Insight on the Inside

Against the Stream (ATS) receives many requests from prisoners who are seeking support in their dharma practice. Through the Insight on the Inside Project, ATS will connect volunteer sangha members to be a “spiritual friend” to prisoners who have requested additional guidance and support in their paths of meditation, mindfulness, and/or other contemplative practices. Insight on the Inside is based on the tradition of Kalyana Mitta, a Pali term that means “spiritual friend.”

Individuals who are currently incarcerated and would like to be matched with a pen pal through this project may send a letter with contact information to: Insight on the Inside, Against the Stream, 4300 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90029 



Volunteer is a non-incarcerated person, with at least 1 year of dedicated dharma/ meditation practice who commits to writing an inmate for at least 1 year.Pen Pal is a person who is currently incarcerated & is seeking to correspond with a volunteer “on the outside”.Mentor is a non-incarcerated individual who has extensive experience in practicing the dharma & is available to their assigned volunteers for additional guidance & support.

Volunteer Eligibility

·      Have at least one year of dedicated dharma/ mindfulness practice.

·      Be committed to growing and exploring your own practice.

·      Be willing to seek guidance from your mentor.

Volunteer Commitment

·      Correspondence: We ask that you make a one-year commitment to correspond with your pen pal. At a minimum, volunteers should send one letter every month. Regardless of whether or not you get a response to every letter, please continue to send letters on a monthly basis.

·      Honest & mindful communication: often the best support one can give is sharing their own experiences with the dharma. The expectation is that you simply offer support and encouragement to your pen pal in their efforts to find their way in the dharma. Please commit to communication that is honest, useful, timely, compassionate and free from harm or gossip.

·      Your Practice: One of the most important aspects of this project is to nurture our dharma practices in an on-going way. We encourage you to commit to your own regular practice during the time that you volunteer for the Insight on the Inside project. This will ensure that both you and your pen pal receive the most possible benefit.

·      Ending the relationship with your Insight on the Inside pen pal: Please contact Erica (see contact information below) ASAP if you wish to end your pen pal relationship so we can match your pen pal with another volunteer.

Apply to be a Volunteer Pen Pal

If you meet the eligibility requirements and are willing to make the commitment, please click the following link to apply.

Volunteer Application Form 

 For more info, please WRITE