Thursday, September 08, 2011

Albert's reading list on meditation, yoga, rehabilitation, and prisons

After the blog post about transcendental meditation in prison, I contacted the federal agency that maintains a website helping decide which evidence-based practices are really evidence-based. I received a nice email today in response, which read in full (with links embedded in the text):
Thank you for contacting is not an exhaustive list of all justice-related programs and reviews of programs are conducted on an ongoing basis. has not currently evaluated any programs related to meditation or yoga in adult correctional settings. Meditation is, however, one component of the following program evaluation:

Motivational Interviewing for Juvenile Substance Abuse

Additionally, we were able to locate the following resources on your topic of interest which may be useful in your research:

Effects Of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June–July 1993

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts Correctional Facilities

Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Recidivism Among Former Inmates of Folsom Prison:  Survival Analysis of 15-Year Follow-Up Data, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 1987: 36, 181-203. Link to Abstract.

Walpole study of the Transcendental Meditation program in maximum security prisoners I: Cross-sectional differences in development and psychopathology. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 2003: 36: 97-126. Link to Abstract.
We also conducted a search of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) library online through the NCJRS Abstracts Database. Using keywords, the Abstracts Database search engine will search for pertinent abstracts of materials from the NCJRS Library, which contains over 200,000 articles of justice-related literature.

Using the keywords meditation, yoga and corrections, we were able to locate the following resources from the Abstracts Database that may be of interest to you:
  • Potential Benefits of Meditation in a Correctional Setting, NCJ 219850
  • Transcendental Meditation in Criminal Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention, NCJ 203236
  • Courage to Create: The Role of Artistic and Spiritual Activities in Prisons, NCJ 231190
If you would like to view additional information about any of the above items, or if you wish to conduct your own search of the Database, please visit 
For instructions on how to obtain copies of the resources from the Database, please go to

Finally, you may be able to locate program evaluations on this topic in another program library. To locate information and URLs for such online libraries, please visit the following section of our site:

Other Evidence-based Program Libraries

Please let us know if you have any further questions or comments.

Content Specialist
National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS)
Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Clearinghouse
I haven't gotten such a helpful response from someone in a government agency in so long it caught me off guard. Good show, Albert. More on this, perhaps, once (if) I get a chance to go through this reading list Albert has now assigned for us


Anonymous said...

It would be nice if meditation were a magic pill that could be fed to anyone and have the desired effect regardless of what the person thought about it. But everyone who meditates knows that the benefit derives from a combination of the effort and the motivation to exert the effort. The bottom line is that opportunities for spiritual development (such as meditation) need to be offered to prisoners not because the activities will have a desired social impact (i.e., decreased recidivism) but because prisoners are people, too, and as such are deserving of spiritual nurturing.

RSO wife said...

Well said Anonymous. Those of us who have or have had loved ones incarcerated know really well that prisoners are people too. In fact, to us, they are people first and prisoners second. The public seems to be able to lump them together as "convicted felons" and forget that they have feelings and needs and people who love them on the outside. In fact, it's the support from us while they are in there that keep them motivated to work on programs like meditation.

London Counselling said...

Personally, I am all for teaching inmates methods of self-control and introspection as a means of contributing to their post-lockup lives. However, as good as most inmates seem to play the system for bonus points it will take a huge amount of follow-up studies to see how ultimately successful this type of program is.

Phillip Baker said...

London Counseling is right. There really is no hard data on this subject. But having both worked in corrections and being a Buddhist, I can readily see the almost immediate benefits of meditation for inmates. In the godawful, chaotic, always noisy, almost always tense environment of prisons and jails, meditation gives inmates a tool to separate himself from all that, if only for short times. IF the guy persists and establishes a daily practice, he can learn so much about himself, others, and change habit-energy behaviors that do not work for him. But like new meditators outside, many- of not most- have no true commitment, get bored or do not get the instant gratification some think they'll find...and just drop out. Most prison meditators are going it alone, with no guidance from someone with experience. It seems counterintuitive, but having a teacher is really crucial. When prisons refer to "spiritual", they almost always mean Christian ezclusively. Because of the structure of many Buddhist organizations, the lack of "clergy" blocks volunteers from setting up meditation programs inside. More enlightened (pun intended) corrections officials recognize the value and encourage these groups.

Phillip Baker said...

Sorry. I really, really need to say more with less verbiage. I'm working on it. lol

Anonymous said...

If excessive verbiage didn't exist, how would we recognize non-excessive verbiage?

Audrey said...

Its funny how people always want science to prove something is working. I think anecdotal tells a lot, perhaps more than scientific stats. I know I sure respond to spiritual programs and to people who treat me with love and respect. So does everybody else I know. Seems like that ought to be enough common sense proof rather than the scientists referring to endorphins in the brain and what we create in our imagination which cannot be scientifically proven.

Meditation works for those who want it, likewise with the other various religions. It seems believing in something greater than self and finding a peaceful place inside makes all the difference in the world, especially in the midst of chaos and darkness. I would agree with PB, having a mentor or spiritual leader would help in directing positive thought rather than old, ineffective thought patterns.