Before any course is held in a prison, a senior correctional staff member, and as many other staff as possible are encouraged to attend a 10-day course at a Vipassana meditation center. This would enable these officials to better understand through direct experience the value and relevance of Vipassana meditation to their correctional facility. Participating in a course, one would more fully understand how to implement a course in their own facility. (To apply for a course see the Vipassana website: www.dhamma.org)
Meditation Facility Requirements
The Vipassana course should take place in a separate area of the correctional facility.
The basic requirements are:
A quiet room for group meditation for participants and course workers, secluded from non-participating inmates.
Dormitories and/or cells with adequate bath and toilet facilities for participants, separate from inmates not involved with the course.
A separate room with attached bath and toilet facilities for the teachers conducting the course.
Adequate accommodation with bath and toilet facilities for staff workers serving the course.
Dining facilities separate from other inmates.
A sufficient walking area segregated from other inmates.
There should be provision, after the course, for a place for students to meditate twice a day — to continue their practice. Continuity of practice is important to maintain and increase the benefits of this meditation technique.
There should be separate courses for male and female inmates.
Corrections officials who have completed a course should be assigned to staff the course, if possible.
Each correctional facility is laid out differently, so adjustments may need to be made in individual cases.
Security in the correctional facility is of utmost importance. Course staff and participants will adhere to all security requirements.
During the course, all participants are under the supervision of the teacher and within the security constraints of the correctional facility.
During the course, inmates will not have contact with prisoners not participating in the course, nor with prison staff not on duty at the course, nor with visitors.
Inmates should be free to participate in the program from 4:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. After these hours they may be racked back, but should still have access to meditation course staff if the need arises during the night.
There should be frequent contact between the course teachers, prison officials and the prison staff on duty, to resolve problems and ensure the smooth functioning of the course.
Simple, wholesome vegetarian food should be served.
Teachers and Vipassana servers will have the same food as the inmates.
Medical staff must be available in case any medical problem arises during the course. When possible, medical problems should be handled on site, with as little contact with non-course staff as possible.
Most medications do not interfere with course participation. Certain drugs with psychoactive properties are not compatible with intense meditation, so some cases may need to be reviewed by Vipassana staff well before the beginning of the course.
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