prisoners have few reasons to be happy. Many of them suffer from complex early life traumas, such as abandonment, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, discrimination, and substance abuse. These experiences have left their mark, and prisoners bear terrifying feelings that are ever-present in mind and body. Numerous prisoners are prone to impulsive behavior, violence and addiction. Unresolved trauma influences all aspects of life, and in prison there are also loneliness, violence, depression, overcrowding, fears, worries, uncertainty, frustration, anger and loss of contact with family members and friends.
Practicing meditation eases the suffering of prisoners by relaxing physical tension and mental activity. The practice reduces anxiety and depression, helps coping with pain, lessens dependence on addictive substances, improves sleep, enhancing learning skills, hones memory and the ability to understand and curbs violent impulses.
Furthermore, prisoners who practice meditation get to know new ways to manage violent behavior which stems from suffering and frustration, and begin accepting responsibility over their self-destruction patterns, their relationships with other prisoners and guards in prison, their family members, and themselves.
Sitting in meditation requires self-acceptance and the willingness to sit with ourselves and our bodies, with all the pain, suffering and vulnerability they bear. Sitting in quiet meditation and focus despite the surrounding chaos and noise requires bravery and willpower. Prisoners that not accepting this challenge can easily turn to a familiar distraction – playing cards, drugs, sleep, television, etc. The practice of meditation in prisonis therefore an act of personal accomplishment which also enables an experience of peace and calm. It is not an easy path, but walking it changes one’s life. Commitment to this path is a courageous act of the prisoners who practice in prison, where all the surroundings encourage physical and verbal violence, deception and fraud. This path rewards prisoners with a great improvement in their self-belief and personal image.
Research conducted in Israel and elsewhere shows that meditation programs for prisoners affect three areas: enhancing mental wellbeing, decreased misuse of drugs, and decreasing repeat offending.
Research looking at prisoners who participated in meditation based programs also show a decrease in anxiety, aggressiveness, and hate.