Transformation in Incarcerated Communities: Awakening Exchange

February 2, 2024
Steven Matthew Clark with Nina Fry-Kizler


The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) has a fifty-year-old mandate to democratize access to the noetic sciences. As part of that, over the last few years, IONS has been in connection with several people who are currently incarcerated and are running research, education, and empowerment programs in their facilities that are aligned with the work we do at IONS. One of these individuals has even been able to maintain their IONS membership while incarcerated, and another does volunteer work on one of our Science Team committees. 

IONS staff has worked to support their important efforts with these underserved communities by reviewing program components, sending IONS materials, and sharing their work with our community. In this post, we’d like to highlight how this kind of work, focusing on mindfulness and conscious awareness, can influence people in what may be considered “marginalized” communities, which often do not have access to this kind of noetic information or tools. In this blog, we will focus on the work of Steven Matthew Clark, who developed the Awakening Exchange and Coaching Program and has been running it in his facility since 2018. I asked Steven some interview questions to learn more about his incredible work and program.


What are the Details of Your Program? 

The Awakening Exchange and Coaching Program is an innovative platform that runs bi-monthly events that aim to foster community, discussions, and support among individuals passionate about reforming the criminal justice system. The program incorporates evidence-based coaching methods and encourages collective healing within the prison environment.

The Coaching Program within the Awakening Exchange focuses on implementing restorative justice practices and provides support for individuals seeking personal transformation within the prison system. The program started by offering coaching sessions twice a week within my facility and has now expanded its reach to include participants from various correctional facilities across the United States.

The long-term vision for the Awakening Exchange and Coaching Program is to evolve into a comprehensive rehabilitation platform that serves as a global hub for restorative justice and reentry resources. I envision the program expanding its outreach, providing access to evidence-based coaching and educational resources for incarcerated individuals worldwide. Additionally, the program aims to collaborate with prominent organizations and experts in the field to strengthen its impact and influence positive change within the criminal justice system.

How Does Your Work Relate to Our Work at IONS?

Both initiatives share a common ground in seeking to explore, understand, and facilitate transformative experiences that enhance personal and collective growth, transformation, and well-being. Both platforms explore the potential of consciousness and human potential to effect positive change.

Through its coaching program, the Awakening focuses on employing evidence-based coaching techniques to help incarcerated individuals navigate their journey toward reformation. Similarly, IONS explores consciousness, human potential, and transformative experiences through research, education, and community engagement. IONS investigates consciousness-based practices, healing modalities, and transformative experiences to promote well-being and personal growth.

While the Awakening primarily centers on transformation within the criminal justice system, IONS takes a broader, more inclusive approach, encompassing various aspects of human potential and consciousness within humanity as a whole.

How Does Your Work Impact Your Community?

The Awakening likely has a profound impact on this community by fostering positive change and rehabilitation within the criminal justice system. Through its coaching programs and initiatives, it offers opportunities for individuals in prison by equipping them with tools for self-improvement, reformation, and successful reentry into society.

By empowering individuals with coaching and support, the Awakening potentially reduces recidivism rates, positively impacting the larger community by promoting rehabilitation over punishment. As individuals reintegrate into society with enhanced skills, self-awareness, and a sense of purpose, they may contribute positively to the community, thereby creating a safer and more supportive environment for everyone.

What is Your Biography/Background as it Pertains to or is Impactful in Your Work?

I feel my journey embodies resilience, transformation, and a profound commitment to creating positive change within the prison system. I have an educational foundation in psychology, and this work is a result of a journey I embarked on to explore the intersection of psychology, technology, and spirituality, particularly within the context of mass incarceration.

During my time pursuing a Master’s degree in psychology, I became deeply engaged in understanding the complexities of the human mind. It was this curiosity that led me to initiate the creation of the Awakening Online Exchange. This platform serves as a beacon of hope for incarcerated individuals, providing them with vital resources, education, and a supportive network to aid in their rehabilitation and transformation.

Witnessing the profound impact of technology on the lives of incarcerated individuals, I became impassioned about breaking the cycle of recidivism and reducing mass incarceration rates. Motivated by this vision, I sought a doctoral program that aligned with my passion for effecting positive change. This quest led me to the California Institute of Human Sciences (CIHS), renowned for its commitment to holistic education, spiritual growth, and social transformation.

What resonated deeply with me about CIHS was its dedication to integrating spirituality and consciousness into academic studies. The comprehensive curriculum encompasses areas such as psychology, consciousness studies, and transpersonal psychology, providing an ideal platform to explore this intersection of different fields with technology within the context of mass incarceration.

I have been an advocate for holistic approaches to rehabilitation, emphasizing the importance of interconnectedness, mindfulness, and personal growth. I have actively contributed to the prison community by running the Awakening Exchange and dedicating myself to personal development while pursuing my PhD.

This year is the beginning of the 19th year of my prison sentence. I believe that my own personal transformation and journey during that time exemplify resilience, dedication, and a genuine commitment to transforming the lives of people in my community and around the country. Thanks to the communities of IONS, the Xchange Approach, and Sutra, I am connected to some of the greatest thought leaders who exemplify love and grace. These communities have shown me kindness and humility, but more importantly, they have all modeled transformative leadership and a higher consciousness.


If you would like to learn more about Steven and the Awakening Exchange, you can visit the following websites. Steven is fortunate to have access to the internet and has wonderful educational experiences. 

Learn More:

Awakening Exchange’s Website 

Steven Matthew Clark’s Linkedin

Awakening Exchange Initiatives

In the next few months, we will feature a blog on Heather Tapia, who is conducting a mindfulness program in her facility in Ohio. Stay tuned for more info about this amazing work!

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