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Compassion is at the Core of Prison Program in Hawaii

NCJ Number
Offender Programs Report Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Dated: May/June 2004 Pages: 1-2,13,16
Betsy Duncombe
Date Published
May 2004
6 pages
This article describes the framework from which the Free Inside program emerged, a bi-weekly yoga and meditation program offered to prisoners and staff at the Maui Community Correctional Center in Hawaii.
In September 2003, the Free Inside yoga and meditation program opened its doors in the Maui Community Correctional Center. Free yoga and meditation classes are offered bi-weekly to prisoners and staff in an effort to elicit the innate compassion found in all people. The article presents information regarding the notion of compassion and outlines the use of yoga, chi gung, and meditation. Philosophers and psychologists have historically regarded compassion as a universal capability that lies at the heart of human interconnection. Scientific, historical, and spiritual confirmations of the interrelatedness of all things are offered, including musings from poets and research from quantum physicists. But how can compassion be elicited from people who seemingly know little of the interconnection between people? Although compassion is widely regarded as humanly innate, current American society encourages an individualistic nature that can cut off feelings of compassion. In order to awaken dormant compassion, self-healing and inner peace must be acquired, which will lead to a sense of compassion for others. Yoga, Chi Gung, and meditation are methods of gaining self-healing and inner peace, and thus, are methods of gaining compassion. Each of these techniques is described in turn, as is Pranayama, which is breath work used in yoga and meditation practice. A mounting body of research evidence supports the use of yoga, chi gung, and meditation to facilitate better physical health, reduce anxiety, and stimulate empathy through increased psychological well-being. Moreover, numerous studies have revealed the potential of yoga and meditation to assist in addiction treatment. Yoga and meditation programs in Indian prisons have been met with success in terms of creating a more peaceful environment and encouraging feelings of well-being in prisoners. A future issue of this publication will contain a second article that explores the daily activities, challenges, and prisoner and staff responses to the Free Inside program.