Prison Reform and Personality Development

Prisons represent the most difficult psychological spaces on earth. The stress associated with being locked away and isolated from those you love is impossible to imagine. The problems are amplified by the problematic behavior of guards and other inmates, and a negative social environment is almost guaranteed. The importance of the social environment is emphasized across developmental psychology. Authors such as Dabrowski and Fresco emphasize the social environment as the primary factor which determines how an individual will develop as time passes.

The affect of prison life on the personality has been studied in great depth by psychologists like Philip Zimbardo. His notorious "Stanford Experiment" involved taking normal, healthy college students and placing them in a simulated prison environment for a few weeks. Zimbardo himself played the role of the prison executive, and students were divided into the roles of guards and inmates. Within just a few days, the negative environment drove these students to a very low level - abusing each other verbally, simulating sodomy, being unjust in punitive measures, and so on. Zimbardo was forced to dismiss one student who lost psychological control and broke into full psychoneurosis. Yet, he continued the experiment: The environment had even been able to permeate his consciousness. In fact, it was only after his girlfriend plead with him that he called the study off.

Here is the full story:

The depraved conditions in prison systems across the globe contradicts our goal of rehabilitating inmates. However, a new series of studies has shown that Transcendental Meditation - an effortless stress release technique originally taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - is an extremely effective way to establish a healthy psychology in prosecuted criminals (Alexander et al 2003). In fact, the profound reduction in rates of recidivism has inspired Oregon to adopt Transcendental Meditation as a primary tool in criminal rehabilitation.

Here is what the prisoners have to say - it is very inspiring:

Clearly, Transcendental Meditation should be utilized in prisons across the globe to reduce the stress placed upon inmates and reduce rates of recidivism.

Criminal rehabilitation and decreased prison recidivism (Alexander C. N., et al. Walpole study of the Transcendental Meditation program in maximum security prisoners III: Reduced recidivism. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 36: 161-180, 2003.)

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