As prisoners adopt practice supported by our Path of Freedom (POF) Mindfulness-Based Emotional Intelligence program, it helps reduce reactivity, increase positive feeling and develop skills that will prevent them from returning to jail after release. The following examples from the last two months in our POF groups around the world illustrate this. The first two are from Rhode Island: a participant in the men’s program said he is “getting into” the mindful movement practice. After participants in the women’s program reported sitting regularly (5 minutes per day) since the last session, the facilitator observed them sit with less restlessness than previous sessions. Meanwhile in Chicago, POF participants requested increasing meditation time… to 40 minutes!
After getting a taste of practice, participants report that they feel better and can “hold their seat” in instances in which they would previously have been triggered:
- “I was able to keep quiet when a CO [Corrections Officer] confronted me rudely.”
- “I will think about holding my seat before reacting out of emotion.”
- “I will most likely not speak, create space by walking away if I can, then take some deep breaths and respond to the situation.”
- “I’ve been reading the book and trying out the practices and they are a real comfort to me.”
- “After meditating, my body feels more at ease.”
- “It’s amazing how free I feel when I don’t take things personally!”
Prisoners believe these shifts have deep impacts. One of the prisoners (who has set up a shrine on his tier where he and others meditate) talked about how if he would have had this book (while holding up the POF book) ten years ago he never would have been incarcerated.
Studies on mindfulness in prisons indicate that our successes are not unique: one study with 1,350 inmates, shows improvements in hostility, self-esteem, and mood disturbance among prisoners completing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and two others show a variety of psychological improvements plus a decrease in recidivism connected to meditation. Another study of 40 prisoners shows that an intervention based on mindfulness-inspired Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) decreased criminal thinking and recidivism. Yet another study of 132 prisoners that completed our POF shows reductions in stress, anxiety, depression and sleep problems, all of which indicate improvements of emotional well-being and decreased likelihood of reactive behavior.