India inmates take yoga to reduce their jail sentences

February 16, 2010

BBC: Prisoners in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are being freed early if they complete yoga courses.

For every three months spent practising posture, balance and breathing the inmates can cut their jail time by 15 days.

The authorities say the lessons help to improve the prisoners’ self-control and reduce aggression.

Some 4,000 inmates across the state are benefiting from the scheme, and many go on to become yoga instructors.

‘Angry thoughts’

The state’s inspector general of prisons, Sanjay Mane, said: “Yoga is good for maintaining fitness, calming the behaviour, controlling anger and reducing stress.

“When a prisoner attends yoga sessions and fulfils some other conditions, he will be considered for a remission … Read more »

Indian prisoners find yoga is key to getting out of jail

January 27, 2010

For centuries swamis have peddled yoga as a means of unshackling the mind. Now jail inmates have found that sun salutations and the cobra posture are the keys to a more tangible freedom. Prison authorities in India have agreed to an early release scheme for convicts who regularly practise the ancient exercises.

Inmates in the central state of Madhya Pradesh will have up to 15 days taken off their sentences for every three months that they do yoga. The offer is being extended even to the hardest cases, including murderers serving life terms, in a startling vote of confidence in the calming effects of stretching routines, deep breathing exercises and chants of “Om”.

“We’ve seen … Read more »

From incarceration to meditation in Missouri

December 27, 2009

It was a routine business conference for the judge: Agendas. Handshakes. Business cards.

But then something kind of mystical happened.

David Mason was approached by a man wearing a crisp suit with a neatly pointed kerchief in his breast pocket. In a measured Indian accent, the man said he, too, was a lawyer and knew all about the judge and his enlightened views on criminal rehabilitation. He wanted to tell him about the power of meditation in prisons.

The man was Farrokh Anklesaria. He was a direct student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and he’d been sent around the world by him to bring meditation to convicts. He’d been to Switzerland, Senegal, Kenya, Brazil and … Read more »

Former soldier meditates with inmates

October 9, 2009

Independent Florida Alligator: As they walk into the stark gray room at the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, K.C. Walpole greets each inmate with the grace of a mentor and the sternness of a soldier. Dressed in all black, his head shaved smooth and his broad shoulders fit into perfect posture.

“Are you full of fire and brimstone?” he asks a woman as a smile dimples his aging face.

She nods at him.

“Is there anything we can do to fix that today?”

She points to her head, grabs an imaginary object from it then tosses it away.

“Yeah, let’s get rid of those thoughts,” Walpole agrees.

Walpole, 66, visits the female inmates at … Read more »

Prison inmates go Zen to deal with life behind bars

October 9, 2009

CNN: In his darkest moment, Kenneth Brown lost it all. His wife and kids, the housebroken dog, the vacation home on Cape Cod all vanished when he was sent to prison for an arson in 1996.

Trapped in his gloomy cell and serving a 20-year sentence that felt like an eternity, Brown, then 49, found himself stretched out on the floor. He was silent. His eyes were shut. His body did not move.

Brown, a man raised as a Baptist and taught to praise the Lord and fear the devil, was meditating.

“I try to focus on the space between two thoughts, because it prevents me from getting lost,” said Brown, who discovered meditation, … Read more »

[Review] ‘That Bird Has My Wings,’ by Jarvis Jay Masters

October 2, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle: If it’s too easy to make fearful snap judgments about criminals, it takes steely courage to look unflinchingly at the whole person behind the crime, the good and the bad – the kind of bravery that Jarvis Jay Masters exhibits in “That Bird Has My Wings: The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row.” A like courage will be required of readers, who face an arduous, abuse-filled journey, but also a story buoyed by tremendous heart.

In his second book, Masters delivers a simple but painstakingly detailed account of the complicated tangle of experiences, influences and choices that brought him to serve an armed-robbery sentence at San Quentin. Four years … Read more »

Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade

August 6, 2009

Telegraph: Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion in England’s jails, with the number of followers rising eightfold over the past decade.

Although adherents to the Eastern faith believe in peace and the sanctity of life, almost all of the Buddhists behind bars in this country are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes such as violence and sex offences.

Some jails and secure hospitals including Broadmoor have opened shrines known as Buddha Groves in their grounds, and there is a nationwide network of chaplains to cater for the growing population.

It is claimed that most of the Buddhists in jail converted after their conviction, and chose it over other religions because its emphasis on meditation helps … Read more »

Buddhist inmate wins religious lawsuit

A Buddhist prison inmate in Texas has won a lawsuit over rules for religious practice.

The prison system requires religious services to be performed by a chaplain or approved religious volunteers. Muslims were allowed to hold religious meetings, but chaplains had declined to lead Buddhist services because of lack of knowledge or because it conflicts with their own beliefs, according to Kelly Shackleford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute.

A federal appeals court stands by the Buddhist inmate.

“Basically what the court said is, ‘Look, you’ve got to give people the same rights’ — that you can’t say that there are some faiths that have a right to meet together and pray together and other … Read more »

Prisoners of samsara

May 11, 2009

Prisoner of Zenda posterOver the years that Bodhipaksa has worked in prisons he’s observed that some of the inmates he works with are among the freest people he knows. So if freedom can be attained even in prison, what is freedom, and how can we find it?

Just about every week for the last six years I’ve met with inmates at the state prison for men in New Hampshire. I enjoy going there. In fact it’s the highlight of my week.

I’m used to the peculiarities of the place now. Sometimes the guards there can be unwelcoming, but mostly they’re now accepting. The room we meet in can be rescheduled at a moment’s notice, but you learn to … Read more »

Inside Story

May 6, 2009

The Great EscapeWhat makes a prisoner? Sarvananda, a prison Buddhist chaplain, has an inside view of life in jail; and he reflects that we are all prisoners of our mental states

Twice a week for the past seven years I have visited Norwich Prison in eastern England, in my capacity as a Buddhist chaplain. Recently I have been wondering why I am drawn to this work. Apart from the desire to spread the Dharma and the fact that my teacher Sangharakshita has encouraged his disciples to undertake such work, a certain fascination has drawn me to prison visiting — a fascination with prison life itself and with the people I meet.

I was brought up in an … Read more »