Meditation Program for Prisoners

So I realize that many of my past posts have been about the negative portrayals of Buddhism or Buddhist images in mainstream culture, particularly in the media. I guess in a lot of ways, I find the negative much more interesting to message about.

But just this past Tuesday morning, I heard on the radio a report on Alabama’s most “violent and mentally unstable” prison inmates practicing Vipassana meditation. They’ve seen positive results in the inmates that participate in the program. Yet, the most interesting part of the story for me is the intercultural implications of having a program derived from Buddhist practice in a dominantly Christian state.

The Vipassana technique, though secular, is based on the teachings of Buddha. Soon after it started at Donaldson about a decade ago, the prison system’s chaplains expressed concern that it might not be in keeping with Christian values. The state put an end to the program.

But Hetzel, the warden, saw the dramatic results and brought it back.

It seems a bit ironic that of all places to see a positive, religiously relevant mention of Buddhism in the media, it appears under the context of a prison. Go figure.

You can listen to the whole report on KQED Public Radio’s website here.

4 Replies to “Meditation Program for Prisoners”

  1. Only thing I would like to tell is that we must respect every religion, every one’s opinion as all are in existance by the permission of my same kind Lord.

  2. Being a woman Buddhist from Thailand, it seems shocking to me that anyone could doubt the effectiveness of Vipassana for prisoners. In my country, there are a few temples that have many drug addicts – both Thai and Westerners – who learn Vipassana so they can get over their drug additions.

    Sometime prisoners are released early if they promise to go there.

    I live in America now and there is one woman I know who teaches Yoga in the woman’s jail, and she has been told by the warden there that it has made a difference in the life of the prisoners and improved behavior.

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