Williams: Yoga Isn’t Just for Tea Drinkers and Trend Seekers


By Brook Williams

If you have ever seen prison shows such as those provided on Netflix, you should be familiar with the violence common amongst prisoners, as well as security officers and guards. These shows display the brutal and abusive relationships between prisoners and guards, but this is not simply an issue isolated within TV shows. This is an alarming reality that needs to change.

When guards mistreat and abuse prisoners, they endure little to no consequences, which continually allow guards to be brutal to inmates they’re responsible for. With the guards treating prisoners with little to no respect, how can we expect that prisoners will learn lessons and come out better people? People become what they are told they are. If someone is constantly over your shoulder telling you how horrible you are, spitting on you, throwing your food on the ground and beating you, you’re going to assume you deserve that treatment and succumb to the image that has been pressed into you.

According to The Huffington Post, “The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that within five years of release, 76 percent of prisoners released in the U.S. re-offend.” Hate and violence breed hate and violence. There is a need for tighter enforcement on officers in prisons and better mental health support for prisoners. The ultimate goal in prison is to let justice be served, but also to improve the criminal into becoming a person who can function healthily in society.

Terrill Thomas was a prisoner at the Milwaukee County Jail who died in his cell after weeks of being deprived of water. After his death, other prisoners spoke out about the horrible mistreatment of officers to inmates. This event magnified and brought attention to the reality of guard brutality.

Stated in an article by Vice, “Keeping people locked up forever does not promote public safety in any way. People are coming out so damaged because it’s so damaging to be in prison — so you’re creating problems that did not [previously] exist. Mental health problems, in particular, develop in prison.”

A solution that could improve the brutal climate of prisons is implementing meditational therapy and yoga into inmates’ daily schedules. Through these sessions, someone would promote positivity and a healthy, motivated mindset. Some prisons already do this to a certain extent. There is a foundation that is attempting to make this idea more common in prisons. It is called the “Prison Yoga Project.” It has been implemented in more than 115 prisons. The project’s intention is to improve the mental health of these prisoners that have struggled with difficult backgrounds that reflect on their criminal conduct.

Many prisoners have claimed that this form of rehabilitation has significantly improved their lives. “I used drugs and alcohol for many years basically to kill the pain of my life. Yoga has helped clear my mind, deal with the pain, move into the present and just love myself and who I am,” stated one prisoner. “The demands of prison have changed me for the worse, but participating in this yoga class on my path to returning to society has helped me feel like a positive, capable individual once again. The practice brings me a more clear and enlightened mind,” states another prisoner interviewed by Christopher Zoukis for The Huffington Post.

Implementing meditation and yoga into prisons will dramatically improve the brutal environments of many prisons, and not just for inmates, but for the guards as well. If fewer inmates are fighting with one another, guards will likely feel less pressure to enforce rules with violence. If prisoners are released with the mental skills necessary to cope in society, they’ll not only live more productive, positive lives, but communities will be safer with fewer former criminals resorting to their old ways.

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