Can TM help fix our prison system?

“The system is broken,” says Kevin Roper, who has been incarcerated for twenty-one years. “You can’t change the system, but you can change the people inside it.”

A growing number of prison inmates and staff are finding that the Transcendental Meditation program is the way to do it. In this video, eight meditating inmates explain how the TM technique has significantly changed their health and well-being, reducing anxiety, depression, anger, and the overall stress of dealing with prison life.

These prison inmates, administrators, and guards say that the Transcendental Meditation technique provides a needed foundation for the rehabilitation offered to new inmates, because “you need to change the brain first” in order to benefit from the counseling and other prison programs.

In his book, The Science of Being and Art of Living, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, writes: “Many with potential talent are among those who are shut behind bars because of their misguided behavior.”

In the recent video interview posted above, a meditating inmate in an Oregon prison explains it this way: “Everybody is a good person inside—we just make bad choices.”

The Transcendental Meditation program has been introduced into prison rehabilitation programs in a number of countries, most recently in the prisons of the Caribbean nation of Dominica. Prison studies show improved behavior and reduced stress and recidivism.

A study published in 2003 in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation found that inmates at a maximum security prison in Walpole, Massachusetts, demonstrated that prisoners participating in the TM program were 33% less likely to return to prison. Studies in the Folsom and San Quentin prisons in California also found 35-50% less recidivism after prison release.

But I think one of the prison inmates says it best. The Transcendental Meditation program is “a tool for never coming back to a place like this.”