Our Mission & Purpose
Brilliance Inside works towards the healing of our society’s cycle of violence. We first transforms prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of healing and peace, empowering residents to be agents of positive change in their community. We believe that sustainable positive human change starts by connecting to the brilliance we each have inside, building the resilience and emotional intelligence tools to shine that brilliance independent of outside circumstances, and, as we do so, shifting the culture of our homes and communities.
Recognizing that hurt people hurt people, the US prison system provides (1) a safe community by separating those who do harm until they have found healing and rehabilitation and (2) a safe rehabilitative space for the prison residents to heal the pains that led to their criminal activity. Prison residents reintegrate society with the tools to contribute to society with respect, integrity, contribution and connection.
Theory of Change
To break society’s cycle of violence, it is those who perpetrated the cycle who are in the best position to break it. First, they understand the dynamics of violence better than we ever will. Second, once they’ve connected to their brilliance inside, people become unstoppable in their desire to spread this light to others, starting with their children and families, other residents on the yard and the correctional officers. This also extends to at-risk youth - having walked so intimately in their shoes - gangs and the greater community.
We have uncovered 7 key ingredients to this transformation of self and of community:
Listen – Open, non-judgmental listening of all perspectives
Liberate – Strong, uncompromising boundaries that create a safe space of exploration, expression,connection, communication, resolution and creation
Empower – Place them at the center of all possible decision-making, with the responsibility and accountability for these
Inspire and encourage ideation, activation, and execution of decision-making responsibilities
Co-Create – Provide high autonomy for their innate creativity by providing resources and removing hurdles
Connect – Remove the stigma of “the other” to break down negative perceptions and create harmony
Celebrate – Take the time to pause and reward, honor and broadcast desired behavior and person, acknowledging that small steps lead to the big goal
Bind – Constantly and continuously uphold the above ingredients, with never-ending presence and availability OR constant and continuous presence and availability, with a “equal to all” implementation of the above ingredients
These ingredients are held together through the continuous presence we provide, which reinforces (1) residents’ sense of worth and (2) the values of connection, contribution, empathy, healing, etc.
Brilliance Inside started with two seemingly impossible things… a little voice that wouldn’t go away, and a group hug among a group of inmates. The little voice first told Mariette to ‘go to prison’ in 2015. When it wouldn’t go away, Mariette googled “prisons in San Diego,” and five months later, she stepped into San Diego’s Donovan State Prison for the first time. The force that pulled her to visit an extremely violent, highly regimented, downright frightening place also showed her the richness in humanity of the prison residents. That first week, she visited 3 times, a pace that she has continued to this day.
Mariette was surprised by the richness in humanity that she witnessed at Donovan, and, wanting others to experience this unexpected beauty, she created the first TEDxDonovanCorrectional. The event, ideated and orchestrated by a Core Team of 8 residents and supported by Mariette and a dedicated team of volunteers, took place in May 2017.
The event was a wild success, and instigated that second impossible thing-- the group hug. The event brought together 100 prison residents and 100 outside attendees, and at the end of an emotion-filled day, the Core Team of residents fell into a spontaneous, counterculture, interracial, radical group hug! This simple, yet profound, gesture convinced Mariette that there was more dignity, respect and love to bring to this degrading and dehumanizing environment. So, six months later, she created Brilliance Inside, with the mission of healing society’s cycle of violence, by first transforming prison from a container of violence to a creator of peace.
Mariette Fourmeaux du Sartel is a true global citizen: born in France, she’s lived on four continents and has explored some of the most remote corners of our world. In those remote corners, she has experienced connection, stories, laughter, music. She has sat under a starry sky in the desert of Morocco with tribal nomads and learned to embrace cultural discovery; she has witnessed the kindness and compassion of street kids in the slums of India. From Morocco to Mongolia, from India to Ethiopia, she has seen that what separates us from others is not as vast as the common human dignity that we all share; a belief that forms the foundation of what Mariette knows to be true:
That we can change our perceptions of others, and when we do, we begin to understand, and this understanding leads to progress.
That dignity, respect and love create harmony, transformation, and peace.
That safety, creativity and productivity do not thrive in a world of borders and walls, but in overcoming what separates us, allowing people in, and recognizing the brilliance inside all of us.
In spaces where creativity and innovation are allowed to thrive, you can solve large scale world problems.
In every relationship, in every situation, there is common ground, and you can find yourself on the same side of the table, even if you don’t start out that way. When you trust that there is a common ground, you can overcome conflict and discover creative solutions.
Mariette has transferred her passion for building resilient high-performing teams and authentic human-centered leadership – honed through two decades in corporate and start-ups – into the unlikely environment that is prison. She founded Brilliance Inside, a nonprofit program to transform prison from being strictly a container of violence to a creator of rehabilitation and peace.