Criminal justice reform activist Fritzi Horstman is the founder and executive director of the Compassion Prison Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization consisting of individuals whose ultimate goal is to make the world more compassionate by helping those who are or were incarcerated. Ms. Horstman gathered the Blair community on September 14 to commence the 2021-2022 Society of Skeptics lecture series and spoke on the impetus behind her development of the Compassion Prison Project (CPP). To watch her full presentation, please click below:
Prior to founding CPP, Ms. Horstman received her Bachelor of Arts in Film and English from Vassar College. She is the Grammy-award winning producer of HBO’s “The Defiant Ones” series, and while building CPP, Ms. Horstman produced two documentaries, “Step Inside the Circle” and “Honor Yard: Finding Hope & Healing in a Maximum-Security Prison.” Both films highlight CPP’s story while educating viewers on the intersection between trauma and incarceration.
CPP works on a range of projects, such as letter-writing campaigns and compassion trauma circles to help incarcerated individuals who may have suffered adverse childhood experiences. All programs serve CPP’s overarching goal of working within the prison system while creating awareness in the general public to shift the negative connotations associated with those who are incarcerated.
“I hope they come to understand that people in prison aren’t monsters, that they learn what trauma does to the brain, body and spirit and maybe have them become excited to help shift the paradigm so that we’re not destroying the lives of people who commit crimes,” said Ms. Horstman in an interview with Blair. “And instead, we hope to help them heal so that they can return to us in a better condition than when they arrived in prison.”
Having spent her career addressing adults, Ms. Horstman revealed her excitement to reach a different, slightly younger audience.
“I could speak about just following what really gets you excited to wake up in the morning, because if you’re not excited doing this work, then, what are you doing? Why are you doing it? ‘Is it for money?’ I would ask. Why is money the goal instead of something that you can really contribute to the world? Because I think focusing on money, focuses on exploitation,” said Ms. Horstman.
“And then, it’s not helping the world. It’s actually hurting the world. So I would say, ‘If you love what you do, then you’re going to take care of the world and that’s giving back to the world just by choosing your occupation.’”
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.