Written by Meghan Takwani

“Thank you for the meditation booklet. I have been meditating an hour every day for 8 months now… it feels like a spiritual place in this jail”

Meditation is an ancient practice, the origins of which can be traced back to about 1500 BCE in India. An important aspect of religions such as Buddhism, modern-day meditation can be practiced in both a spiritual and non-spiritual context. Designed to help clear the mind and remain grounded in the present, regular practice of meditation has an array of scientifically proven mental and physical health benefits. These include reducing stress and anxiety and improving productivity and quality of sleep.

There have not yet been comprehensive studies into the impact of teaching mindfulness and meditation in UK prisons, though small studies in the US have found that it can help with reducing negative emotions, improving self-discipline, and in some cases support treatment for drug abuse.

Accounts from both ex-prisoners and those who have taught meditation in prison also indicate that meditation can lead to a significant improvement in prisoners’ mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Fleet Maull, who served a 25-year sentence in the US, drew on his previous meditation experience while in prison. He found that meditation helped reduce feelings of despair over his situation and helped him rebuild his life after completing his sentence. He later founded the Prison Mindfulness Institute which seeks to promote the use of ‘mindfulness-based interventions’ in prisons.

Prisoners Abroad sends meditation and yoga booklets to help people cope with their imprisonment and our service users  have expressed the comfort brought by meditation. This is due to the practice helping people find a place of calm and reduce feelings of depression if this is needed. Longer term, meditation is known to help improve a positive outlook on life which can be helpful when thinking about the future or preparing for release from prison.

“The meditation has helped me cope while inside both on the external and internal aspects of my situation… To help me I know I will need to focus on my meditation to clear my mind, allow me to arrange each day in a safe manner and very importantly, have a positive outlook on my situation.”