Meditation in prisons

Prison corridorThe experience of being in prison offers some inmates an opportunity to reflect more deeply on the way they have approached life, and an opportunity to bring about changes.

Wildmind has been active since 2003 in the State Prison for Men in Concord, New Hampshire, working with inmates who have an interest in meditation or Buddhism.

More recently we were involved in working with another group of men in North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner, Massachusetts, although some Buddhists from the Insight Meditation Society, which is much closer to Gardner, kindly got involved and took over the running of this group. This was a boon for the inmates there, since they then had volunteers meeting with them weekly rather than monthly.

Wildmind has been involved in other kinds of prison work as well. Over the last two years we have distributed hundreds of books free of charge to inmates and to prison chapel libraries. Many of these books were donated by a Taiwanese Buddhist organization, while others were damaged copies from Windhorse Publications. We are very grateful for these generous donations.

Wildmind also released one of Bodhipaksa’s guided meditation CDs as an audiocassettes that we supplied to inmates (many prisons will not accept CDs), and hundreds of copies of this have been send to inmates and prisons chapels.

Because of restructuring we decided in 2009 to wind down our book and cassette distribution program, but we continue to be involved in teaching inmates directly.

16 Comments. Leave new

  • My son is in prison and would like to recieve books or information from you. He needs a paper on letterhead with your name on it and that you offer free books etc. to inmates. Please let me know if you can do this and I will send you his address. Thanks Joan

  • Hi Joan,

    Yes, we can certainly do this. Please use our contact form (see the horizontal navigation links at the top of any page) so that you can give us your son’s address in confidence.

  • I am wondering whether you have established links with Bo Lozoff and his Prison Ashram Project ( who have been doing this work for thirty years or so? He is always receptive to links with other organisations who want to promote meditation in prison.

  • Hi Nick: We don’t have any formal links with Bo, although when he was in New Hampshire recently I had the great honor of having dinner with him and I very much enjoyed the event he ran at the prison.

  • helping inmates is like throwing ropes in hell. blessed bodhisattvas. i admire your dedication to relieve the sufferings of sentient beings.

    “Bodhisattvasya prajnaparamitam ashritya viharaty acittavaranah. Cittavarana-nastitvaad atrasto, viparyasatikranto nishtha-nirvanah.”

    “Depending on the bodhisattva’s Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom, one dwells without any mental hindrance. Because of the absence of mental hindrance, one is fearless; freed from delusory thoughts, one will reach Nirvana.”

  • Thank you so much for this excellent work you are doing. It makes me feel so inspired and more appreciative of all the freedom I enjoy, that your organization works so hard to help prisoners.

  • I was so moved by the documentary film: The Dhamma Brothers that I enrolled in a 10-day Vipassana course. If these men could endure life in a maximum-security prison frought with violence and hopelessness…. then surely I could meditate for 10days. It was a personally transformative experience.
    After reading the viewing the documentary and reading the companion book: Letters from the Dhamma Brothers when I returned home from the Vipassana course, I reached out to one of the Dhamma Brothers, Grady Bankhead.

    Grady’s spiritual journey from death row to dharma – the path of enlightenment truly touched my heart. I reached out to Grady and over many months, my husband and I have become friends and supporters.
    In order to give Grady a “voice” in the free world, I designed a web site that presents his life and spiritual journey. It is a testement to the divinity that is within us all. I am proud to call Grady my Dhamma Brother.
    Please visit Grady at:



  • […] Meditation in prisons in Concord, New Hampshire […]

  • My son is also in prison in South Dakota. He was instrumental is inviting the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara monks to come monthly to sit and preach the Dharma to inmates for the past two years. I am so proud of the work he is doing while inside the walls. The monks also doing Dharma talk and meditation for others on the outside who want to learn about the Middle path.
    Keep up the great work!!

  • Anutos Barua
    July 16, 2013 9:32 pm

    I am a Buddhist Monk in Thailand, I practice Meditation everyday, I completed many meditation courses from several country, Sometimes i try to teach meditation at prison, but i don’t know how to manage them.

  • What is the meditation method that is used?

    • In the prison I used to go to (where the group is still running, run by different people) the meditations are anapanasati and metta bhavana. But the meditations used in any given prison depend on who is leading the group.

  • I clicked on this link and felt and overwhelming need to thank you for helping inmates & the great work you do. I myself have spent time in prison, during this time I believe as a person I started to flower through self awareness. If I was introduced to meditation whilst there I can only imagine the difference it would of made.
    Keep up the excellent work & thank you xx

  • Yes Thank you indeed for sharing your knowledge, especially in Prisons.

    I would try much like to know whether you have taught any residential courses in Prisons?

    Also whether you have any teachers in England?

    • Hi, Louise.

      I’ve never done anything residential in a prison. Very few institutions would be open to that, although it has been done. Are you asking about the people who have taught me? Several of my most influential teachers are in England and Wales, as it happens.


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