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'Being' behind bars: The Transcendental Meditation Programme at Oregon State Penitentiary

Enlightenment - The Transcendental Meditation Magazine    Translate This Article
12 June 2011

Introducing Silence
'I feel happy and peaceful. I'm just smiling to myself. I know I am never gonna do drugs again. And another thing, I feel smarter. I don't want to be in any gang no more. Is that normal?' —Paul, an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary in the US, several weeks after learning the Transcendental Meditation Technique.

Nearly two years ago, silence and peace slipped into the high-stress environment of the Oregon State Penitentiary through an unexpected channel. In the fall of 2009, the Oregon Department of Corrections, in collaboration with Dr. Sanford Nidich at Maharishi University of Management began a randomized controlled study designed to investigate the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on high-risk inmates.

By the spring of 2011, 93 inmates and 16 correctional staff members, including a prison superintendent, chief medical officer, research manager, and prison chaplain, had learned the TM technique—and subjective reports from staff and inmates alike have been positive, promising, and poignant.

Earlier research at Walpole State Prison in Massachusetts, Folsom Prison in California, and other state correctional facilities had documented substantial reductions in violence and rules infractions among inmates who learned the Transcendental Meditation technique compared to controls—as well as a 33-43% reduction in recidivism, or rate of return to prison, after their release. (For a summary of earlier TM research in prisons, please click here.)

The Oregon study, which expands this earlier research, utilizes standard tests to measure the impact of TM practice on inmate psychological stress, criminal thinking, spiritual well-being, and symptoms of trauma. Ongoing phases of the study will follow the randomly assigned meditating and control participants post-release, so the Oregon project is still a few years away from completion. But according to staff and inmates alike, striking transformations have already taken place behind the prison walls.

''Where is the center of rehabilitation? Within the very nature of a person; it is all divine infinite, unbounded—a field of infinite correlation is there existing deep within him. The Transcendental Meditation technique enlivens it. The settled state of consciousness has a characteristic of infinite correlation, and once that is enlivened, the man can only be infinitely correlated with his environment. He can only be supportive and enriching to all of his environment. The word 'rehabilitation' should go to that extreme end—to the absolute awakening of the inner Being.''
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, First World Assembly on Law, Justice, and Rehabilitation, 1977, Seelisberg, Switzerland

Global Good News will continue featuring results of the Oregon prison study on Transcendental Meditation, and experiences of inmates who have learned the technique.


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Can TM help fix our prison system?
Inmates dive inward

© Copyright 2011 Maharishi Foundation USA

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