Freeing Minds: Yoga Mitigates Prison Recidivism
Overcrowding is a serious issue in American prisons partly because the rate of recidivism (return) is high. A 1994 study showed that 67.5 percent of the 300,000 adult prisoners released in 15 states were re-arrested within three years.
James Fox, founder of the nonprofit Prison Yoga Project (PrisonYoga.com) believes that part of the problem is that the U.S. prison system overly emphasizes punishment during incarceration and that programs such as yoga classes might lower the rate of recidivism. He is an advocate for restorative justice and has worked with prisoners for 10 years.
The theory is that yoga and meditation help prison inmates develop important emotional and social skills, including impulse control and willpower, and thus reduce tendencies toward antisocial and criminal behaviors. Fox observes how anyone that adheres to the practice can develop mindfulness, patience, diligence and self-motivation.
The Prison Yoga Project provides training for yoga teachers that want to work in prisons. Fox also would like to maintain a scholarship fund to help former inmates do teacher training, so they can make a career out of the practice.