The US has the highest rate of prisoners in the world. In fact, though the US has only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners—at a cost of anywhere between $30,000 and $60,000 per prisoner per year. But there’s some good news: Programs are popping up both here and abroad to help men stay out of prison or prepare them to better serve their communities once released.
In California, the Insight-Out program engages victims, prison administrators, community members, and inmates to find new ways of “doing prison” that are more humane and effective than the current punitive model. As part of the program, inmates mentor at-risk youth and receive certification in domestic violence training, which allows them to educate others about domestic abuse. In San Quentin alone, more than 400 prisoners have signed up for the program.
In a maximum security prison in Naivasha, Kenya, inmates learn self-awareness and mindfulness techniques to help them become more emotionally resilient, improve their mental well-being, and increase their desire to be more helpful, honest, and responsible. Three other prisons—Langata, Kamiti, and Kisumu—are looking into using the program.
“We firmly believe in the inherent goodness of every human being,” says Rosa Vissers, executive director Yoga Behind Bars, which offers yoga and meditation to inmates in Washington prisons and jails. The program’s popularity has led to a teacher shortage. The solution? Offering teacher-training to inmates. “We believe in transforming our prisons into places of healing and rehabilitation,” says Vissers.