Finding Freedom A Study Guide for Classroom Use
||Jarvis Jay Masters' book Finding Freedom:
Writings from Death Row has been used in many educational settings with
students from Middle School age to college level. Click here to read what
educators and students have to say about the book.
We have developed a study guide to help readers reflect on their responses
to the book and articulate their thoughts in writing from wherever they
are. Feel free to adapt this guide to your own needs. We would be delighted
to receive students' responses, as well as any feedback about the book or
|FINDING FREEDOM: |
Writings from Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters
PART I: SANCTUARY
Sanctuary, p. 3
- What did Jarvis do to make his cell feel like "home"? Why did he do this?
- Describe a space you have made "your own". Tell how you transformed it and how it transformed you.
- Why do you think people need to personalize their environments as you and Jarvis have done?
Little Black Sparrow, p. 9
- How do you think the moral of Satchmo's story could apply to the inmates' lives?
Pablo's Wish, p. 13
The Man Who Talks to Himself, p. 19
- Write your own letter to Alice.
A Reason to Live, p. 25
- Why would behavior that's "crazy" on the outside not necessarily be considered "crazy" inside prison?
- What's your analysis of Mookie? How do you think the world he has created helps or hinders his experience in San Quentin?
- Can you imagine creating an imaginary world in a setting such as San Quentin? If so, what might it be like?
Fruitcakes, p. 35
- What was the psychology Jarvis used in changing the young man's mind about suicide?
- Have you ever felt suicidal or known someone who felt suicidal? What helped you/them feel more optimistic about life?
- Why do you think Jarvis's technique was successful?
Thirteen Sixty-Eight, p. 47
- What qualities do we see in Jarvis as he describes the craziness around him? Give examples.
The Boneyard Visit, p. 51
- How do you feel about Milton getting out of prison?
- What can be done to help people like Milton have a positive successful life on the outside? (If you know of programs in existence that have this goal, describe them.)
Funny How Time Flies, p. 57
- This account of Herbert's conjugal visit shows the humanity of the inmates. What else can you say about it?
- How does Jarvis's account (Herbert's account) differ from the way sex is portrayed in the media?
PART II: MOURNING EXERCISE
- This story has its funny side, but might evoke other emotions in you, as well. Express these.
Recipe for Prison Pruno, p. 63
When I First Got Charged, p. 65
- Describe your response to this poem.
- Try your hand at a similar piece of writing using a real event in your life juxtaposed with a recipe, advertisement, or a popular song.
Scars, p. 67
- Talk about the transformation in Jarvis as he allows "wonder" into his life.
Me and My Sisters, p. 73
- What is Jarvis wondering about the scars he sees on his fellow inmates?
- What do we learn about their scars? How have they dealt with them?
- How have Jarvis's scars affected his life choices? What has he learned?
- Do you have any scars-physical or emotional-worth exploring? Share your thoughts and feelings.
Mourning Exercise, p. 79
- Say something about Jarvis's childhood and how it influenced who he is today.
- How was your childhood similar to or different from Jarvis's? And how did that shape you?
Dream, p. 83
- Expand on Jarvis's last sentence, page 82.
Justice Marshall Resigns, p. 89
- What hopes and fears are expressed in Jarvis's dream?
- Describe a significant dream of your own and its message to you.
Bryan, p. 91
- Research how Justice Marshall's resignation affected the Supreme Court.
- Why are Americans concerned about the President's choices of Supreme Court Justices? What implications do these choices have?
It's Become So Hard, p. 97
- What qualities do we see in Jarvis as he recounts the loss of his friend Bryan? Note examples.
O.J., p. 99
- If you could talk to Jarvis directly, how would you respond to the feelings he's expressed in these two pages?
PART III, FINDING FREEDOM
- What's going on here? Express your own thoughts about these issues.
For a Long Time, p. 111
Seeking Silence, p. 115
- What questions do you want to ask Jarvis about his Buddhist quest?
The Dalai Lama Hat
- Try meditating "before the world is awake". Watch your breath go in and out. Watch what happens as the silence is broken. How does this affect your meditation?
- While meditating, send positive energy to Jarvis.
- Write about your experiences during the above meditation.
The Empowerment Ceremony, 123 through 132
- How did this interchange increase Eddie's self-esteem?
- What kinds of activities/programs might prisons offer to increase the humanity of inmates? (If you know about any such programs, please describe them.)
Angry Faces, p. 133 through Stop! A Buddhist is here!
- What teachings from this chapter do you want to integrate into your own life? Why and how?
- How is Jarvis's Buddhist practice manifested in these chapters?
- Is it possible to practice nonviolence in any and all situations? Give examples to prove your point.
- What are your thoughts and feelings about prison as a punishment? Are there any alternatives? If so, what? If not, why not?
- How did you feel about the death penalty before reading Finding Freedom? How do you feel now? Compare and contrast.
- Does Jarvis really "find freedom"? How? What does freedom mean to Jarvis? What does freedom mean to you?
- Write a letter to Jarvis in response to his book. Tell him what you found most meaningful about it.
- Would you recommend Finding Freedom to others? Why?
- What do you believe is Jarvis's message?
- Have you been inspired by Jarvis? What might you do differently now that you have read his book?