Prisons, or at least good prisons worth writing about, are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves as establishments. Such ways include, but are not limited to, actively engaging inmates in sports and exercise, improving sanitation for daily life of inmates, having inmates grow food on institution property that they can later harvest and eat for better health, and even authorities and staff implementing cultural practices to give inmates a sense of pride in their backgrounds. These are all relatively new processes that are still being studied, and the one that sticks out is the use of yoga and meditation.
We’ve been brainwashed by popular culture to believe all inmates are hostile and it seems like such a bizarre practice for people who are viewed as barbarians by the general public- could a person leading a violent life of crime really convert to inner peace and spirituality? To evaluate this, and to change our negative perception of prisoners, one must look closely at how yoga affects the prisoners’ lives in and out of the penitentiary. It’s not enough to ease their minds and stress levels, but to really make a difference within them so that they are never imprisoned again. The recent studies on this topic have done a great job of this, which is why one can conclude that using yoga as a diversionary practice in penitentiaries will lower the overall rate of recidivism.
To begin, it’s important to understand that recidivism is the “tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend,” as written by Oxford Languages. That said, to establish a sense that prisons have improved over the last decades and that these programs do in fact make a difference, it’s necessary to explain records from the US Department Of Justice on rates of recidivism from the years 1970, 1978, and 1980. In 1986, authors G Gaes, H Lebowitz, and E Singleton reported that “the random samples of releases, limited to inmates whose sentences were longer than 1 year and 1 day… were respectively 51.4 percent for 1970 , 43.9 percent for 1978, and 38 percent for 1780.” Most of these special programs were established in the 1970s in sort of a hippie/bring-peace-to-everyone act, so it’s easy to see the correlation. Specifically, these programs impact recidivism rates by shaping the inmates’ mindsets and reforming them into peaceful, compliant citizens through means of lowering stress levels and improving mental states.
In the 2005 article “Free Inside: A Program to Help Inmates Cope with Life in Prison at Maui Community Correctional Center,”authors Elizabeth Duncombe, Dawna Komorsky, Evaon Wong-Kim, and Winston M Turner state that there are eight crucial requirements needed for an inmate’s graceful adjustment to prison life, “privacy, safety, structure, support, emotional feedback, social stimulation, activity, and freedom.” Yoga, a practice performed by the ancient Indians since 3000 B.C., has the ability to meet all eight of these requirements in its own way, even in a stressful jail setting. The poses and stretches provide great physical stimulation, but the part that gives inmates the most clarity and relaxation is the spirituality of it all. Yoga has a property that soothes and heals the mind of any stress or negativity; even on a grand scale it chips away at unwanted nerve expression in the body.
More so, in the 2020 article “A Systematic Review of Literature: Alternative Offender Rehabilitation—Prison Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation,” author Dragana Derlic establishes the facts that loneliness, trauma, and absence of freedom in the prison are all factors that contribute to an inmate’s mental and emotional deterioration, sometimes resulting in anxiety and depression as they become filled with anger and hatred at the world. Recall the stigma that prisoners are naturally violent and aggressive by nature. Derlic contradicts this by showing how most of the time it’s the bleak day-to-day routine of the prison itself that leads to increasingly angrier inmates, and therefore, inmates that will tend to reoffend. The institutions operate like a food production factory, taking in one-time convicted individuals, grinding them up with the inadequate standards of living, and popping them out on an assembly line even more confused and hate-filled than before. Life without any physical or mental stimulation is so boring and colorless, and it makes sense that it can get inside of and twist the human mind, something that’s evolutionarily structured with a thirst for knowledge and abstract thought, which is incredibly hard to come by in a prison setting. Sometimes all these inmates need is an outlet, a hobby that allows for expression and creativity, just like anyone does, and yoga can be just that.
In 2018, researchers Doctor Sfendla and colleagues incorporated voluntary yoga into the daily routine of a random sample of prisoners and found that there was a significant decrease in “paranoia, suspicion, and fearful thoughts and had a positive effect on obsessive-compulsive disorder,” as well as a “significant improvement in both positive and negative psychotic symptoms in participants with schizophrenia.” This undeniably supports the idea that yoga is a benefactor in mental health disorders as well, which attributes to a big percentage of those incarcerated today in prisons rather than mental institutions because they do not receive the proper testing or treatment. Going back to Derlic, in her article she explains how the main goal of the program she studied was to “help inmates adjust to the environment around them and to provide them with the skills necessary to be successful upon release.” This measure of success is how they live their lives after the fact and whether or not they resort to their old ways, getting tied back up into a life of ongoing crime.
This holds true for inmates with severe mood issues like mental health illnesses, however, the argument that yoga in prisons will lower the rates of recidivism might not hold the same weight when dealing with mentally stable prisoners who were simply born into the wrong circumstances and were forced to use crime as a crutch. Again, Oxford Languages tells us that recidivism is the “tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend,” and a specific study documented in 2020 by authors Shaked Kovalsky, Badi Hasisi, Noam Haviv, and Ety Elisha demonstrates this without focusing on the mental statuses and spiritual transcendence of the prisoners, but simply the recidivism rates. It shows not only the correlation between implementation of yoga programs and the reductions of recidivism, but the causation between them through solid evidence. The article, “Can Yoga Overcome Criminality? The Impact of Yoga on Recidivism in Israeli Prisons,” shows the exact findings and conclusions of an experiment between released prisoners who voluntarily participated in yoga classes during incarceration compared to a control group of released prisoners who had no yoga experience during their time in jail. The credibility of this experiment was ensured by creating a “propensity-score matching system,” and a statistical follow up of over five years. The study found that after the first year the control group had a reincarceration rate of 15.91% while the group that practiced yoga had a rate of only 5.67%. Additionally, for the results two years later, the control group had a rate of 26.57% as compared to the yoga group of 4.77%. For the third year, the results were 31.30% and 4.42% and for the fourth year it was 37.10% versus 4.42%. Amazingly, logged over five years post-release, 40.72% of the control group was incarcerated while only 4.66% of the group that practiced yoga was.
This is groundbreaking data that supports the idea that yoga leads to reduced rates of recidivism, and not just immediately but over extended periods of time. Mood and stress levels are things that fluctuate constantly and if yoga solely helped to ease these factors, it would not have an effect on an inmate’s mood five years after being released from jail because it obviously would have changed. This study also goes to show that yoga doesn’t only affect the mentally ill, because it had significant results on the population that was not a random sample; The participants were specifically picked out to be studied based on a propensity-score matching scale to eliminate any bias or sources of error. The definition of pure recidivism is foggy and misused often, but this research demonstrates that using yoga in prisons does more than rehabilitate the inmates, it diverts them away from violence and crime altogether to be reformed in physical, mental, and spiritual ways.
“Oxford Languages and Google-English” Oxford Languages. (n.d). Web 2 November 2021.
“Recidivism Among Federal Offenders” US Department of Justice. G G Gaes, 1986. Web 2 November 2021.
“A Systematic Review of Literature: Alternative Offender Rehabilitation—Prison Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation” Sage Journals. Dragana Derlic, 15 September 2020. Web 25 October 2021
“Free Inside: A Program to Help Inmates Cope with Life in Prison at Maui Community Correctional Center” ResearchGate. Elizabeth Duncombe, Dawna Komorsky, Evaon Wong-Kim, and Winston M Turner, December 2005. Web 2 November 2021.
“Yoga Practice Reduces the Psychological Distress Levels of Prison Inmates” NCBI. Anis Sfendla, Petter Malmström, Sara Torstensson, and Nóra Kerekes, 3 September 2018. Web 2 November 2021
“Can Yoga Overcome Criminality? The Impact of Yoga on Recidivism in Israeli Prisons” PubMed. Shaked Kovalsky, Badi Hasisi, Noam Haviv, and Ety Elisha, 14 April 2020. Web 25 October 2021.
If recidivism means “the measure of how likely a released offender is to return to confinement,” then “a diversionary tactic” for inmates, while they’re confined, would be irrelevant. You must mean that something that occurs to the confined inmate improves her likelihood of staying out of prison, perhaps a behavior change, a new attitude, a new coping skill . . . .
Thanks for all the great feedback. Later in the essay I go on to explain how yoga leads to lower stress levels, mental clarity, etc. which is why in my rewrite I didn’t add it into the first paragraph. Please let me know if the hypothesis is still not up to par and I’ll definitely add it in sooner.
Your paragraphs are massive, Sunshine, a clear indication that they contain more than one main idea (a violation of the first commandment of paragraphs). I broke your Introduction where it needed to be broken, at the spot where the last sentence of your Introduction introduces your primary claim. Do the same with your other overgrown kids.
The odd thing about that last sentence:
is that it sorta says, “the one that sticks out is the one I haven’t mentioned yet.”
Your first few sentences are already good, so I think you’ll appreciate little tips to improve them since you obviously care about fluency and have skills.
Keeping phrases PARALLEL is harder than keeping nouns and adjectives parallel. Here, who engages in the activities is unclear:
—actively engaging inmates in sports and exercise,
—growing food, and even
—implementing cultural practices.
The inmate plays the sports and exercises, and may grow her own food, but it’s probably the institution that improves sanitation. It may also implement cultural programs that the inmates practice?
I guess they’re all processes, but since you want to credit the enlightened institutions for conducting them, they might also be called programs. Or enrichment opportunities. Or . . . .
I thought it was sort of implied who was doing which actions, but I still tried to fix this and be more specific in my rewrite. I originally tried to keep the phrases short because they’re not the main focus of that paragraph, and I’m worried adding to them made the sentence too long, and the reader is already sick of the word “inmates.”
Your revisions are fluent and very effective.
In the second half of your opening, you’ll want to identify yourself as a participant among the misunderstanding public and give yourself and your readers an excuse for OUR confusion. “We’ve been brainwashed by popular culture to believe all inmates are hostile . . . .” Take it from there. The last thing you want to do is pontificate from your enlightenment. Be a good guide. “Watch your step here; I took quite a tumble last week.”
I didn’t know if I was allowed to use your exact phrase “we’ve been brainwashed…” but I did. It felt like you were giving me permission to put it in my essay but at the same time my head is giving me flashing lights with a plagiarism warning because I didn’t quote you.. Let me know if I need to change this and put it in my own words.
Notice how often you’ve already replied to remarks I make. The Oxford definition sounds like mine. You call the processes programs shortly after I recommend it. If you keep anticipating my useful advice, I’ll have little to offer you. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
In P2 you promise to reveal causation, specifically how hippie programs reduce recidivism. But you don’t deliver it in P3. Instead you suggest that the causes of hostility, anxiety, and depression have been established. So, either promise that, or reorganize your material to deliver your “yoga reduces recidivism” causation in P3.
Your citation techniques are non-compliant.
—we don’t use end-of-sentence parenthetical citations
—your citation of Duncombe sounds like Derlic is citing her
—commas go INSIDE the quotation marks
I rephrased myself so that the word “causation” is only used when I refer to the study to show the evidence in P6. Does this work? I’m not sure what you mean when you say we don’t use end of sentence citations because that’s how I was always taught. But I took them out completely and just used in-text citations the whole way through instead.
Also, yes Derlic did quote Duncombe and tried to make that as clear as possible but I guess it didn’t work, so instead I just quoted Duncombe myself because I’m not sure how to pull of the me quoting and author whose quoting another author thing.
Quoting Duncombe doesn’t help as much as you think, and the problem is Duncombe. She’s vague where she should be specific and needs to be paraphrased not quoted.
—concerns is hopelessly vague
—not having enough toilet paper is a concern
—cold beans for lunch is a concern
—impact on an inmate’s behavior is equally hopeless
—conjugal visits have an impact on an inmate’s behavior
—so do knifings in the shower
Anyway, she calls them concerns that have an impact . . .
Then you call them requirements.
You can use her list, but describe it in the most specific and useful way you can to support your own category. If yoga “meets a requirement,” what does it provide, and what’s the outcome?
I appreciated this tip especially because when I first wrote my definition argument, I felt like I was using too much of Duncombe’s stuff there and it took up a lot of that paragraph. I paraphrased and just kept her eight principles.
You’re doing nice work here Sunshine, especially for a first draft. I should be concentrating mostly on good job you do of introducing relevant and credible evidence when you need it. Your research has some authority. The data from the Kovalsky is quite stunning.inmat
It might not mean exactly what you say it means, of course. You’ll probably have to devote some energy into refuting the objections of readers like me who ask, “Who’s less likely to reoffend upon release, the inmate whose personality attracted her to the yoga classes offered in prison, or the inmate who was hostile to the whole idea of improving herself when clearly she was the world’s victim?”
Be careful not to “raise money for cancer.” Cancer doesn’t need your money. Cancer research needs your money. You say
but of course you mean it reduces recidivism.
I might also suggest that since you get to set the terms, your argument would benefit from a POSITIVE term for staying out of jail. Reducing the likelihood that inmates will re-offend is fine, but wouldn’t you like to credit them for more than that? When my cancer goes into remission, that’s a positive way to say it’s not coming back. Do you want to claim that yoga rehabilitates inmates to civil society, or that it reforms them, or something else not so negative as being less likely to get convicted of fresh crimes?
OK, you owe me some responses. This is a conversation. 🙂
One thing I still don’t understand (Maybe you described Diversionary Practice in your Definition Argument, and I’m just not remembering it.) is here:
Two things actually.
1. You seem to be admitting that the numbers don’t actually support your claim (“one can conclude” . . . “will lower,” instead of “can conclude that . . . do lower.”).
2. You drop this term “diversionary practice” into your essay without explanation.
I really enjoy coming back to this essay from time to time, Sunshine. It’s quite good.