The Buddha: “I have stopped, Angulimala, once and for all, having cast off violence toward all living beings. You, though, are unrestrained toward beings. That’s how I’ve stopped and you haven’t.”
As shown by a number of prison projects, such as the San Quentin Zen Project, Meditation training is an effective way to help inmates deal with their feelings and develop self-awareness, “emotional intelligence”, self-compassion and acceptance.Through insight mental practices prison residents learned to examine and transform the unhealthy thought and behavioral habit patterns that have governed their lives. These practices also helped to achieve an effective management of the stress due to the prison environment, the separation from family, and the anger that attends incarceration. Thanks to the regular practice of meditation, inmates grew to be less reactive to intense emotional states without resorting to the use of drugs or other chemical substances. Meditation prison programs has a very strong social implications. Studies shows that there is a notable (20%) decrease of criminal recidivism in former inmates that participated to a meditation in prison program.
Buddhist Chaplains in Prison institution can thus be contributing in:
– Creating conditions that encourage the development of calm, self-awareness, morality and wisdom, with which the focus of the inmates shifts from the problem to the solution;
– Providing prisoners and prison staff with religious council and the most effective, evidence-based tools for rehabilitation, self-transformation, and personal development
Available materials in the network:
– research reports
– reading lists
– group work
‘The Inner Way’ is a documentary dealing with the very first buddhist meditation course in an Italian prison, led by the zen priest Dario Doshin Girolami. For more than 8th years Dario has been teaching meditation in the largest prison of Rome to the inmates. Images, words, sounds and silences will accompany Dario’s narration, his questions to the inmates, their answers, and their accounts of past and present experiences, and future expectations. A future sometimes for ever linked to the prison walls but, thanks to the meditation, not so unbearable.
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