FREEDOM BEHIND BARS: Transforming lives of inmates and guards

by Bob Roth on May 27, 2010

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Before you read this, take a few minutes to watch this short video about the Transcendental Meditation program in an Oregon prison. Just take the time and watch the video below. Then read what I have to say.

There are few experiences in life comparable to standing in front of a corrections officer at a maximum security prison with miles of barbed wire and massive walls and thick steel gates and then signing your name to an agreement, which states, basically, that if you are taken hostage by an inmate prison officials will not negotiate for your release. Feeling wary does not quite do justice to the emotions. I first had that sense twenty years ago when I taught the TM technique in San Quentin Prison, which sits, almost bucolically by the Bay, just north of San Francisco, in Marin County. Here is the street address for some of the toughest, most hardened criminals in California.

Prison-BarsI had been invited in to teach TM to the inmates and security officers—and the results of the practice on the life of the men were extraordinary. These included the umbrella term of “reduced rule infractions” (big in the world behind bars that includes drug and alcohol use, violent behaviors, etc.) as well as, most importantly, a 50% reduction in recidivism rates among meditating inmates three years after release from prison. Such numbers are, of course, unheard of in the field of corrections, where the notion of rehabilitation has seemingly been replaced by the policy of warehousing prisoners.

There was considerable interest among many top corrections officials to offer the TM technique systemically throughout the prison system, but a perfect storm of politics, state budgetary cutbacks, and a general disbelief among some of the top brass in California corrections that anything could work as well as TM led to putting the program on the back burner.

Meditation-prisonNo more. As you can see in this short video from an Oregon prison, the TM technique is re-emerging as a viable, highly effective tool for inmates to use to reduce the acute stresses of prison life (which fuel substance abuse and violence behind bars), optimize an inmate’s time for constructive endeavors while incarcerated, and inevitably, reduce their likeliness to return to prison once released. (Recidivism rates can be as high as 80 percent.)

The need for something in prisons to do what the TM program does is obvious. The terrifically high cost of crime, heavy cutbacks in prison budgets, and the genuine intent among many in corrections to help the men and women behind bars is driving this upsurge of interest.

But of course, this is all me just talking. To get an inkling of what it is like in prison and how this meditation is transforming the lives of inmates, I hope you can take a moment to watch the compelling mini-doco above, created by DLF.TV videographer, Amine Kouider.

See David Lynch Foundation for more documentary video of TM projects that are currently being funded.


Related posts:

  1. Caribbean country begins using the TM technique to help rehabilitate its prison inmates
  2. Inmates Dive Inward
  3. Can TM help fix our prison system?
  4. Can Transcendental Meditation help rehabilitate prison inmates?
  5. New Video—TM projects around the world: Saving lives by helping people overcome traumatic stress
  • Jonathon S.

    Amazingly powerful video – I got chills down my spine!

  • Gagil G

    The heart and mind are so connectioned. The power of Love can heal anyone and anything. This is how we should be healing our inmates.

  • bartek


  • Jim M

    Hi Bobby, great article. I helped Stuart at that time with teaching as well in San Quentin. It was definitely an intense experience, especially in C Block, checking the meditation there of the most violent offenders in lock down with steel barred doors constantly opening and closing. Physically they were the least free but during their 20 minute meditation all of those boundaries were gone. The essence of true rehabilitation.

  • Nikolay D.

    The TM program must to be apply in all prisons of the World !
    6-7 millions in US prisons waiting for it.
    The power of love is invincible!
    Thank you of all TM Governors and D.Lynch Foundation who working and support this programs in the prisons!

  • Tom Goldstein

    My greatest misfortune in life was to receive a life sentence for a crime I did not commit. My greatest fortune in life was to receive my mantra from a TM teacher early into my incarceration. I do not believe I could have survived those 24 years without daily meditation, a practice that led to my experience of bliss or joy based not on external events but generated from within. I am very grateful to the Maharishi for bringing meditation to prison and hope that this practice continues.

    • Geke

      Dear Tom,
      Your name Goldstein has been very fitting after all. I’m not connected with Bob Roth, but do you think you would mind appearing in such a video? It’s one thing to hear from guys that have just started with TM, but yours is the most impressive statement I’ve ever heard. And I bet judges and politicians will feel the same.

    • l.funches

      I saw thomas goldstein on channel 7 news..i would like to speak with you can i contact your foundation…i need your help asap

    • Blaze Compton


      If you are still out there, I’d love to talk to you.

      Blaze Compton
      Director, The Transcendental Meditation Prison Project of Oregon

  • Ondine

    Very moving to hear the words of the inmates, and great post about the experience of teaching TM in this type of situation.

  • bryan irving

    hopefully many more will find that inner self and turn suffering into joy.

  • Carolyn Harper

    How can I help get this in Texas prisons. I live in Huntsville where there are more than a dozen units and have a nephew in Iowa Colony, James Allred Unit in north Texas who I would love to have acess to TM.

  • James Moore

    having practiced TM for over 35 years and TM Sidhi’s 28 years prior to experiencing america’s federal prison system for a business action I did not do, but, could not afford legal cost to prove myself while US attornies get promoted and keep their jobs by filling their assigned conviction quotas I spent 2 years inside. I meditated alone daily and now, once again, I am in every day society. From my experience I definitely say TM is the only solution, absolutely, to the prison problems, governments failures and societies vast problems.

  • Randy Meltzer

    A wonderful video to show the power of meditation

  • Lewis Wilson

    Lovely video work by Amine.
    TM is so amazing–such an effortless, daily miracle–I look forward to more and more institutions, of all types, establishing TM as part of their Daily routine. US congressmen and women should prove their approval of TM by learning the practice themselves–then they will really see all the endless possibilities of applying Transcendental Meditation and the group practice of the TM Sidhi program to all of the challenges that our country faces.

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