Compassion Prison Project: Bringing Trauma-informed Care into the Prison System with Fritzi Horstman
Play • 42 min

“When people start realizing they're traumatized, they forgive themselves. They need to start there. And that shame just goes away. That shame dissolves.” ~Fritzi Horstman

Our host Sarah Buino is joined by Fritzi Horstman, Founder and Executive Director of the Compassion Prison Project. Through her work, Fritzi aims to bring trauma-informed care to a population in high need of trauma healing and not likely to receive it: men and women in prison. 

Sarah and Fritzi discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), how childhood trauma impacts people who are incarcerated, and how trauma awareness can support prison reform. Throughout their conversation, they talk about how both the Compassion Prison Project and the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM) work to dismantle shame, humanize individuals, and heal complex trauma.

The Compassion Prison Project’s important mission is to “bring compassion, childhood trauma awareness, and creative inspiration to the men and women living behind bars”. Earlier this year, they released a documentary, “Step Inside The Circle”, which depicts what Fritzi calls the Compassion Trauma Circle.

235 incarcerated men at a maximum security prison in Lancaster, CA form a circle and for each Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) read aloud by Fritzi that they’ve experienced, they take one step forward into the circle. Step Inside The Circle highlights that childhood trauma is a shared experience of most people who are incarcerated. Fritzi says, “our pain is shared, and almost all of us have been victims of inhumanity and violence.”   

Sarah asks Fritzi, “what do you imagine a trauma-informed prison system to look like?” Fritzi shares that a trauma-informed prison would be a center for rehabilitation and healing that supports people to change the underlying behaviors that were created originally by trauma. She envisions a system that helps vulnerable individuals build a bridge back to society, and most importantly, would return them back to their community as a human, and “not the felon, not the criminal that you know, but the human that [they] are.” 


Fritzi Horstman is the Founder and Executive Director of Compassion Prison Project.  She is a Grammy-award winning producer for her work on “The Defiant Ones”, has been a producer and post-producer on dozens of television projects and documentaries and has directed several films. She believes it is urgent to bring humanity and compassion to those living behind bars and these acts will help transform our society.  She has a Bachelor's Degree from Vassar College.


Compassion Prison Project



NARM Training Institute

The NARM Training Institute provides tools for transforming complex trauma through: in-person and online trainings for mental health care professionals; in-person and online workshops on complex trauma and how it interplays with areas like addiction, parenting, and cultural trauma; an online self-paced learning program, the NARM Inner Circle; and other trauma-informed learning resources.  

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