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Inmate YogaThe Norfolk Sheriff’s Office has launched a new, evidence-based program called “Balancing Your Life,” which promotes mindfulness and yoga to teach inmates better impulse control and decision making skills.

The effort is part of The Prison Yoga Project, which has more than 15 years of experience in jails and prisons nationwide. Norfolk resident Christine Harrell is a certified Prison Yoga Project instructor, and she is volunteering to the lead the class inside the Norfolk City Jail, with 10 participants in the initial class, every Monday night at 7- 8 p.m. for three months. Harrell is the leader of the group, Virginia Community Yoga, and launched the “Virginia Community Yoga Jail Project” in Norfolk, with hopes of expanding to other jurisdictions. Virginia Community Yoga is accepting donations of all kinds (mats, funds, and blocks) for the project.

The Prison Yoga Project, is a 501c3 nonprofit, which trains and certifies teachers to lead the program inside jails and prisons. They have helped thousands of prisoners by instilling a practice of self-awareness and self-control. The goal is to foster accountability for one’s actions, while addressing the harm caused oneself and others. CBS News, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Time Magazine – have all covered the success of this program.

The Norfolk Sheriff’s Office is working to make the community a safer place by providing evidence-based programs inside the Norfolk City Jail to help inmates rise above.
  • Ninety-five percent of people in jail today will eventually return back our community. Our challenge is to ensure they return with skills that make them less likely to commit future crimes. Their lack of skills makes our community less safe. Without better options, many will return to the lifestyles that got them into trouble in the first place.
  • Jail programs save tax dollars by keeping people from coming back to jail again. A 2016 RAND study found that inmates who participate in any kind of educational program are 43 percent less likely to reoffend.
About Prison Yoga Project, an Evidence Based Program 
  • Research shows that teaching inmates meditation can have positive effects on their behavior and decision making, which translates into reducing recidivism. In fact, a 2002 study at Seattle’s North Rehabilitation Facility found that the recidivism rate dropped by 25 percent for inmates who took a 10 day meditation course.
  • According to a 2012 study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, participants in the Prison Yoga Project reported a reduction of stress and anxiety, calmer temperament, emotional control and anger management, and improved rational decision making.
  • Yoga and mindfulness can help offenders change trauma-influenced, unconscious behavioral patterns – impulsive/reactive behavior and tendencies to drug and alcohol addiction as well as violence. The Prison Yoga Project’s methodology focuses on impulse control, mood disorders, despair, violence prevention, addiction and PTSD.

WTKR-TV covered this story, which you can find on our Facebook page

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