By some estimates, more than half of inmates held in jails and prisons in the United States have a substance use disorder. Treatments involving the teaching of meditation and other contemplative practices have been developed for a variety of physical and mental disorders, including drug and alcohol addiction. At the same time, an expanding volunteer movement across the country has been bringing meditation and yoga into jails and prisons. This review first examines the experimental research on one such approach—mindfulness meditation as a treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, as well as the research on mindfulness in incarcerated settings. We argue that to make a substantial impact on recidivism, such programs must mirror volunteer programs which emphasize interdependency and non-duality between the “helper” and the “helped,” and the building of meditation communities both inside and outside of prison.
Prison Meditation Movements and Mass Incarceration