History of Vipassana Courses in Prison

Worldwide Vipassana Prison Course Chronology. North American Vipassana course-related items are in bold.


  • July: After arriving in India from Myanmar, S.N. Goenka taught the first 10-day Vipassana course in Mumbai. There were 14 students.


  • S.N. Goenka meets Vinoba Bhave, a spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi, who challenged him to teach children and criminals.


  • September: S.N. Goenka taught the first 10-day course in a prison. The course took place at Jaipur Central Jail in Rajasthan, India.


  • In Rajasthan, India, Jaipur Central Jail hosted a 10-day Vipassana course. It was the first course offered to inmates since the 1970s.


  • In Gujarat, India, six prison courses were held.


  • During the year in India, 13 courses were held at prisons in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Delhi.
  • November: In Delhi, India, Tihar Prison hosted its first 10-day Vipassana course. 96 inmates and 23 jail staff attended the course.


  • January: In Delhi, India, a second course was conducted in Tihar Prison for 300 inmates.
  • April: In Delhi, India, S.N. Goenka conducted another course inside Tihar Prison for 1,000 inmates. Following the course, he inaugurated Dhamma Tihar inside Tihar Prison. It was the first Vipassana Center located inside a correctional facility.


  • August: During a visit by S.N. Goenka, Taiwan hosted the first prison course outside India at the Ming Te Branch Prison near Tainan.
  • March: In Maharashtra, India, Nashik Road Central Prison offered its first Vipassana course. This led to an ongoing course program.


  • The Worldwide Vipassana Video Project completed a documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. It was about the meditation courses held in Indian prisons in 1990. The award-winning film is available in many languages and greatly increased interest in Vipassana meditation.
  • During the year in India, more than 2,100 male inmates participated in approximately 50 10-day courses in prisons. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, Anapana, and short courses were also taught. More than 100 female inmates and 400 incarcerated adolescents took part in courses.
  • February–March: The first 10-day course was held in Yeravada Prison in Pune, India. S.N. Goenka went to meditate and talk with the 105 participants on Metta Day. This led to an ongoing program of 16 courses up to the end of 1999.
  • November: In the United States, the first 10-day course was held at the King County North Rehabilitation Facility in Seattle, Washington. 11 female inmates completed the course.


  • Prison courses continued in India. S.N. Goenka inaugurated meditation cells for the use of course participants at Dhamma Tihar.
  • The first prison course was organized in Nepal.
  • November: At the Lancaster Castle Prison in the United Kingdom, the first prison course took place in Europe.
  • In the United States, a meditator created Changing from InsideThe film followed seven inmates as they participated in a Vipassana course at the North Rehabilitation Facility in Seattle, Washington.


  • March: Fourteen assistant teachers jointly conducted a course for 1,021 police cadets and staff at the Police Training College in Delhi, India.
  • April–May: The first Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta course for prison inmates took place in Nashik Prison, India.
  • May: In the United States, Dhamma Dharā hosted a conference on Vipassana in prisons in Massachusetts.
  • May–June: The first 20-day course for prison inmates took place in Tihar Prison, India.
  • June: The first prison course in Tamil Nadu took place in Chennai Jail.
  • September: A New Zealand prison holds the country’s first 10-day course for inmates.


  • Changing from Inside won a 2000 NCCD PASS Award from the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The film followed seven female inmates as they participated in a 10-day course in Seattle, Washington.
  • In New Zealand, a 10-day course was held at the beginning of each three-month program at a rehabilitation center for inmates.
  • In India, Goa Central Jail and Ratnagiri Jail held their first 10-day courses.
  • January: in Delhi, India, approximately 450 participants attended a 10-day course at the Police Training College.
  • March: In Pune, India, more than 370 inmates completed a 10-day course at Yeravada Prison. 33 old student inmates served the course, and five assistant teachers conducted it.
  • October: In Maharashtra, India, S.N. Goenka joined inmates on Metta Day of a course in Nagpur Jail. In Pune, he gave a talk to inmates ahead of the start of a 10-day course at Yeravada Jail.


  • In Punjab, India, Sangrur Jail held a 10-day course for 16 inmates and three officers.
  • In the United States, San Francisco Jail #7 held a course for 14 inmates in San Bruno, California.
  • February–March: Two courses were held (one for men and one for women) at Jabalpur Central Prison, India.


  • Vipassana Research Institute published The Effect of Vipassana Meditation on Quality of Life, Subjective Well-Being and Criminal Propensity among Inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi, by Dr. Amulya Khurana and Prof. P.L. Dhar.
  • The Vipassana Prison Trust was formed to oversee prison courses in North America.
  • January: In the United States, 20 inmates participated in the first 10-day course held at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, a maximum-security institution in Alabama. The course was conducted by Rick Crutcher.
  • May: A second 10-day course took place at Donaldson Correctional Facility, conducted by Bruce Stewart. Then on tour in North America, S.N. Goenka meditated with the participants and talked with them on Metta Day.
  • Summer: S.N. Goenka visited and talked with inmates at the end of a 10-day course at the North Rehabilitation Facility in Seattle, Washington.


  • Three courses took place at a prison near Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico. More courses were planned in the following year for inmates as well as guards and staff.
  • April: The first 10-day course took place in Kalyan Prison, Maharashtra, India.
  • December: The two 10-day courses were held at I-Lan Jail in Taiwan. They were organized by the Taiwan Vipassana Center. One course was for men and the other was for women inmates.


  • January: S.N. Goenka visited and meditated with old students at Dhamma Tihar, the Vipassana Center within Tihar Prison, Delhi.
  • The first prison course took place at Bogambara Prison in Pallekele, Sri Lanka. A total of 46 inmates completed the 10-day course.


  • August: Twenty-eight women inmates completed the first 10-day prison course in Mongolia.
  • October: In the United States, the first 10-day course to take place at a federal prison happened in a Massachusetts prison.


  • The first prison course took place in Isreal at Hermon Prison. A second course took place later in the year.


  • May: After a five-year hiatus, 10-day courses were offered again at Donaldson Correctional Facility in the United States. After this time, the facility has offered an ongoing program of Vipassana courses a few times a year.
  • May: A second 10-day course takes place at a prison for women in Mongolia.
  • June: A 10-day course took place in Alabama prison for aged and infirm inmates.
  • August: In the United States, a film called The Dhamma Brothers was released. It was about the first 10-day course conducted at Donaldson Prison in 2002. The film was directed by Jenny Phillips, Andrew Kukura
, and Anne Marie Stein. Jenny Phillips played a key role in opening the door for Vipassana courses at Donaldson Prison.


  • April: In the United States, Letters From the Dhamma Brothers, by Jenny Phillips, was published. In the book, inmates shared their thoughts, struggles, dreams, and triumphs after participating in the first 10-day course held at Donaldson Facility. It was a follow-up to the film, The Dhamma Brothers, which came out in 2007. It won an NCCD PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and was a finalist for Foreword Magzine’s Book of the Year Award.
  • June: In Yangon, Myanmar, the Insein Central Prison hosted the country’s first 10-day course for inmates.
  • July: At Insein Central Prison in Myanmar, a 1-day Anapana course for young male inmates was held. 169 inmates attended the course, most were in their teens.


  • March: In the United States, the North American Prison Trust began to publish a newsletter for Vipassana meditators who are in prison.
  • March: 35 women completed Colombia’s first prison course at a prison in Pereira.
  • November: Canada’s first prison course was held at Westmorland Minimum Security Prison in New Brunswick. It was organized by two old students that worked at the prison. 15 students participated in the course. One student, who had served 11 years in prison, delayed his parole by two months so that he could attend the course.


  • According to a report in the March International Vipassana Newsletter, from 2008 to 2013 approximately 7,000 inmates and 100 senior corrections officers attended 10-day Vipassana courses in Myanmar.
  • A second course was held at Westmorland Prison in New Brunswick, Canada because of strong support from prison officials. This included support from Canada’s Atlantic Regional Manager for Corrections. There was interest in further courses, but because of staffing changes at the prison, no more courses were held.
  • A course was held at a prison in Quebec, Canada.


  • March: In the United States, Dr. Ron Cavanagh passed away. He was instrumental in bringing Vipassana to the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama and overcoming opposition to the program. 


  • June: The Manitoba Youth Centre, located in Winnipeg, Canada, hosted Canada’s first 1-day Anapana course for incarcerated youth. This was the beginning of an ongoing program at the facility that included daily meditation with a staff member and courses approximately twice a year.
  • August: Ireland hosted its first prison course at a low-security institution in County Cavan.


  • In India, the Maharashtra state government issued a circular calling for Anapana training to be offered to inmates and staff in all prisons. This was intended as a step moving toward offering 10-day Vipassana courses.


  • December: In the United States at Donaldson Correctional Facility, the first course for old students took place.


  • April: The first 10-day prison course in Brazil took place at an institution close to Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais.
  • July: Jenny Phillips, who helped bring Vipassana meditation to Donaldson Prison, passed away. She co-directed The Dhamma Brothers and published Letters From the Dhamma Brothers.
  • August–September: Another 10-day course took place in a correctional facility in São Paulo state, Brazil.

Currently – 2019

  • In the United States, four Vipassana meditation courses are taught at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Alabama each year. A 1-day Anapana course was also taught a few days before each adult course for 16 and 17 year-olds held at Donaldson in a separate unit.
  • The Manitoba Youth Detention Facility in Canada holds 1-day Anapana meditation courses several times a year.