God Within, Contemplative Prayer for Prisoners. We have also sent over 3600 books to nearly 75 volunteers going into prisons and jails.

In addition to publications, PCF has recently produced Holding StillCentering Prayer and the Spiritual Journey, a riveting, candid, and insightful short documentary film about practicing Centering Prayer while incarcerated at Folsom Prison. The film focuses on a diverse group of men who speak candidly about their years-long journey practicing Centering Prayer while serving time at Folsom Prison. The film’s aim is to allow prisoners to speak directly to other prisoners who are incarcerated across the country. They share their unique stories and deep wisdom about the power of Centering Prayer in healing trauma and addressing profound feelings of toxic shame.

Along with the film, PCF is developing short companion films featuring individual interviews with the men in the film; a Course of Study, and Discussion and Screening Guides for individuals and organizations who facilitate Centering Prayer in prisons, wish to introduce the practice, and/or would like to screen the documentary to their respective communities. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact us via email at [email protected].

“I the Lord will fight for you, you have only to hold still.” Exodus 14:14.

PCF was established by Ray Leonardini, a former lawyer who practiced government and nonprofit law for nearly 30 years. For the last 14 years, as a volunteer chaplain, Ray has led meditation groups and taught contemplative prayer and the spiritual journey at Folsom State Prison in California. Ray is the author of Finding God Within: Going Inside (the companion text to Finding God Within); and Toxic Shame and Contemplative Prayer.

“It was nothing like what I expected. Ray ran the group and he was speaking about shame. It really struck me because I’ve done a lot of self-help groups in prison. And this is a topic that we don’t speak about. We talk a lot about the actions, but we don’t talk about why. It was the first time I heard it and I wanted more.”

“I wanted more and I just kept coming”

Ket on practicing Centering Prayer at Folsom Prison

“Before anything could make me feel any kind of way. Anger, violence, frustration. But now I have more of a choice about what to do.

Even though I’m feeling frustrated, I can still smile. Even though I feel like I don’t matter, I can still make other people feel like I matter.”

“Feeling the pain of incarceration, just try this.”

Lawrence on practicing Centering Prayer at Folsom Prison