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Vipassana, in the prison setting, is a revolutionary idea because it gets to the root-cause of the recidivism problem. The concept addresses the habits, fears and habits that cause people to get into prison in the first place. As such it reflects the possibility of borrowing cultural practices from other parts of the world and using them to improve one’s situation.
The intervention program that was conducted in Donaldson prison, Alabama was one of the most powerful illustrations of what intercultural ideas can achieve. It was a teaching derived from Buddha; however, it should be regarded as non sectarian because it is a philosophical system of morality.
Vipassana has the ability to correct severely-engrained habits since it teaches subjects how to experience their own reality. Many teachers and inmates explained that they traced the roots of their passions, anger, insecurities and other emotions during the program. As they were meditating, all of them looked at their inner selves objectively.
It was probably this detachment that caused them to achieve a sense of balance and calm. The technique purified their minds and freed them from their suffering. Such an achievement is invaluable in a correctional facility like Donaldson, which has a ‘gladiator’ environment (Phillips, 2012).
Vipassana meditation belongs to a series of spiritually-based programs in psychology. In fact, the use of spiritual beliefs in these environments is nothing new. One of the most well-known rehabilitation programs, that is; AA uses spiritual practices to treat alcoholism. Spiritualism is the process of looking for the sacred.
It encapsulates moving beyond one’s physical existence and exploring the transcendent world. While many religions teach spirituality, it is possible to remain spiritual without adhering to a particular religious orientation because all one has to do is to move beyond one’s consciousness.
Supporters of this kind of approach claim that spirituality is a natural way of helping criminals or addicts because it allows one to get to the ultimate level of consciousness. Crimes or drugs are temporary and ineffective ways of solving a human being’s problem.
By using a natural and healthy method of solving this problem, spirituality can effectively manage crime or drug addiction (Marlatt et al., 2002). The success of the program illustrates that intercultural harmony is possible if the method or approach used gets to the inner self.
This intervention program is a paradigm shift in the field of corrections. The traditional approach aims at punishing and oppressing inmates in order to instill fear in them. Many of them commit more crimes because no message gets to their internal system.
However, Vipassana attempts to change inmates through an internal transformation of their subconscious. As a result, prisoners become more disciplined, self-aware, cooperative and reasonable. From these observations, one can confidently assert that Vipassana is a successful process of reform. Intercultural interventions that focus on the internal – being are quite effective, which is visible even in my personal encounters.
Marlatt, A., Larimer, M., Blume, A., Simpson, To. & Parks, G. (2002). The effects of Vipassana meditation and other rehabilitations programs on alcohol and drug relapse and criminal recidivism.
Phillips, J. (2012). TED X Boston. Retrieved from http://tedxboston.org/speaker/phillips-ph-d