Anthroposophical Prison Outreach Canada

, September 22, 2018

“Your Council considers one of its core functions is to encourage and support initiatives in the world by the Membership. One of our members, Tim Nadelle, has taken the initiative to design and launch an Anthroposophical Prison Outreach program in Canada. We are excited to work with Tim to help in the areas of holding a consciousness of the initiative, spreading awareness and networking, creative funding arrangements and tax receipting. As the steward on this project, we are grateful for his inspiration, and initiative in presenting such a comprehensive plan for this important work in the world.”


Anthroposophical Society in Canada supports initiative: Anthroposophical Prison Outreach Canada

Over the last few years, several society and council members have thought about the idea of an Anthroposophical Prison Outreach initiative, in the direction of what our colleagues in the U.S. have achieved.  So we’re pleased to announce that the work is underway.  Tim Nadelle is the steward for the initiative, supported by Susan Richard and Christine Tansley.  The Society stands behind their efforts.  And the Council has made a commitment to support and sustain the work going forward; for example, by finding a replacement in future if Tim Nadelle needed to withdraw.

Anthroposphical Prison Outreach Canada and how you can help, by Tim Nadelle

At the 2016 conference, “Encountering our Humanity” in Ottawa, I attended a talk by Fred Janney, who was the central founder of the Anthroposophical Prison Outreach (APO) initiative in the U.S.  I was inspired and amazed by the practical success which APO has had in helping prisoners develop meditative practices and start to change their lives. Here, for example, is a quote from a prisoner in the summer 2018 APO newsletter:

Yes, the meditative exercises have proven to be a very valuable part of my life. I meditate daily for at least 10min up to 25min. I am constantly looking at myself, working on myself. Introspection and retrospection. I tried the Plant Meditation and cannot even begin to express all that I have accomplished in meditation. Roderick, Century, FL

APO has been active in the U.S. for 18 years. In this time they have touched the lives of almost 4,000 prisoners in over 600 prisons across the United States. Through the years, roughly 20,000 books have reached prisoners’ hands directly, and readers often share their books with others, studying together, and discussing concepts they’ve learned, reaching many more people than APO is able to count. In 2016, 800 participants received the bookHow to know Higher Worldsand an accompanying study guide to keep. APO also placed 600 copies of the book in prison libraries.

The programs offered by APO are extensive.  Engagement typically begins when a prisoner writes APO for an information packet.  The packet includes a lecture by Steiner, an article by Dennis Klocek, articles by others and a couple of meditations.  APO’s lending library of over 200 anthroposophical different books is a cornerstone of their work.  They have led seminars and started study groups in prisons; they have a letter-writing mentor program; they offer a correspondence program.

Visit the APO website at https://www.anthroposophyforprisoners.orgto research their impressive and heartening work.

Back in August 2016, I was deeply engaged with our production of the Portal of Initiation in Toronto.  However, I promised Fred Janney that I would take up this work in some way in 2018, when the Portal work would be complete.  In January of 2018, I commenced a series of conference calls with Fred and Kathy Serafin of APO, to build an idea of how we could get started in Canada.

A few months later, Susan Richard and Christine Tansley kindly agreed to work with me and so our fledgling volunteer group was formed.

So what are we doing in Canada?

Anthroposophical Prison Outreach Canada (APOC) is just getting started. Over spring and summer 2018, we sent a letter with a poster and a copy of Knowledge of Higher Worlds to 31 federal prisons in Canada.[1]  The poster invites the prisoners to write to APOC for an information packet (which is virtually identical to the one provided by APO in the U.S.).  The book includes labels in its front and back covers with the same invitation.  To date we have sent out packets to 3 prisoners, each of whom asked us to address it c/o the prison chaplain.  We expect any book exchanges would also need to occur via a third party in the prison bureaucracy e.g. the prison librarian or chaplain.  We have 3 copies of 7 different books so far for our lending library and plan to purchase or gather more in the coming months and years. (See below if you can help with books.)

As of the publication of this article, we will have sent a second letter, a copy of Theosophy and a new poster (designed by Vibeke Ball) to each of 31 federal prisons.  To complete our third mailing (while also retaining sufficient cash for sending packets and books in the mail), we will need to raise funds.  (See below!)

Fred and Kathy tell me that APO in the U.S. started slowly, with only a few books lent out in their second year.  We are continuing to learn from experience.  Our program will evolve over time based on what works and what does not work.

I should mention that initial funding for APOC comes from 2 sources:

  • The surplus generated by the Portal of Initiation performances and conferences held in October 2015, 2016 and 2017.
  • A fundraising project for prison outreach in Canada undertaken by Monica Gold. That money was held in a foundation and has now been made available to APOC through the Anthroposophical Society in Canada.

The initial plan for APOC is to purchase and mail the 4 or 5 introductory books by Steiner available to all federal prison libraries, send out packets to prisoners who request them and commence a book exchange program.[2]  I think of this as “going wide” with our initiative.

Starting in 2019, we hope to commence a fledgling program at a federal and possibly a provincial prison in Ontario.  In all likelihood, this will involve a seminar with prisoners over 7 weeks on Steiner’s 6 introductory exercises.  Wherever possible (taking into account regulatory differences in Canada vs the U.S), we are attempting to emulate the excellent work done by APO in the U.S.  Fred and Kathy have successfully led seminars on the 6 introductory exercises, so this seems like a great way to begin.  Eventually, based on our experiences, we hope to expand this work with a network of volunteers visiting prisons across the country. I think of the seminar work as “going deep” with our initiative.

3 ways you can help Anthroposophical Prison Outreach Canada now!

  • If you know a prisoner who might benefit from an information packet, please let us know his or her name and address and we’ll send one.Please be sure to give us the “c/o” person to whom the packet should be sent.  You can email your request to [email protected].
  • Send us a donation. $30 is generally sufficient to purchase a book.

If by mail…Make your cheque out to The Anthroposophical Society in Canada. Mail it to Lynn Lagroix, The Anthroposophical Society in Canada, #130A – 1 Hesperus Road, Thornhill, ON, L4J 0G9.  Please include a little note explaining the donation is for Anthroposophical Prison Outreach Canada,(APOC).

If by Interac…Send your Interac email money transfer to mailto:[email protected]. Please also send a separate email to mailto:[email protected]  explaining the donation is for APOC; and in this separate email please include the security word for the Interac transfer.

If through Canada Helps… Go to www.canadahelps.organd make your donation.  Please also send a separate email to mailto:[email protected]  explaining the donation is for APOC.

  • Send us a paperback book for our lending library. (No hardcover books as prisons will not accept them.)  We have copies of all the introductory books.  Please consider sending us a lecture series. Send the book to Anthroposophical Prison Outreach, Canada, 130A Hesperus Road, Thornhill, ON, L4J 0G9

[1]William Caldwell did some initial work on prison outreach a few years ago and discovered that federal prisons house inmates with sentences of 2 years or more. Fred Janney in the U.S. recommended that, for practical reasons, it makes sense to focus the work – at least initially – on prisoners who will be incarcerated for longer periods.  They are at the same addresses for longer periods, so we can keep in touch with them, develop a more involved program etc.


[2]Since we have been successful sending books to prison libraries and information packets to prisoners c/o chaplains, we expect to be able to send books c/o chaplains or others to prisoners.  If this doesn’t work, we may simply send books to prison libraries and offer other programs via mail e.g. a letter-writing mentor program.  We continue to learn how to do this effectively.