The United States contains twenty-five percent of the world's prison population. Innovative rehabilitation programs offer effective tools to help prisoners re-enter society and stay out of prison.
The film, Path of Freedom, explores an innovative approach to rehabilitating prisoners at John J. Moran Medium Security Facility, a Rhode Island men's prison. Fleet Maull, a former inmate and founder of the Prison Mindfulness Institute (PMI), teaches basic meditation techniques at Moran, empowering prisoners to take responsibility for their lives. In 1989, while serving a 14.5-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for drug smuggling, Maull founded the PMI and led a twice-weekly meditation group in the prison chapel. Today, his focus includes programs for prison guards and administrators to help transform the corrections system as a whole.
According to a 2014 National Research Council report, United States incarceration rates have more than quadrupled in the last four decades, bringing the effectiveness and growing costs of our prison system under increasing scrutiny. As stated in the report, the U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, housing approximately 1 in 100 adults on any given day.
Innovative programs, like the PMI, bring meditation, art, theater, and dance into prisons. Their methods and techniques, designed to help inmates develop insight, impulse control, empathy, and improve decision-making, are often founded on evidenced-based approaches to social emotional learning. Studies have shown that addressing cognitive and psychological patterns within inmates supports prosocial behavior after inmates are released, reducing recidivism, or the act of repeating criminal behavior.
Connections to National Standards
Common Core English Language Arts. SL.9-10.1 and SL.11-12.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 [or 11-12] topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies. D2.Psy.2.9-12. Investigate human behavior from biological, cognitive, behavioral, and sociocultural perspectives.
Next Generation Science Standards. HS-LS2-8. Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior and individual and species' chances to survive and reproduce.