Teaching meditation to prisoners: Transformative silence?

By Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer

BESSEMER, Ala. — "Sometimes the only way out," says Jenny Phillips, "is in." That's the jailhouse mantra at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Bessemer, Ala. The barbed-wire-wreathed bunker resembles the cheerless pen in The Shawshank Redemption except that at Donaldson, murderers serving life terms don't break out. At least not physically.

Mentally though, through a Vipassana meditation program introduced by Phillips in 2002, some Donaldson inmates are breaking the cycles of anger and revenge that got them there in the first place.

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