Working for Change
Prison Yoga Project is working to change the criminal justice system from the inside out. We believe that a restorative, rather than a punitive, approach to justice will lead to a more humane and effective criminal justice system, ultimately culminating in a reduction in crime in our communities.
Most prisoners have a history of complex, interpersonal trauma. This unresolved trauma significantly contributes to criminal behavior. Punishing people for a crime by locking them away in an environment that further traumatizes them without providing meaningful transformative lifestyle skills does not promote social good nor public safety. Unless this unresolved trauma is addressed the tendency to re-offend will remain.
Restorative justice recognizes not just the harm caused by a crime. It recognizes the harm revealed by a crime: the trauma that underlies criminal behavior. Our evidence-supported, trauma-informed approach to yoga and mindfulness supports prisoners to face and release unresolved trauma in a safe and effective way. We provide resources and tools for recognizing and reducing aggression, impulsivity, reactivity, and despair. With these tools, prisoners have a greater chance of taking personal responsibility and thinking and behaving in a different way. These tools and resources are the foundation for personal and social transformation.
While a majority of our work is directed toward prisoners, through this work we also seek to support the correctional officers, administrators, and healthcare staff working in the criminal justice system. The impact of long-term stress on people working in the criminal justice system, especially the officers, is devastating. It negatively impacts their health, their quality of life, and shortens their lifespans by decades, according to some studies. We work to foster a more peaceful and effective environment so that they can do their work with greater ease.
Through our work with prisoners, we are also aiming for a positive impact on families and communities impacted by crime. More than 90% of prisoners will be released. We believe that offering support for healing and self-rehabilitation while they are incarcerated is essential to the intention of creating safer communities. We want to empower prisoners to become better fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We want to empower them to be better friends and neighbors, and to become integrated, contributing members of their communities.
This restorative perspective is what we model when we go into a facility. We’ve seen firsthand how this restorative practice positively impacts the prisoners we work with. We’ve also seen how modeling this and demonstrating its efficacy enables our partners in the criminal justice system to take a different approach. We are leading a prison reform movement by example, by being the change we want to see in the world.