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Should your tax dollars fund yoga programs for prisoners?
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Should your tax dollars fund yoga programs for prisoners?
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Take our recent poll and share your opinions.

Read your responses:

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I believe yoga should be shared with all people, including those in prisons by yogis and yoginis. It is our responsibility to serve our greater community.


I do not support the use of tax dollars to support federally or state run programs. Our solution to social problems should be activism. Americans tend to prefer to throw money at problems and pass the responsibility on the government. We need to take on these challenges within our communities, we can manage our resources much better than the federal government.

—Jennifer

No person convicted of violent crimes should get a privilege such as yoga (or any other privilage for that matter). Drug offenders should be the exception. As a yoga teacher, I would gladly provide lessons to any convict AFTER his or her sentence has ended.

—Paul

The role of prison always ends in preventing and reducing crime and evil in society. It is true that prison is designed to be a punishment, however think about that the vast majority of prisoners will someday be free. I think yoga can help individuals who made mistakes in their lifes to have a deeper point of view, because a big share of the evil in the world is a matter of wrong philosphy, of misunderstanding of basic concepts such as happiness, love and understanding of the universe surrounding us. So my opinion is positive, it can help achieve the goal for which prisons were built.

—Dominick

I am a victim of several crimes (horrible ones) and I would STILL want to support tax dollars to fund yoga in prisons. While I hate crime and believe those who commit it should go to prison, I also believe that people should be forgiven. It took me time to forgive most and I'm still working on the last one, but maybe, just maybe some who commit crime will change. In any case, am I not human too? Am I also not capable of crime? It's all a choice. Who are we to judge?

—Ari

Yoga is a path to connection to the best in ourselves and to a better understanding of our connection to all others. These are gifts and values we should share with all who are willing to study this path. Those in prison are as deserving as anyone else and we all will benefit from their spread inside as well as outside of prison. Ideally prison can be a time for growth rather than a time for further alienation and isolation from human compassion.

—Lynn

I think we need to look at what a prison'r role is in our society. It is unreasonable to think that they are permanent storage facilities for our unwanted members. The vast majority of convicts will eventually be released (some much sooner than anyone would like). So maybe if we focus on making prisons the site of rehabilitation, education and personal growth at least some percentage of our soon-to-be parolled neighbors will have a chance to participate in a productive way in our society. Yoga and the often associated spiritual and personal growth,is a powerful tool for self-improvement. It may be a long shot but what is the alternative? Giving up and waiting for their next criminal act so we can send them back? Where is the wisdom and compassion in that cycle?

—Clay

I don't think that tax dollars should fund yoga programs, but I do feel that these programs should be made available to prisoners. Yoga teachers should volunteer time to programs like this. If this is not possible, they can dedicate classes to causes like this to raise money. I think there are other ways to fund these programs without using tax dollars. Sat Nam.

—Hari

As a former guest of the Department of Corrections, I can assure you this is money well spent. In Illinois, where I was incarcerated, we had weight room work outs and aerobics (Waiting lists for all), but none of these taught us how to center ourselves, to find focus or to turn inward and be O.K. with it. I have been practicing yoga for 3 years now (both my 14 yr old son and 7 yr old daughter join me from time to time—especially for the Rodney Yee tapes!) and have learned to take yoga principles into my daily living. In prison, they don't teach you that. Meditation has increased my relationship with my Higher Power so incredibly much, it's just amazing!!! All of this has become possible for me because of what I've learned practicing yoga and also subscribing to YJ for over a year now. Anything positive that can be learned in prison will be a benefit to society all around in the long run.

—Debbie

Given all I've read on your site, yoga is a self discovery tool and can help you find deep spiritual, physical, emotional confidence or enlightenment, empathy and peace and so much more. If anyone needs this healthy introspection, people who find themselves in prison do because it is a non-invasive method to bettering the individual and regulating their behaviour by offering them a tool to find whatever it is they need to become better citizens through their hearts, which is probably what the rest of society would like once many of them are released, better citizens. No? The punitive nature of prison is one objective of relegating people to this environment, fine, but then what, how do we resolve the issue? Isn't "rehabilitation" another more worthy objective we should be helping these people with? How many prisoners are truly psychopaths? Maybe 1 in 100, ie, most of them can be helped. The rest can be rehabilitated to some degree, so let's go ... with yoga.

—Clara

i can't believe there are yogis that wouldn't want to support having yoga for people who might never be exposed to the practice otehrwise. surprising, and not at all yogic.

—Anonymous

Prisons, theoretically, are supposed to be places where those who have done wrong to society should spend time to reflect on their wrong doing and to heal so that when released, the wrongdoings are not repeated. Statistics show however that this is not the case and that in fact crime often escalates as new contacts are made and gang divisions continue within the confines of the prison. Since the current system is not fullfilling it's goal, why not give yoga a try? How much could a few yoga instructors in a prison cost the individual tax payer?

—Michelle

I worked in the prison system at the federal level. These inmates already have it far, far too nice. They have things in prison that hardworking, law obeying citizens can't have because they can't afford it. They already get free medical care, free medicine, free gyms, free training and education, free gym memberships, and a buffet style meal 3 times a day, with 7 or 8 choices of cuisine to chose from. Wouldn't you and I like all these privlidges on a daily basis? They don't need funded yoga programs on top of it. If they want to do yoga, let them study it on their own, they are allowed to purchase and receive books, and there are libraries at the prisons. Let them learn on their own, and practice it at the recreation yard. This patty cakes crap with these people has got to stop! Come and work in a prison for a week and I'll bet you change your mind!

—J.

If my tax dollars are paying to shelter, feed, and clothe criminals, I'd like them to have better tools to work with upon re-entering society. We can't expect people to sit in jail for years and suddenly realize, "Hey, maybe I need to change something in my life," without providing them some means of making a change.

—Jennifer

There's no doubt that yoga could bring about significant and beneficial change to prisoners. Sure, it would be great to fund this—however, do prisons deserve our tax dollars more than government funded yoga programs for disadvantaged women? Or for mental health facilities? Or for schools? Ideally we could fund all of these but realistically, I think there are many more causes that would come before prisons if the choice had to be made.

—Stella

I, as several others, initially resisted the idea of yoga in the prison. However, while folks go to prison, in part, to be punished, folks also, one day, are expected to be released and become part of society once again. It is completely unrealistic to provide punishment only and then expect folks to be productive, changed, responsible citizens when later released. If that is what we desire and expect, then we need to provide opportunities for rehabilitation, re-learning, education. Unless we make those commitments, punishment and hardship will only harden most of those incarcerated and enable them to rejoin society with no better life skills than those that lead them to the lifestyle that resulted in their incarceration.

—mahre

I taught yoga to gang member inmates in El Salvador, where gang violence, prison overcrowding, and a general climate of fear and hostility, combine to make life very difficult for folks on the inside. The men themselves are testimonies to how yoga has helped them—from reducing nightmares and facilitating more restful sleep, to allowing folks to think twice before responding violently to the provocations of others, to the enormous power of connecting with the seed of goodness and nonviolence that we all have inside—yoga can be an incredibly powerful tool for inmates, especially those who have never been exposed to their own strength and capacity, both physically and spiritually. I would highly advocate for yoga programs in prison.

—Patty

Our tax dollars should be spent on programs that benefit those that deserve it. People in prison should be working to serve the community, not milking the community for all its worth. It makes me angry to know that a lot of my hard earned money is used to make life in prison more enjoyable. Improving prisons will only make prison life look more desirable when it should deter criminals.

—Kristy

I volunteered my time for about a year teaching yoga in jail to Atlantic Canadian women inmates with 2 years minus 1 day sentences. I found it challenging. The environment was cold and loud with big fans roaring overhead. Sometimes women showed up, and sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they got centered, and other times it was just too hard for them. The women did mention one time that it was the best program in the institution, and I received positive feedback from the staff. One morning no one showed up and I thought, this is it, I'm not doing it anymore. (I was obviously attached to results). 7 months later I met one of my 'time-out' students in a shopping centre. I introduced myself to her. We conversed a bit and when I mentioned how good she looked (because she did) she told me that it was because of me. That I had motivated her. I came home and called the institution to tell them I wanted to teach again. I start in March. I would prefer to get paid for this work, and do volunteer work elsewhere, but as far as I know they are not paying for yoga in jail in Nova Scotia. I think individuals and society would greatly benefit from yoga in jails and prisons.

—Jean

Isn't prison supposed to be a punishment? Why should inmates get things handed to them by people on the outside who work to PAY for yoga. This is just absurd.

—B.

this is not a government function. there are likely enough motivated yogis available to volunteer thru private auspices.

—claire

A lot of those prisoners are in lockdown especially in the supermax prisons. Teaching them yoga would let them turn inwards and relieve them of their isolation. We treat prisoners inhumanely more and more each year. Also most prisoners are locked up for victimless crimes like drug use, which in reality is a health problem.

—Wally

I don't know anything about the programs being suggested. However, I can't imagine in costing too much of our tax dollars.


The low cost of Yoga is an enticing aspect of Yoga. To be able to practice in your own home for free even with out a mat is priceless.


Is there a place to read more about these programs?

—Maci

Making contact with one's divinity and inner strength, healing, growth—these are things that yoga offers to us, and things that prisoners could certainly benefit from. I support any prison programs that encourage rehabilitation and inner health for participants, and certainly believe that any benefits reaped by offenders ultimately benefit all of society. And, I would much rather have my tax money fund yoga programs for prisoners than unjust wars abroad, arms proliferation, and bloated defense contracts.

—Maritza

A healthier body promotes a healthier character.



If your physical health improves and you become more conscious that your own actions are your most powerful resource, you are less likely to turn to drugs and to prey on others in your search for satisfaction. Yoga teaching could help prison inmates deal with the sense (and the inner mythology) of dependence that put many of them there.



In particular, many persons (a majority in the US prison system) are in prison for the crime of drug use. If they knew that they could obtain even better feelings through yoga (in particular Pranayama and the ever-doubling inner smile), they would have no need (or at least a reduced need) to be involved with drugs to create the well-being they seek.



Drug users already know how to turn their attention inward, a skill they had to learn in order to judge the effects of their drug taking. All they need is a little guidance so that they can get beyond their dependence of what the ancient Taoists called 'external elixirs' and learn how to utilize that skill so that they can tap into their own native powers and learn how to enjoy stilling their minds.



On another note, many prisoners have experienced serious failure in their lives - and sorrow is the greatest Guru of them all. They're ready for a better teaching. Why not offer it to them?

—Harold

I believe that if yoga were used in prisons we would begin to see a decrease in recidivism. When yoga is taught in the traditional sense not only is the body and the mind helped but the spirit is helped as well. When one becomes one with all (samadhi) there is no way that person can harm another being.

—Neil

Funding yoga practice in prisons may pay off financially (as well as karmically) in the future. People tend to commit crimes when they are disconnected from themselves and those around them. Who knows? Yoga practice may help former offenders become 'crime-resitant' in the future.

—PV

I agree that yoga should be available to inmates because those who choose to practice will have all the benefits to help them through incarceration and to help them upon release. No programs should be provided at taxpayer expense though. As a Correctional Officer, I can attest to inmates routinely getting better care and attention than a struggling single mother who can barely pay her bills let alone pay for classes. Yoga—yes. Free—not a chance.

—Ian

When I was in college I struggled financially and was not able to afford yoga ... I worked three jobs and was in ARMY ROTC. My husband is now deployed in IRAQ returning his end of the deal for his college education while I struggle to raise our two young boys. It upsets me that inmates can get a free college education in exchange for crimes ... and upsets me further that my tax dollars may go to offer Yoga in prisons. Yoga can do great things ... but everything has its limits. How about more programs and yoga offerings to the victims instead? They are the ones in need of healing. Yoga teachers need to remember their boundaries ... a prison environment is not suitable at any security level. Community corrections would be a great place to start. Probation, parole ... programs where offenders are learning how to reintegrate back into society ... where they learn how to treat people and how to use restraint. The peer pressures in prison are much too complex for any of us to understand. I say let them do yoga by DVD during recreation time ... the same thing that I have to do when my two young boys are asleep in their beds when I have no babysitter and my husband is serving our country.

—Angela

As a law student, I recognize that most offenders will at some point in the not too distant future be released back into the general population. Aside from violent offenders, many inmates are guilty of simply being born poor and have already suffered so much in life. Yoga will provide these individuals with much needed coping skills and help prevent the staggering rates of mental illnesses in prison populations.

—Angela

our prison system as it is does not truly support rehabilitation of criminals. criminals are human beings and what better way to honor their humanity and strengthen their bodies and souls than through yoga? it could help reduce inner prison violence which costs us in tax dollars when prisoners need extra medical care, and it could better prepare prisoners for their lives if and when they leave prison.

—Emily

I would hope that someone who has felt disassociated with life to have done something that put them in prison would be able to use yoga to find the life within themselves - that was always there—but they unfortunately didn't have the teachers or opportunity to help bring that to light. Maybe then they could share that feeling of a being complete sole with the rest of the world.

—L. Sue

As someone who has worked in detention/corrections I believe yoga would be a great help to the physical and mental well being of the prisoners. I do not believe tax dollars should fund this program: money is stretched too thin as it is. I do support volunteer yoga programs within the system. Yogis have a perfect opportunity to volunteer without depleting the already limited resources within the criminal justice system. Also if yoga programs are not funded with tax payer dollars, beyond the considerations of safety and security within the institution, they would not be bound/controlled by tax payer ideals and restrictions.

—Esther

i am currently about halfway through my first yoga teacher training, and being so filled with loving energy while cultivating compassion and non-judgement for those around me, i just want to share this incredible experience with as many people as i possibly can. i am also a teacher of yoga in prison and an avid advocate towards prison abolition, and know that sharing my pracitce with the women of york prison in connecticut is a way that i can truly attempt to bring a small sliver of peace into their lives, as they have been doing for me. some of the strongest women i have ever met are currently imprisoned, and in america, we tend to keep prisons invisible, which often makes us picture prisoners as these dehumanized predators, when they are just as human as you and i, fully worthy of our love and help. i am hoping that my small acts, trying to spread prana to all those i come across will eventually help to cultivate this idea, and make more realize that we do not become safer by caging people up, we only break down communities and continue to feed into a culture of fear with is self perpetuating. if we break through this to realize that we need to work on a local level to strengthen bonds within our communities, i believe our world would be infinitely changed for the positive.

—Kate

For anybody that has taught at least one yoga class in a prison environment (I recommend it to any serious yoga teacher) would probably feel the same way I do. It is one of the best ways to pass on a gift that can help someone change their life, learn about past mistakes, and offer them a way to learn from that painful experience, even if they cannot get out of prison in their life. As we teach we also learn the profound teachings of yoga, beyond the physical aspect. It humbles us and helps us to know more about ourselves and our purpose in this lifetime. I totally believe that if it is not tax dollars, money should be donated towards expanding the yoga programs in prison. One of the organizations that have been fostering and applying this teachings is the Ashram Prison Project by the Human Kindness Foundation directed by Bo and Sita Lozoff. In Bo's books and newsletter we can learn about the incredible transformation that people in prisons have experienced thanks to yoga ... and just think about juveniles, who have so much life ahead of them ... what a gift to humanity that would be!

—Vimala

Yes, Yoga should be in the prison system but not mandatory. Who are we to judge what value a prisoner can get from Yoga. If one little thing in Yoga makes another person a better human being (peace within themselves) then we all gain. Only good can come from Yoga. We are all one and should be treated as such. I would prefer Yoga than the prisoners watching all the crime shows on TV or reading books on criminal activities.

—Vivian

I am a former captive myself and I have made a complete turnaround with the assistance of living a Yoga lifestyle. I am now on the straight and narrow teaching English in China and about to write a book about my adventures. I think Yoga in prisons is the best idea I have heard in a long time!!!

—Tim

My first response was no! I should not have to pay anything for prisoners! However, that is not a true Yogic path. If one practices the eight limbs of Yoga then it is realized that all should have this path open to them. Can we truly say that we live the Yogic lifestyle if we do not do everything in our power to give all living things the opportunity to find the Devine? Is that not what we are seeking? Any other response than yes all have the need for Yoga in the truest form, is not a student of Yoga. Following the Yama and Niyama guides, living by the path of the Yoga Sutras, even our belief in the Bhagadavad Gita shows us a higher path. With that we know the answer must be yes.

—Lisa

I read stories of people serving time in prison that take in puppies to train them. I've also seen the local women's prison in my town have the inmates raise kittens and work all day in the flower and vegetable gardens. Now we want to add yoga? That right there sums up my perfect day, playing with my animals, working in the garden and doing yoga in the afternoon before sitting down to dinner. I know they have hardships and they lose their freedom while in prison, but I lose my freedom for 8 hours every day while I'm sitting at my desk. Make prison too luxurious and they may forget they're being punished. We wonder why there are so many parole violations, maybe it's simply because prison life isn't enough of a hardship.

—Jill

Prisoners have nothing but time and the urge to evolve. Yoga has been proven to have enormously positive results for them, despite the one study from Norway, which indicates a natural healing crisis to be worked through. Spirited yoga teachers are lining up to offer this discipline to those who need it most, at very low cost. Folks on the inside, I happen to know, are some of the most generous hearted individuals, unlike the nay sayers in this poll.

—Rosanne

Yoga is such an individual practice. I wouldn't advocate it for large institutional use, such as in prisons, unless careful attention is paid to the type of yoga taught and its effect on the prisoners. An active vinyasa practice might not be a good idea for someone living in such a tense, heated environment. Also, some poses release strong emotions; unless a sustainable program was presented to deal with such byproducts, I wouldn't support such a program.

—Nina

I think many people in our prisons are suffering from anxiety disorders and numerous mental conditions, extreme ADHA, etc. Yoga could be so very beneficial to these people. According to several articles in a recent Yoga Journal issue, 4 people attribute Yoga to changing their lives, I believe this can happen. In this same issue it was discussed how Yoga can instill happiness in people. Many people have never been exposed to anything as peaceful as Yoga. Many are self-medicating (drugs, alcohol) to ease painful childhoods and this can lead to unproductive lives resulting in crime. Yoga may be so benefical to these people.

—Rita

Crime is lower in many countries because criminals fear going to prison. In the US it appears to be a right of passage. Bring back the bread and water, no Air Conditioning and heat at 55F, and you will reduce crime. Shorten the sentences and makes it like a soup kitchen for the homeless; this will reduce crime. Enough is enough, the system is broke. DO NOT give them anything more, take it away!

—Kay

Surely they can practice yoga on their own without expensive, state or federally-run yoga 'programs'.

—Andy

Yoga is not a religion. It is a technology that enhances health and well-being. If prisons make weights and other gym equipment available to inmates to bulk up their physical bodies, why is yoga held to a doublel standard?

—Marcy

At the time of my vote, 47% had said no to US tax dollars funding yoga programs for prisoners. That is not very yoga-minded.

—C.

There is at least one study showing that it increased aggression in some prisoners in Norway...


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4743741.stm


—Jim