Mental Health and Yoga in Prisons

Anqi Shen*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Prison environments pose substantial health risks and may adversely affect the health and wellbeing of both prisoners and staff. Drawing extensively from international literature across several disciplines and supported by empirical data, this article presents a multidisciplinary study that focuses on mental health in prison settings and examines unconventional healthcare interventions, using yoga and meditation as a case study. Despite compelling research suggesting overall positive outcomes, the idea of yoga in prisons is not fully integrated into criminal justice policy and practice, and there are gaps in prison yoga research. Recognising the multifaceted roles of yoga within correctional institutions, this article specifically explores the impact of yoga on improving the mental health of incarcerated individuals and prison personnel. The primary aim is to raise awareness about mental health challenges in prisons and underscore the healthcare benefits of implementing prison yoga programmes. Accordingly, the article provides an overview of mental health issues in prisons, assesses potential benefits and mechanisms of yoga and meditation as alternative mental healthcare methods and explores the barriers in integrating these practices into prison healthcare. It advocates for yoga and meditation as viable mental healthcare alternatives for both prisoners and prison staff. The article’s analysis contributes to a preliminary framework for policymakers, prison managers, staff, and scholars seeking to enhance mental health outcomes in penal facilities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Criminal Law
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Apr 2024

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