from RonArtest.com: Mental Health and World Issues, June 8, 2012
What do yoga mats and prisoners have in common? Both are in high demand. With an overcrowded prison population in the US, it is not shocking to find around 60-67% of inmates return to prison within 3 years of their release date. Rehabilitation and mental health services for inmates have been long seen as a form of restorative justice, or an alternative way to approaching crime through healing instead of punishment. As some critics discourage the funding of inmate therapy, the goal is to treat the prisoner and prevent the outcome of committing another crime once they re-enter society. With the increasing evidence on the benefits of improved mental health for those who practice yoga, it seems this treatment has made its way from yogis to behind bars.
Many organizations throughout the United States have started training yoga instructors to teach inmates the fundamentals of overcoming past trauma through simple breathing, stretching and meditating exercises. Looking at one non-profit’s vision, the founder of the Prison Yoga Project at the San Quentin State Prison in California, James Fox states that the prisoners, “...didn’t get proper guidance when they were in adolescence, never dealt with core social and emotional issues of that age-they rebelled instead, or got locked up at an early age.” For these prisoners, the practice of yoga is a means to develop positive outlets for stress and to ease the transition of returning to normal life.