March 28, 2007
A different kind of prison
Riverfront State Prison, in Camden, New Jersey, is lucky enough to have one David Parrish, a forensic psychologist with 33 years’ experience in the prison system, as its administrator. Mr. Parrish is clearly an enlightened soul, always willing to experiment with new ways to rehabilitate Riverfront’s inmates. For example:
Last year, at Riverfront Prison, in Camden, we introduced a transformational approach toward inmates that we call the Impact Project.
Our project has been granted permission to utilize leading-
edge technology designed by Landmark Education, an internationally recognized industry leader in the training and development field.
At Riverfront, this approach helps reveal to the incarcerated offenders how their view of the world around them — and of themselves — results in their destructive and threatening behaviors.
In turn, the program enables those who supervise the inmates to get at the sources of criminal behavior, and thus help change it rather than just impose their moral judgments.
Prisoners are oriented toward a new view of themselves and the world, one that empowers them to imagine and create a future that breaks the cycle of incarceration.
Inmates at Riverfront must qualify for the Impact Project.
To qualify, inmates must be within a year of parole eligibility, pass an interview by a committee consisting of custody and treatment staff, and make written agreements for full participation, which includes committing to completing a high school education.
Currently, 85 of our 1,000 inmates are enrolled in the program.
The project begins with a three-day, 36-hour intensive “Breakthrough Course.” This is a rigorous inquiry that provides the inmates with a clear picture of how they developed anti-social identities, and leaves them with the choice of who they want to be in the future.
Then the inmates participating in the course are moved together into a housing unit and guided to establish a peer learning community where they practice using their newly acquired self-transformational tools in everyday situations.
Follow-up seminars are provided to expand on the foundation material.
The project provides inmates with continual programming and support for the duration of their incarceration and even after their release.
So far, two of the “graduates” have been released. Both seem to be doing well in adjusting to society outside.
Great news, with just one minor hitch: Landmark Education, that “internationally recognized industry leader in the training and development field,” is in reality the
insidious and litigious mind-control cult organization formerly known as EST (AKA The Landmark Forum or simply The Forum). Landmark’s record speaks for itself: here, here, here, here, here… and so on and on.
All of which suggests that the enlightened Mr. Parrish is either a Landmark member or remarkably gullible—readers might want to contact him on (856) 225-5700 to ask which. Either way, it kinda makes you wonder if he is a good fit for his current role (particularly given some of his other, er, interesting ideas about prison reform).
For a long time—in fact pretty much until I pointed it out last fall—Landmark had three flying pigs on its homepage (cached image here; click to enlarge). The New Jersey Department of Corrections might want to ask itself—and Mr. Parrish—why.
Thanks to the Cult News Network for alerting me to Parrish’s article.
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I've read and re-read this Rick Ross article Stephen Ayer linked, and I'm finding no evidence, documentation, or argument of any kind that Wruck was persuaded at all to write this study. My understanding is that it was written without Landmark's knowledge. Although my cursory search has found no evidence to support that, I've found no evidence to refute it, either. I will confess, when I read the HBS study, I also thought it was a little odd that it read "like a 22-page advertisement for Landmark Education". So be it. I would be interested to know the origin of that paper, should you be able to find any empirical evidence.
Another one I find particularly interesting is the Yankelovich study, which you can find on Landmark's website. My first response to the statistics the study quotes is to see if there was any selection bias (if you pick people still participating a year later, of course they're going to talk about how great it is). But according to the study, "Prior to their Landmark Forum, people were asked what they expected to achieve in the course; after The Landmark Forum, they were asked about the benefits they actually received." I'm left wondering WHEN they were surveyed (my understanding is that it was a year after they completed the Landmark Forum, but again, I find no evidence to support that in the study as written), but either way, the numbers are damn impressive.
I like to think that I'm not hopelessly naive, but I am a Landmark graduate (although I didn't come out and say it in my previous post, I think it was fairly obvious from how much I knew about the inner workings of the company, the Landmark Forum, and so on). After reading a great deal of material on the Internet about it, most of the criticism I've seen refers to high-pressure sales tactics (which, as I said, they are constantly seeking to eliminate), the use of mind-control techniques (which they're reducing - e.g., the course now runs from 9am - 10pm, where it used to run from 9am - midnight, because sleep deprivation diminishes the benefits you get out of the course), and the fact that volunteers and graduates are used to recruit and perform the labor for a for-profit company (these critics rarely mention that the shareholders never take any profits from the revenue surpluses, but instead reinvest them to expand their programming around the world; nor do they mention that the people who work for Landmark - even the 60 or so who lead the course - receive a pretty low level of compensation compared to the number of hours per week they work; perhaps further evidence of indoctrination, but you might also consider that they're compensated in the same way as someone who works for a nonprofit, simply because they're actually committed to making a difference).
I've talked to people who took the Landmark Forum and then stopped participating partway through their first 10-session seminar series. When I talked to them later, sometimes over a year afterwards (I took it two years ago), they were still grateful for the experience.
It goes without saying that everything "Poker Analyzer" says is either inaccurate or misleading. For example, that "independent" Harvard Business School study dates back to 1998, when Landmark managed to persuade a clueless professor to write a classroom case study (Landmark can seem pretty credible if you're hopelessly naive, as "Poker Analyzer" apparently is). Harvard figured out too late what had happened, and made Landmark sign an agreement never to use the study for promotional purposes -- which of course it has done ever since.
Unlike this commenter, I've seen the damage Landmark has done to a broad group of people, some of them close friends. Oddly, I don't recall any "extraordinary benefits."
Posted by: Stephen Ayer at March 31, 2007 6:25 PM
While you list off several accounts of Landmark's record speaking for itself, you have failed to include any of the many, many accounts that are extremely positive, including articles by the London Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, ABC News, and independent research studies by Harvard Business School, IMC, and Harris, among others.
The flying pigs represented "a life that defies the predictable." It was promoting a graduate program that was only being offered for a few months. That's why it's not there anymore.
Landmark Education's history has nothing to do with its current incarnation. EST stopped being offered over 20 years ago. The Landmark Forum takes the technologies that worked, eliminated the cult-like aspects of it (prohibiting bathroom breaks, tearing down your personality and rebuilding you around the group, etc), and delivers it in a way that's much softer and user-friendly. The course leaders sometimes say things that, taken out of context, seem atrocious, but they are usually extremely compassionate in the way they say them.
Because the course is designed to confront the aspects of your personality that you may be attached to, it's not recommended for everyone, and that's why there's a health warning, and that's why participants in the Impact Project have to go through an extensive interview and qualification process in order to participate. I heard somewhere that recidivism among ex-cons who took the Landmark Forum is astronomically low - not surprising, considering that a core part of the program is giving up using circumstances as an excuse for your actions, and instead taking full responsibility for your life.
When you register for the Landmark Forum, you fill out a form saying what you intend to get out of it. As long as it doesn't defy the laws of physics, you're pretty much guaranteed to get that out of it. The people who go into it wanting to get a good story or to prove it's a cult are going to get exactly that. Most people don't go into it with that mindset, and they actually get extraordinary benefits.