In 2015, Anna Debenham went to prison.
Her route to the Big House had nothing to do with crime. In a lifelong search for lasting peace of mind, Anna had came across a groundbreaking approach to life and work that had her excited to learn more. While working as a business coach in London, Anna went back to school for a 10-month program at the One Thought Institute in London with a simple focus: understanding the limitless nature of the human mind, and recognizing our own innate wellbeing: that everything we need to thrive already exists within us.
While at One Thought, Anna began volunteering with Beyond Recovery, an organisation that had received a government grant to research this understanding with the prison population. Anna joined Beyond Recovery as a volunteer assistant, teaching this understanding in prison in the UK. For the first time, she saw how this approach could change the lives of others. After one year with Beyond Recovery, Anna and her husband moved back to Portland, determined to maintain her focus on the prison population. In September 2016, she began working in prison in Oregon, at the Columbia River Correctional Institution (CRCI).
Her programs have been well received by the staff and inmates alike, and have expanded by word of mouth as participants start to see real change in themselves and their state of mind. Again and again they ask, “Why hasn’t someone taught us this before? If I knew this 10 years ago I wouldn’t be here.”
Becoming The Insight Alliance
Anna knew she needed to make this work official and focus all her time and energy to what she loved – working with the incarcerated population. After a successful meeting at Coffee Creek women’s prison, Susan Stoltenberg – Executive Director of The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) offered to be the organisation’s fiscal sponsor. The Insight Alliance was born.
In January 2018, The Insight Alliance expanded to Santiam Correctional Institution. With the support of the head of programming at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and more and more success with their programs in the men’s prison, The Insight Alliance launched a two-year research project within the womens’ medium security prison. The research will document the impacts and benefits of this work on reducing recidivism and impacting lives. The programs and the organisation continues to grow and expand, not just to other facilities such as McLaren Youth prison but also to a mentor training program in the community and groups to support Insight Alliance graduates out in the community.