“Saint Badass” by Doug Carnine


Doug Carnine, PhD
Mindful Kindness (2017)
ISBN 9780998050904
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (4/19)

“Saint Badass,” is written by Doug Carnine, PhD, a lay minister of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives. His book is a collection of letters that were exchanged with several inmates from the Max Tucker Prison, from 2009 to 2016. Saint Badass refers to Roy Tester, the first inmate with whom he began writing. He also had close correspondence with Cody Griffin, John Bruno, and Roger “Tad” Price, Jr. They discussed Buddha’s teachings and how they could be applied to life within the walls of a prison. The inmates also shared a great deal of information about their own personal stories and how they ended up in prison. There was also a great deal of discussion about the inhumane treatment that some of them were receiving. 

Through their communications, Carnine encouraged Saint Badass to start making a change in the prison by practicing acts of kindness to others. This would not only impact his life, but also the lives of others around him, especially the inmates and guards. The others with whom he was writing, also took on this challenge. It had a huge impact on them because even though they were physically locked up, they discovered spiritual freedom. This enabled a change in their attitudes, even when in solitary, because this became an opportunity to escape the walls of imprisonment through meditation. Amazing changes were made, and lives of others were improved. Was perfection achieved? No, it was not, but their lives were made better. The progress was amazing, especially if you consider the hardships that these men went through during their critical formative years.

“Saint Badass,” made a huge impact on me in many ways. Personally, I tend to hold myself back from fully engaging in mindfulness and meditation because I let my busy life get in my way. These men could easily have let their circumstances hold them back. Instead they learned that the practice allowed them to better themselves and even bring joy into their world. This was a big wake up call for me. I really have no excuse. My career choice also involves helping others. There have been a lot of formerly incarcerated individuals placed in my path. Learning about the experiences of these men has given me greater insight into what the experiences of my students has been like. I think the knowledge gained here will enable me to be of greater service to them. I also need to focus on getting back on my spiritual path.

As I read this book, the word kindfulness, kept popping into my head. I know it isn’t a real word, but it seems to fit in terms of combining mindfulness with acts of kindness, which were done by these men! I am going to pass this title on to a prison guard in hopes that he can procure it for the inmates at his prison. I think that “Saint Badass” by Doug Carnine will be enjoyed by all readers who have an interest in Buddhist philosophy, meditation and mindfulness. I would also recommend that people who are involved in working with inmates or former inmates read it.

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