In April 1994, an important milestone in the history of contemporary prison reforms was achieved in one of the largest prisons in Asia – Tihar Jail in Delhi, the capital of India. Over 1000 inmates and prison staff participated in a 10 day residential Vipassana meditation camp inside the jail boundaries.
It aroused the curiosity of some filmmakers in Israel and within an year a heart touching 52 minute film was produced, titled Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. This film was watched with skepticism and amusement by prison officials and policy makers around the world.
After a couple of years, another film, Changing from Inside, was produced based on the experiment in North Rehabilitation Facility (N.R.F.) of the King County jail in Seattle, Washington, USA. This film attempted to address the queries from corrections officials. It also chronicled the struggle of the determined facility director, Lucia Meijer whose efforts to convinced her staff and superiors brought meditation inside the correction center.
Just three years ago, The Dhamma Brothers came out depicting the meditation experiment in the Donaldson Correction Facility in Alabama, USA – an overcrowded and violent maximum-security prison. It became the first highest security prison in North America to hold an 10 day residential Vipassana retreat.
Along with its companion book, Letters From the Dhamma Brothers, the film reveal the possibilities that prisons can become places for effective rehabilitation, ensuring safer prisons and safer streets.
During last 25 years, apart from India and United States the technique of Vipassana meditation has also impacted the lives of prison inmates in several countries – Israel, Mongolia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Myanmar. And there are numerous heart rendering personal stories of silent transformation of the inner universe of the participants.
All these three films are available online at the Pariyatti Store.
A Side Note:
Those interested in continuing the true spirit of transformation in the correction center in their neighborhood can contact The Vipassana prison trust. It is a volunteer organization that shares the information gathered from accumulated experience and assists correction center managers and policy makers who wish to introduce this technique for the benefit of their inmates. It offers complete information and material on Vipassana meditation courses required to organize camps inside the correction center environment.