Of Mindfulness and Incarceration – 2018-02-12

In the Sundance television series Rectify, Daniel Holden, a young man who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder at the age of 17, tries to explain what his experience in lock-up was like.

“When you are alone with yourself all the time, with no one but yourself, you begin to go deeper and deeper into yourself until you lose yourself,” he says. “It’s a perverse contradiction. It’s like your ego begins to disintegrate until you have no ego. Not in the sense that you become humble or gain some kind of perspective. You literally lose your sense of self.”

While Rectify was a fictional account, Holden’s words ring true for many people, especially teenagers, who have spent time “on the inside.” Beyond losing that sense of self, as well as other psychological effects, multiple studies suggest that imprisonment also can lead to decline in traits like cognitive control and emotional regulation. But those negative cognitive consequences can be tempered by a therapeutic intervention combining meditation and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a new study out of the University of Pennsylvania suggests.

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Kayt Sukel, The Dana Foundation
February 12, 2018