Women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population
via Flickr user (cc) Inmate_Stripes
Currently, there are over one million women behind bars in the U.S. According to the ACLU, the incarceration rate for women has been growing nearly twice as fast as men since 1985. Incarcerated women have much higher incidences of emotional and sexual abuse compared to imprisoned men with 75 to 90 percent having experienced a trauma event. Trauma contributes to psychological problems, poor lifestyle choices, and an increased recidivism rate.
A recent study published in The Permanente Journal showed that Transcendental Meditation (or TM) can reduce trauma symptoms in female inmates. For the study, 22 imprisoned women meditated for 30 to 40 minutes a day for four months. After the study period, the women had significant reductions in total trauma symptoms including hyperarousal and intrusive thoughts. The study concluded that TM may be an effective tool for decreasing trauma symptoms, but future large-scale research is warranted.
“Before I learned TM I was waking up several times a week with night terrors – literally screaming,” one inmate said. “I would only sleep a few hours per night because I was so frightened of my dreams. I had horrible flashbacks, nightmares, and severe PTSD. Almost immediately I saw the beneficial effects of TM…. I am able to fully focus throughout the day and have an inner peace and understanding…”
TM is scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, increase insulin resistance, slow biological aging, and improve heart health. It’s also found to reduce anxiety, negative emotions, and neuroticism while improving memory. However, TM’s critics note that the organization charges practitioners a fee to learn the technique when it’s a simple mantra meditation that can be learned elsewhere for free.