« A SCOTUS criminal justice term to remember (and the impact of Justice Sotomayor?) | Main | Planned prisoner transfer getting lots of attention... »

December 15, 2009

A distinctively eastern approach to alternative sentencing in Missouri

A helpful reader forwarded to me this interesting story from the Washington Post which is headlined "From incarceration to meditation in Missouri: For 14 years, guru has run alternative program for parolees." Here is how the piece gets started:

It was a routine business conference for the judge: Agendas.  Handshakes.  Business cards.  But then something kind of mystical happened.

David Mason was approached by a man wearing a crisp suit with a neatly pointed kerchief in his breast pocket. In a measured Indian accent, the man said he, too, was a lawyer and knew all about the judge and his enlightened views on criminal rehabilitation.  He wanted to tell him about the power of meditation in prisons.

The man was Farrokh Anklesaria.  He was a direct student of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and he'd been sent around the world by him to bring meditation to convicts.  He'd been to Switzerland, Senegal, Kenya, Brazil and Sri Lanka.  And by a mixture of circumstances -- and perhaps karma -- he had landed in Missouri.

Anklesaria, a native of Mumbai who chose meditation over his family's legacy in law, hadn't had much luck in other parts of the country.  He had heard that Mason was a proponent of alternative sentencing, and he wanted his help to start a meditation program for criminal offenders in Missouri.  "I thought he was crazy at first," recalled Mason, a circuit judge in St. Louis.

That was 14 years ago.  With the backing of Mason and other judges ranging from the circuit court to the federal bench and the Missouri Supreme Court, Anklesaria has become the region's guru for training parolees in meditation.  His nonprofit Enlightened Sentencing Project provides 20 weeks of instruction in Transcendental Stress Management for parolees who have committed a gamut of crimes, including drunken driving, assault and theft.

Numerous studies point to the health benefits of Transcendental Meditation, including one by the National Institutes of Health that indicates regular meditation decreases high blood pressure and depression.  Other studies find merits in meditation programs done in prisons -- places that Anklesaria calls "areas of concentrated stress."  But no one has formally studied Anklesaria's program.  He's calculated that of the hundreds who have completed the program, just 6 percent have returned to crime.

To close a long day with perhaps a little levity, let me encourage readers to suggest what sort of meditation mantras they think might be especially effective at reducing recidivism.  I suppose we could start with something straight-forward like "Ohhhhmmm, I won't commit crimes... Ohhhhmmm, I won't commit crimes... Ohhhhmmm, I won't commit crimes."  But I better commentors can do a lot better.

December 15, 2009 at 06:01 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2012876587fba970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A distinctively eastern approach to alternative sentencing in Missouri:

Comments

Doug --

You gotta quit crackin' me up.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go communicate with my Inner Self.

(For death penalty abolitionists, I assure you it's every bit as bad as my outer self).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 15, 2009 7:46:37 PM

Easy to mock this ridiculous quackery. However, all of criminal procedure is ridiculous quackery. It is in utter failure in protecting the public, which is its sole legitimate aim.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Dec 15, 2009 10:19:48 PM

You can crack up all you want but the benefits are real. Don't knock it till you try it . . .

Posted by: anon | Dec 16, 2009 10:34:09 AM

anon --

I've never tried, say, meth or tuberculosis either, but I kinda still think I can "knock" them.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 16, 2009 12:50:26 PM

I AM APROSECUTOR IN SOUTH AFRICA CURRENTLY SITTING FOR AN LLD IN ALTERNATIVE SENTENCING.

I THINK THAT IT SHOULD BE GIVEN A CHANCE. WHAT HARM CAN MEDITATION DO? ONLY GOOD. I'M SURE PEOPLE SCOFFED AT THE PHYSICAL GOOD OF MEDITATION AT ONE STAGE AS WELL...TAKE A LOOK AT HOLLYWOOD..THE STARS HAVE BOUGHT INTO IT?

Posted by: kogi naick | Dec 29, 2009 4:04:32 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB