Reduce Drug Addiction and Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

Reduce Drug Addiction and Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Being in prison presents tremendous obstacles to cultivating a peaceful mind, the environment is conducive to negativity and can result in further harm. On every level, the basic antidote to inner and outer obstacles is mindfulness practice.” – Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche,

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Many are serving time for drug related offenses. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

Prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This provides an opportunity for growth and development. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Meditation teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In addition, mindfulness can help to treat drug addictions that often underlie incarceration and promote recidivism after release. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Narcotics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the majority of drug and/or alcohol abusers relapse and return to substance abuse. Hence, it is important to find an effective method to not only produce abstinence but also prevent relapses. Mindfulness training has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for reducing addiction relapse. So, mindfulness training can be helpful in preventing recidivism.

 

In today’s Research News article “Prison Meditation Movements and Mass Incarceration.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633398/, Lyons and Cantrell review the published research literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness trainings on reducing drug addiction and prisoner recidivism. They report that the research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness in combating drug addiction and its effects may last longer than other forms of addiction therapy even in prison populations. Importantly, improvements have been shown to be maintained after release from prison. Additionally, meditation programs in prison have been shown to produce significant reductions in prisoner hostility and increases in self-esteem and mood.

 

Hence, meditation training can be effective in the treatment of addictions and the psychological issues of prisoners and can have effects that continue post-release. Lyons and Cantrell postulate that the presence of a meditation group (Sangha) in prison creates a social context that is very important for success. They also suggest that linking the prisoners to meditation groups outside of prison can be helpful in maintaining benefits after release. They also suggest that focusing on experiences in meditation and empowering prisoners to lead their own groups may be help to potentiate effectiveness. So, meditation training in prison appears to be a promising practice to assist prisoners in coping with addiction and improving their psychological state while in prison and continuing after release. This is likely to help prisoners adjust to the outside world and reduce the likelihood that they will be arrested again and returned to prison.

 

So, reduce drug addiction and prison recidivism with mindfulness.

 

How do we bring sanity into one of the most hostile environments of our society ­- our prisons? . . . Mindfulness creates mental discipline and stability. This provides the inmates with the tools they need to cultivate a sense of ease, decency and compassion. Isn’t that the point of rehabilitation?” – Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lyons, T., & Cantrell, W. D. (2016). Prison Meditation Movements and Mass Incarceration. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 60(12), 1363–1375. http://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X15583807

 

Abstract

By some estimates more than half of inmates held in jails and prisons in the United States have a substance use disorder. Treatments involving the teaching of meditation and other contemplative practices have been developed for a variety of physical and mental disorders including drug and alcohol addiction. At the same time, an expanding volunteer movement across the country has been bringing meditation and yoga into jails and prisons. This review first examines the experimental research on one such approach – mindfulness meditation as a treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the research on mindfulness in incarcerated settings. We argue that in order to make a substantial impact on recidivism, such programs must mirror volunteer programs which emphasize interdependency and non-duality between the “helper” and the “helped,” and the building of meditation communities both inside and outside of prison.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633398/

Improve Prisoner Mental Health with Mindfulness

Improve Prisoner Mental Health with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Through meditation, prisoners come to recognize their conditioning as their own and take responsibility for it, and ultimately step outside of it so their thoughts and actions can come from a space of freedom. For some it’s like a light bulb going off, for others it takes time. But they all get it eventually. You see, most of them have been in and out of jail many times. They know through personal experience that just because the jail door opens, it doesn’t mean their life is going to change. They understand that this issue of real freedom is not about being locked up or not.” – Fleet Maull

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

About half of the prison population have diagnosed mental health problems, most of which are untreated. Hence, there is a need for therapeutic programs to treat these problems in prisoners. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Mindfulness training teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Outcomes of Psychological Therapies for Prisoners With Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518650/, Yoon and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of various therapies for the treatment of mental health problems in prisoners. They included randomized controlled trials that employed a variety of different therapies, including “Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, Mindfulness-based Therapy, and other group treatments such as Music Therapy and Art Therapy,” but excluded trials which solely used drug treatments. The trials examined depressed mood, anxiety, trauma symptoms, overall psychopathology, somatization, and hostility/anger.

 

They found 37 published reports of randomized controlled trials. These trials reported positive improvements in the prisoners’ mental health with moderate effect sizes. These included improvements in depression anxiety, trauma symptoms, overall psychopathology, and hostility/anger. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-based Therapies were the most effective therapies. It did not matter if they were administered in a group or individual format. Unfortunately, the small number of studies, 6, that reported 3 and 6-month follow up data reported that the effects did not last and were no longer significant at follow-up.

 

These are important findings that clearly support the application of cognitive and mindfulness-based therapies for the treatment of prisoner mental health problems. The lack of lasting effectiveness, though, is a problem. This may suggest that the practices learned in the treatments are not continued after the formal sessions end. There is clearly a need for more study and experimentation to develop more long-lasting protocols. Regardless, mindfulness training would appear to be a potentially safe and effective treatment for the mental health problems of prisoners. It has to be kept in mind that mindfulness training not only helps the prisoners while incarcerated, it also helps after release, and this reduces recidivism. This by itself means that mindfulness treatments are not only a humane use of prison resources, but are also cost-effective.

 

So, improve prisoner mental health with mindfulness.

 

“The data demonstrate a stark change in the prisoners themselves and their interactions with others. Before the training most prisoners felt hopeless. They engaged in aggressive behaviour and exhibited a strong sense of “us” versus “them”. Following the training, prisoners reported that they could lead their lives more mindfully, had found fresh purpose and that their lives now had meaning – even for those who expected to spend the rest of their days behind bars.” – Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Yoon, I. A., Slade, K., & Fazel, S. (2017). Outcomes of Psychological Therapies for Prisoners With Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(8), 783–802. http://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000214

 

Abstract

Objective: Prisoners worldwide have substantial mental health needs, but the efficacy of psychological therapy in prisons is unknown. We aimed to systematically review psychological therapies with mental health outcomes in prisoners and qualitatively summarize difficulties in conducting randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Method: We systematically identified RCTs of psychological therapies with mental health outcomes in prisoners (37 studies). Effect sizes were calculated and meta-analyzed. Eligible studies were assessed for quality. Subgroup and metaregression analyses were conducted to examine sources of between-study heterogeneity. Thematic analysis reviewed difficulties in conducting prison RCTs. Results:In 37 identified studies, psychological therapies showed a medium effect size (0.50, 95% CI [0.34, 0.66]) with high levels of heterogeneity with the most evidence for CBT and mindfulness-based trials. Studies that used no treatment (0.77, 95% CI [0.50, 1.03]) or waitlist controls (0.71, 95% CI [0.43, 1.00]) had larger effect sizes than those that had treatment-as-usual or other psychological therapies as controls (0.21, 95% CI [0.01, 0.41]). Effects were not sustained on follow-up at 3 and 6 months. No differences were found between group and individual therapy, or different treatment types. The use of a fidelity measure was associated with lower effect sizes. Qualitative analysis identified difficulties with follow-up and institutional constraints on scheduling and implementation of trials. Conclusions: CBT and mindfulness-based therapies are modestly effective in prisoners for depression and anxiety outcomes. In prisons with existing psychological therapies, more evidence is required before additional therapies can be recommended.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518650/

Reduce Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

Reduce Prison Recidivism with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness training helps youth consider more adaptive alternatives. It creates a gap between triggers for offending behavior and their responses. They learn to not immediately act out on impulse, but to pause and consider the consequences of a potential offending and high risk behavior.” – Bethany Casarjian

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

Prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This provides an opportunity for growth and development. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Meditation teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depressionanxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Pilot RCT of a Values-Based Mindfulness Group Intervention with Jail Inmates: Evidence for Reduction in Post-Release Risk Behavior.” (See summary below). Malouf and colleagues recruited 40 adult male prisoners who were approaching time for their release. They were randomly assigned to receive either the usual pre-release treatment or a mindfulness-based pre-release program called Re-entry Values and Mindfulness Program (REVAMP). REVAMP utilizes a variety of exercises to reduce experiential avoidance and alleviate psychological suffering including metaphors, distress tolerance skills, and mindfulness meditation practices They were measured before and after treatment, 3 months and 3 years after release for mindfulness, emotion regulation, self-control, impulsivity, shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, personality, and substance abuse. Follow-up measure included criminal records and recidivism.

 

They found that in comparison to the treatment as usual group, the REVAMP group had significantly increases in the mindfulness facets of non-judging, and willingness/acceptance and increases in shame. Importantly, the REVAMP program reduced criminal behavior and re-arrests and recidivism. In particular, 80% of the control group were rearrested by the three-year post-release point, while only 62% of the REVAMP group were rearrested.

 

These are important results produced by a small pilot study. They suggest that mindfulness-based therapy provided pre-release improves the mindfulness and psychological condition of the prisoners and then post-release reduces criminal activity and re-arrests. Hence, mindfulness training may be of significant help to prisoners in reintegrating back into society.

 

So, reduce prison recidivism with mindfulness.

 

“Yoga and meditation are continuously proven among the most effective therapies for those living with complex residual trauma, and prisons are home to what may be the most concentrated population of individuals plagued by trauma. Meditation and yoga can positively impact those who are suffering from complex trauma, as they begin to confront how it is they got where they are.” – Amy Osborne

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Malouf, E.T., Youman, K., Stuewig, J., Witt, E.A., & Tangney, J.P. A Pilot RCT of a Values-Based Mindfulness Group Intervention with Jail Inmates: Evidence for Reduction in Post-Release Risk Behavior. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 603. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0636-3

 

Abstract

This study pilot-tested a values and mindfulness-based intervention (Re-Entry Values and Mindfulness Program: REVAMP) in a sample of male jail inmates. REVAMP aimed to reduce post-release risky behavior by targeting dimensions of mindfulness (e.g., willingness/acceptance) and associated proximal outcomes/ mechanisms of action (emotion regulation, self-control, shame/guilt). Inmates were randomly assigned to REVAMP (n = 21) or treatment as usual (TAU, n = 19). Attendance and feedback supported REVAMP’s feasibility and acceptability. At post-treatment, ANCOVAs showed that the REVAMP group increased more on willingness/acceptance, self-judgment, and shame relative to TAU. Relative increases in willingness/acceptance persisted at 3-month post-release. Criminal activity was assessed by self-report at 3 months post-release and official criminal records at 3 years post-release. At both time points, there was a marginally statistically significant trend of medium effect size for lower criminal recidivism in the REVAMP group compared to TAU. There were no statistically significant differences in self-reported post-release substance misuse. This pilot RCT indicated mindfulness-based interventions may hold promise for reducing inmates’ post-release risky behavior and encourages future research in this area.

Relieve Trauma Symptoms in Female Prisoners with Meditation

Relieve Trauma Symptoms in Female Prisoners with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Through providing a profound state of rest and relaxation, the TM technique allows inmates to relieve symptoms of deeply rooted trauma that form the basis of criminal behavior. As the grip of past traumas is loosened, inmates naturally calm down and become less violent and begin to take greater responsibility for their actions.” – David Lynch Foundation

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years.The lack of actual treatment for the prisoners leaves them ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Hence, there is a need for effective treatment programs that help the prisoners while in prison and prepares them for life outside the prison.

 

Prison time is meted out as a punishment and it is, as prison is a very stressful and difficult environment. This is compounded by the fact that most prisoners do not have well developed coping skills. In addition, many, especially female prisoners, have suffered from trauma, often experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. In addition, prisoners frequently suffer from attention deficit disorder. Hence there is a great need for better prison programs that can not only help the prisoner adjust to prison life but also to life after release

 

Prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This provides an opportunity for growth and development. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Meditation teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, and anger. It has also been shown to help overcome trauma in male prisoners.

 

So, meditation would appear to be well suited to addressing the issues of male prisoners. But, women are the fastest growing segment of the prison population. It has yet to be documented that meditation practice can be similarly useful for female prisoners. In today’s Research News article “Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363900/

Nidich and colleagues recruited female prisoners and randomly assigned them to either meditation or no treatment wait-list control groups. Transcendental meditation was taught in 30-minute sessions twice a week for 4 months in a group format and the prisoners were encouraged to practice for an additional 20 minutes twice per day. The prisoners were measured before training and 4 months later for trauma symptoms and perceived stress. They were measured before training and 4-months later for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms including total trauma scale, intrusions, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

 

It was reported that at baseline most of the women had clinically significant levels of PTSD. Following treatment PTSD scores declined significantly, by 45%, with medium to large effect sizes in the treatment but not the control group. There were also significant improvements in PTSD symptoms of intrusions, and hyperarousal. There was excellent, 81%, compliance with the program demands. These are impressive results for a relatively small pilot study. They suggest that meditation is an effective treatment for PTSD in women prisoners.

 

A large proportion of the prison population have experienced trauma and it is thought that the effects of these experiences have profoundly affected these individuals and their behavior. The ability of meditation to mitigate the effects of trauma and reduce stress make it ideal for the treatment of prisoners. It remains for future research to determine the long-term effects of meditation practice on these prisoners, their behavior in prison and after release, and their likelihood of committing new offenses.

 

So, relieve trauma symptoms in female prisoners with meditation.

 

“I’ve known inmates who have, as a result of their meditation practice, move from being violent streetfighters to gentle protectors of weaker prisoners. I’ve seen inmates develop an extraordinary amount of patience with exceedingly trying circumstances. I’ve seen seemingly macho men show a tender concern for others. In short, I’ve seen people who have committed some of the most serious crimes possible — people that some might describe as “animals” or “beyond hope” — becoming better people.” – Bodhipaksa

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Nidich, S., Seng, A., Compton, B., O’Connor, T., Salerno, J. W., & Nidich, R. (2017). Transcendental Meditation and Reduced Trauma Symptoms in Female Inmates: A Randomized Controlled Study. The Permanente Journal, 21, 16–008. http://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-008

 

Abstract

Context:

Compared with the general population, trauma experiences are higher among incarcerated women.

Objective:

To evaluate the effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on trauma symptoms in female offenders.

Design:

Twenty-two inmates at the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, OR, with at least 4 months left of incarceration were enrolled in this randomized controlled pilot study. Subjects were randomly assigned to either the TM group (n = 11) or a wait-list control group (n = 11).

Main Outcome Measures:

Subjects were measured at baseline and 4-month posttest using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian version (PCL-C; primary outcome) with intrusive thoughts, avoidance, and hyperarousal subscales (secondary outcomes). Twenty of the subjects (10 in each group) took part in their treatment assignment and completed posttesting.

Results:

Significant reductions were found on total trauma (p < 0.036), intrusive thoughts (p < 0.026), and hyperarousal (p < 0.043) on the PCL-C. Effect sizes ranged from 0.65 to 0.99 for all variables. Eighty-one percent of the TM subjects were compliant with their program.

Conclusion:

The results of this study indicate feasibility of the TM program in a female prison population and suggest that TM may be an effective tool for decreasing trauma symptoms. Future large-scale research is warranted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363900/

Relieve Trauma Symptoms and Stress in Prisoners with Meditation

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Relieve Trauma Symptoms and Stress in Prisoners with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Ever since a kid, I’ve just been miserable being myself. After just one month of meditating, I’ve felt so much energy, it’s amazing how good I feel.” – Geoff, prison inmate serving life sentence

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Prison is a very stressful and difficult environment for most prisoners. This is compounded by the fact that most do not have well developed coping skills. In addition, many have suffered from trauma, often experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. In addition, prisoners frequently suffer from attention deficit disorder.

 

Prisoners are often ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison. Even though prisons are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. Hence there is a great need for better prison programs that can not only help the prisoner adjust to prison life but also to life after release

 

Prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This provides an opportunity for growth and development. Contemplative practices are well suited to this environment. Meditation teaches skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, it puts the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. It improves present moment awareness and helps to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. It’s been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. It also relieves stress and improves overall health and well-being. Finally, meditation has been shown to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, and anger.

 

So, meditation would appear to be well suited to addressing the issues of prisoners. In today’s Research News article “). Reduced Trauma Symptoms and Perceived Stress in Male Prison Inmates through the Transcendental Meditation Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1465085253515396/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101089/

Nidich and colleagues recruited prisoners and randomly assigned them to either meditation or no treatment groups. Transcendental meditation was taught in 5 1-hour sessions in a group format and the prisoners were encouraged to practice for an additional 20 minutes per day. The prisoners were measured before training and 4 months later for trauma symptoms and perceived stress.

 

It was reported that compared to the no-treatment control group, the meditation group had moderate to large significant improvements in perceived stress and in total trauma symptoms, including the anxiety, depression, dissociation, and sleep disturbance resulting from trauma. In interpreting these results, it should be noted that there was not an active or placebo control group. So, the effects cannot be conclusively attributed to meditation as any active treatment might have produced similar improvements. In addition, since prisoners are isolated and restricted, any attention provided them may have had powerful effects. This being said, the findings are exciting and suggest the meditation training is a powerful treatment for the trauma symptoms and stress evident in prison populations.

 

A large proportion of the prison population have experienced trauma and it is thought that the effects of these experiences have profoundly affected these individuals and their behavior. The ability of meditation to mitigate the effects of trauma and reduce stress make it ideal for the treatment of prisoners. It remains for future research to determine the long-term effects of meditation practice on these prisoners, their behavior in prison and after release, and their likelihood of committing new offenses.

 

So, relieve trauma symptoms and stress in prisoners with meditation.

 

“I’ve known inmates who have, as a result of their meditation practice, move from being violent streetfighters to gentle protectors of weaker prisoners. I’ve seen inmates develop an extraordinary amount of patience with exceedingly trying circumstances. I’ve seen seemingly macho men show a tender concern for others. In short, I’ve seen people who have committed some of the most serious crimes possible — people that some might describe as “animals” or “beyond hope” — becoming better people.” – Bodhipaksa

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Nidich, S., O’Connor, T., Rutledge, T., Duncan, J., Compton, B., Seng, A., & Nidich, R. (2016). Reduced Trauma Symptoms and Perceived Stress in Male Prison Inmates through the Transcendental Meditation Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Permanente Journal, 20(4), 43–47. http://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/16-007

 

Abstract

Context: Trauma events are four times more prevalent in inmates than in the general public and are associated with increased recidivism and other mental and physical health issues.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of Transcendental Meditationa (TM) on trauma symptoms in male inmates.

Design: One hundred eighty-one inmates with a moderate- to high-risk criminal profile were randomly assigned to either the TM program or to a usual care control group.

Main Outcome Measures

The Trauma Symptom Checklist and the Perceived Stress Scale were administered at baseline and four-month posttest.

Results: Significant reductions in total trauma symptoms, anxiety, depression, dissociation, and sleep disturbance subscales, and perceived stress in the TM group were found compared with controls (all p values < 0.001). The high-trauma subgroup analysis further showed a higher magnitude of effects in the TM group compared with controls on all outcomes, with Cohen effect sizes ranging from 0.67 to 0.89.

Conclusion: Results are consistent with those of prior studies of the TM program in other populations and its effects on trauma symptoms and perceived stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101089/

 

Improve Alternatives to Incarceration with Mindfulness

Improve Alternatives to Incarceration with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness training helps youth consider more adaptive alternatives. It creates a gap between triggers for offending behavior and their responses. They learn to not immediately act out on impulse, but to pause and consider the consequences of a potential offending and high risk behavior.”- Bethany Casarjian

 

Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs attempt to, where possible, keep nonviolent criminals out of prison. The idea is that prison actually promotes repeated offending and by avoiding prison there is a better opportunity to prevent offending in the future. When arrested for nonviolent offenses the ATI provides treatment rather than punishment. In general, the courts hear the cases of nonviolent offenders who commit low-level felonies and misdemeanors and have mental health problems. Similarly, drug courts seek to address substance abuse problems in offenders commonly charged with possession and other drug-related offenses. In exchange for a guilty plea, the offenders enter treatment instead of prison. If they successfully complete treatment, authorities may remove the offense from their record, depending on the plea agreement.

 

Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs vary from state to state. Generally, they last from 6 to 9 months with some form of treatment or counseling occurring nearly daily. These include social services such as individual and group counseling, education placement, job readiness training, sex education, and anger management programs. In addition, ATI programs provide various types of monitoring such as drug testing, curfew enforcement, and attendance tracking at work, school, and the program. These programs have been very successful. Participants who completed the program are much less likely to offend again with recidivism rates declining by 85 percent, conviction rates by 77 percent and incarceration rates by 83 percent.

 

Many of the individuals in these ATI programs struggle with drug addiction, mental illnesses, and/or anger and impulse control issues The treatment programs are designed to help address these issues. Mindfulness training and yoga have been demonstrated to improve treatment for addictions, to improve many mental health problems, to reduce anger, and improve impulse control. So, mindfulness training may be very helpful in treatment in ATI programs. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and Rehabilitation: Teaching Yoga and Meditation to Young Men in an Alternative to Incarceration Program”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1209452369078687/?type=3&theater

Or see below

Barrett conducted semi-structured interviews of ten 18-24 year-old male offenders who were convicted of felonies and were participants in an Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program. These young men participated in mindfulness and yoga training as a component of the program.

 

The offenders in general had very negative views about mindfulness training and yoga prior to participation, but were very favorable afterwards. They reported that participation reduced stress and anxiety, and improved stress coping responses, all of which are associated with the likelihood of reoffending. They also reported improved anger management and impulse control following the program.

 

These are encouraging findings. But, it must be kept in mind that there were no control comparison conditions such as interviews with participants in an ATI program that did not contain mindfulness and yoga practice. In addition, the interviews were conducted by the author who also taught the mindfulness and yoga classes. So, there is ample opportunities for a variety of confounds to creep in, not the least of which is experimenter bias and demand characteristics. So, there is a need to attempt to replicate these findings with a randomized controlled trial using objective measures and blinded assessors.

 

Keeping in mind these important reservations, mindfulness and yoga training is potentially and important contributor to improved success in these already successful Alternative to Incarceration Programs.

 

“It’s wrong for people’s undiagnosed and untreated mental illness to result in being incarcerated. [Providing treatment] is more humane, it’s more cost-effective and just simply the right thing to do.” – Ted Strickland

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

 

Study Summary

 

Barrett CJ. Mindfulness and Rehabilitation: Teaching Yoga and Meditation to Young Men in an Alternative to Incarceration Program. Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2016 Feb 22. [Epub ahead of print] doi:10.1177/0306624X16633667

 

Abstract

This study used participant/observation and open-ended interviews to understand how male participants (age 18-24 years) benefited from yoga and mindfulness training within an Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program. Findings suggest that the male participants (age 18-24 years) benefited from the intervention through reductions in stress and improvements in emotion regulation. Several participants noted the importance of the development of an embodied practice for assisting them in managing anger and impulse control. The young men’s narratives suggest that mindfulness-based interventions can contribute positively to rehabilitative outcomes within alternative to incarcerations settings, providing complementary benefit to existing ATI programs, especially for clients amenable to mindfulness training. With many jurisdictions expanding rehabilitation-focused interventions for young offenders, service providers should consider the potential positive contributions that mindfulness-based interventions can have for fostering desistance and reducing recidivism among justice system–involved populations.

 

Women Behind Bars Benefit from Mindfulness Training

“Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient—people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled.” — Piper Kerman

“Two hundred women, no phones, no washing machines, no hair dryers–it was like Lord of the Flies on estrogen.” — Piper Kerman

 

Prison is an extremely difficult environment for anyone, but especially for women. The prison population is by far majority male, but 18% are female. These women are different from their male counterparts in that they are much more likely to have experienced poverty, intimate partner violence, sexual abuse, and/or other forms of victimization often linked to their offending behavior. They are also much more likely to have co-occurring disorders—in particular, substance abuse problems interlinked with trauma and/or mental illness. In addition, they often struggle with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

 

So, incarcerated women need to be treated differently, including mental health services, to help them move toward rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society. Education, job training, psychotherapy, addiction treatment etc. can obviously be helpful. In addition, mindfulness training may also be very helpful. It has been found to be beneficial for the treatment of mental health problems in general (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/mental-health/) and for the treatment for substance abuse (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/addiction/). In addition contemplative practice has been found to be helpful for prisoners (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/prison/). So, it makes sense that mindfulness training may be beneficial especially for incarcerated women.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Impact of a Mindfulness Based Program on Perceived Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Sleep of Incarcerated Women”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1121590894531502/?type=3&theater

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586693/

Ferszt and colleagues had incarcerated women participate in a 12-week Mindfulness Based Program called Path to Freedom. They found that the intervention produced a decrease in perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, the women who participated were consistently positive about the program and many who did not participate, but heard of the program through word of mouth, asked to be included in future programs.

 

It is not surprising that mindfulness training reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. There are  extensive research findings demonstrating its effectiveness for these issues (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/stress/ regarding stress and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/anxiety/ regarding anxiety and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/depression/ regarding depression).

 

These are encouraging results. Stress, anxiety, and depression are difficult issues for incarcerated women. The presence of these issues can interfere with other programs designed to help in rehabilitation. In addition, they can be problematic for the women in adjusting to everyday life after release. So, relief of stress, anxiety, and depression may be very beneficial for their eventual success in prison and their reintegration into society.

 

So, mindfulness is beneficial for women behind bars as it is for women in all circumstances.

 

“The women I met in Danbury helped me to confront the things I had done wrong, as well as the wrong things I had done. It wasn’t just my choice of doing something bad and illegal that I had to own; it was also my lone-wolf style that had helped me make those mistakes and often made the aftermath of my actions worse for those I loved.”  — Piper Kerman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Yoga Practice Improves Prisoner Mood and Stress

“You may think that only you are a prisoner, but other people are also prisoners. You are in a small prison, but others are in the big prison outside. When will they be released? Think that you are a yogi and that you are pursuing your sadhana in this particular place and at this particular moment. Immediately you will experience great joy. If you change your understanding, you will be free in a minute.”- Baba Muktananda

 

Around 2 ¼ million people are incarcerated in the United States. Even though these are euphemistically labelled correctional facilities very little correction actually occurs. This is supported by the rates of recidivism. About three quarters of prisoners who are released commit crimes and are sent back to prison within 5-years. Hence there is a great need for better prison programs that can not only help the prisoner adjust to prison life but also to life after release.

 

Contemplative practices have recently been employed in prisons and have been found to improve prisoner well-being and behavior. LINK to Auty Yoga and Meditation Improves Well-Being in Prisoners. Yoga is a multifaceted practice containing physical, mindfulness, and spiritual components. As such, yoga would seem to be ideal for the needs of an incarcerated population. Indeed, it has been shown to be beneficial for prisoners. Unfortunately, all that can be said is that engaging in a yoga program produces better results than not. But there is little understanding of how yoga practice might work and the amount of yoga needed to produce the benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Preliminary Evidence That Yoga Practice Progressively Improves Mood and Decreases Stress in a Sample of UK Prisoners”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1101801696510422/?type=3&theater

Bilderbeck and colleagues investigated the factors associated with the beneficial effects of yoga practice for prisoners. They found that the more yoga classes attended and the greater the amount of self-practice outside of classes the greater the improvement in the prisoners’ level of perceived stress and negative emotions. In other words, sustained, regular practice of yoga produced greater improvements in the prisoners.

 

Of course it is impossible to tell if the prisoners who obtained the greatest benefit were then the ones who would engage more reliably in the practice or that great amounts of practice produce greater benefit. It is also impossible to know if some other factor such as the impact of the social context or simply relief of the incredible boredom of prison life might have been responsible both for greater adherence and also to improvements in well-being. There is a need for research that controls and manipulates these factors to determine the actual causal connections.

 

There is also a need to follow up on prisoners who have practiced yoga in prison to determine the long-term impact on adjustment to life outside of prison and recidivism. Finally, there is a need to determine what facets of yoga practice are crucial for each benefit and which are unimportant.

 

Regardless, it is clear that practicing yoga is beneficial to the well-being of prisoners.

 

“Right, if you’re not careful, you could despair, but there is a support system, definitely in this prison, and it’s awesome just to be able to be part of a community where people do yoga and meditate – and I have the Siddha Yoga correspondence course. I use these things to take me out of my mind and more into the heart space.” – Gino Sevacos, prisoner at San Quentin State Prison,

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Yoga and Meditation Improves Well-Being in Prisoners

“We consistently teach a practice to provide prisoners with a skill to become more sensitive to how they feel in their bodies. When you develop a close relationship with your own sensitivity, you are less apt to violate another. This is empathy. And empathy, when encouraged, leads to compassion. Gradually, the cycle of violence is interrupted.”  ~ James Fox

 

Prison is a very stressful and difficult environment for most prisoners. This is compounded by the fact that most do not have well developed coping skills. In addition, many have suffered from trauma, often experienced early in life such as abandonment, hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, sexual abuse, bullying, discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and witnessing crime – including murder. In addition, prisoners frequently suffer from attention deficit disorder. So, prisoners are often ill equipped to engage positively in society either inside or outside of prison.

 

Yet prison provides a great deal of time for reflection and self-exploration. This is an opportunity for growth and development. So, contemplative practices are well suited to this environment.

Yoga and meditation teach skills that may be very important for prisoners. In particular, they put the practitioner in touch with their own bodies and feelings. They improve present moment awareness and help to overcome rumination about the past and negative thinking about the future. They’ve been shown to be useful in the treatment of the effects of trauma and attention deficit disorder. They also relieve stress and improve overall health and well-being. Finally, these practices have been shown to be useful in treating depression, anxiety, and anger.

 

So, yoga and meditation would appear to be ideally suited to addressing the issues of prisoners. Over the last several years there have been a number of yoga and meditation programs implemented in prisons. In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation in Prison: Effects on Psychological Well-Being and Behavioural Functioning”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1100073980016527/?type=3&theater

Auty and colleagues summarize the research literature that has studied the effectiveness of these programs. They found that the research suggested that these programs are effective in a wide range of locations, from the UK and US to India and Taiwan, with a wide variety of ethnicities and ages, and with both males and females.

 

They found that the yoga and/or meditation programs almost universally produced improvements in psychological well-being in the prisoners. The magnitudes of the effects were significant and moderate, suggesting that these practices produce meaningful psychological changes. They also found that the longer term programs produced greater change than the shorter, more intense programs.

 

In addition to the psychological effects the yoga and/or meditation programs the research reports significant improvements in behavioral functioning. Overall, the magnitudes of the effects were significant and smaller than those found for psychological well-being. But, nevertheless the results suggest that these practices produce meaningful behavioral changes. These effects were particularly large for prisoners who had substance abuse problems.

 

This literature summary suggests that yoga and meditation programs are quite effective in prisons, improving the psychological health and well-being of the prisoners and improving their behavior while in prison. There are some suggestions in the literature that these programs decrease recidivism. It is to the benefit of society to assist the prisoners while incarcerated to improve their skills for dealing with themselves and others, as this would make them easier to deal with in prison and make it more likely that they would successfully transition back into society upon release.

 

So, yoga and meditation programs should be employed broadly in prisons for the benefit both of the prisoners and of society.

 

“With the barrage of negativity in prisons, they are unyielding breeding grounds for intense suffering, chaos, noise, overcrowding, violence, ineffective medical care and poor food. But occasionally, every so often, friendship, kindness, compassion and programs of meaningful substance come along. The Yoga program is a life-sustaining and meaningful one that I nurture and value because it is not only positive, it supports my growth and success as a young man. Yoga helps me navigate my life as a good and successful person. This practice is life-changing and will continue to enhance my life.” K.L.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies