UK Prisons to Introduce Meditation Lessons for Most Challenging Inmates


Prisoners in HMP Wakefield’s close supervision centre will be the first to be offered meditation lessons in a scheme that will see one-to-one meditation classes rolled out across eight of the UK’s highest security prisons.

Aimed at the 60 inmates who have been sent to segregated units after committing further crimes while incarcerated, the scheme will treat prisoners such as Wakefield’s Charles Bronson, whose prison offences have gained huge notoriety. It’s hoped that meditation will help diffuse the violent tendencies that make these prisoners such a danger to themselves, fellow inmates, and staff.

It’s thought that the program will aid in the rehabilitation of men that are considered some of the most dangerous in the prison system. Placed in isolated, “prison-within-prison” centres after perpetrating serious crimes such as murder and hostage taking, it could also allow the inmates to cope better with the claustrophobic environment they spend much of their time in.

Nearly a third of prisoners experienced childhood abuse of some kind and 41% observed violence in their homes. The scheme is using meditation, in part, to try and ease the emotional ramifications of these experiences. There is no guarantee at this point that the prisoners will engage with the program, but it is hoped that if they do it could also temper their violence and help them regulate their emotional responses.

This news comes as part of a wider trend of increasing acceptance of meditation in UK public life. The NHS recommends meditation in the treatment of depression, and the largest trial of its kind is currently being conducted in schools, with 7,000 teenagers being taught meditation in order to ascertain its influence on their long-term mental health. A cross-party committee of MPs has also deemed meditation to be a viable technique to allow front-line public sector workers to deal with the demands of their roles.

The introduction of meditation in close supervision units was preceded by pilot schemes in youth offender institutions, and an eight week mindfulness course at HMP Manchester. This course was aimed at men who committed crimes related to their drug and alcohol addiction, and was considered a success.

While meditation has been used in prisons before, this particular initiative marks new ground. Meditation has been shown help people with mental health issues such as depression, as well as feelings of stress and anger, but as it is unknown whether this will still apply in such extreme cases. It also indicates that rehabilitation is seen as a priority, even in scenarios where inmates are perpetuating their sentences by displaying violence in prison.

The Ministry of Justice is watching these schemes with interest, and if meditation is shown to help individuals that have extremely complex issues, it may profoundly influence prison rehabilitation programs in the future.

This post was written by Will Williams Meditation – providing Vedic meditation classes in London to help with anger management.

Nick Huxsted
Nick Huxsted works for Will Williams Meditation in London. Their aim is to help people live the happiest, healthiest lives they can through the ancient practice of Vedic meditation.