Finding violence in a prison would not be a shock. Finding a prison using meditation to help deal with violence would be. Fortunately, William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility located in Bessemer, Alabama is shocking us. According to Warden Gary Hetzel, Vipassana meditation courses are offered to prisoners four times a year.
The course? Three days of learning breathing exercises. On the fourth day, prisoners are asked to allow their deepest thoughts to come into consciousness. The purpose is so prisoners can sense how these thoughts affect their bodies. The intention of the course is to teach prisoners how not to react to those sensations.
The word Vipassana means “to see things as they really are,” which is also the goal of the intense 10-day program using the meditative technique that dates back 2,500 years.
Students are forced to grapple with their innermost selves. Some men are brought to tears; a few have thrown up. It’s not unusual for half of the students or more to quit or be sent back to the prison population for disobeying the rules.
Those who finish come out changed, prison officials say.
Read more about this revolutionary meditation program that is helping to rehabilitate prisoners in Alabama here.